Review: Heavy Time, by C. J. Cherryh

I know, I’m reviewing them in the wrong order, but it’s a reread review and I started out with Hellburner just because that was the book I remember liking the best.

It was not my first reread of Hellburner, either, but this was my first reread of Heavy Time. In retrospect I think that was because when I finished the pair I a) felt them to be very different, and b) while I had enjoyed Heavy Time I had enjoyed Hellburner more. Well, now is the time to admit it – I was wrong!

Hellburner does stand on it’s own. Yes. But – reading both of them is preferable; even recommended. At least by me.

Heavy Time tells three different tales, at least on the surface. It tells how Ben Pollard, Sal Aboujib, Meg Kady and Paul Dekker came to know each other. It tells about how small people are exploited by big corporations. And is sets the stage for the Company Wars suite, in which this is the first book, chronologically; sketching how the push to build the carriers affected corporations and small people both. While the perspective is intensely personal, often claustrophobic, it’s also more issue-oriented than it’s sequel; the politics are obvious there too, but the focus is on the people and what happens to them – that we might not agree, from a value judgement point of view, that sinking money in military tech aimed for use in a war Sol is doomed to lose is sane we still want the ‘program’ to succeed. Because that’s what the protagonists want.

In Heavy Time the we don’t get to see much of the military but they’re part of the “establishment”, and the “establishment” is presented as corrupt; as being backwards; as having the “wrong” ideas about what’s going on out in space – we view life from the eyes of the disenfranchised, the alienated and the outcast, with all what it means.

Maybe this difference between the books was what got to me the first time, and what made me decide I liked the sequel better. Today I’d say they are both good, both worth reading.

I recommend reading them back to back, preceded by a reading of Downbelow Station but prior to Merchanter’s Luck, Rimrunners, Tripoint and Finity’s End.


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