Many weeks ago now when I, out of some kind of desperation for ANYTHING to read while I had nothing handy except the two Cherryh books on my phone (Heavy Time & Hellburner), picked Hellburner I did not know that it would mean a reread spree covering some of its siblings.
Downbelow Station came first and have already been mentioned – next up was Rimrunners which is distinguished by the fact that it is the only Company War book that I read but never reread. About time, then. Right?
No matter that I have an unread Culture novel (Excession) beckoning.
Rimrunners surprised me. My memory from my first and only reading of it was that it was OK but not on par with the other Company War books. Up until the very end I was wrong.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Pell (as told of in DownBelow Station) Pell needs somewhere to put the excess people they gained as refugees from the other stations, and also the newly-born Alliance need some space stations besides Pell. The logical thing is to make a second try at the Hinder Star stations, the initial first steppingstone for humankind on its way to new frontiers. Technology has made them redundant but trying to re-establish them seems a good way to solve a lot of problems at once. At least from a macro perspective.
From the perspective of the individual it is not such a good idea, though. These stations are the equivalent of the once thriving communities that got passed by when the new highway got built. Ghost stations. And the people, they become ghosts, too.
Bet Yeager is an ex-Fleet trooper that got left on Pell when her ship – Africa – had to brake from dock during the Battle. To survive she had to hide her military background but she isn’t a stationer and needs to get back out on a ship. To do so she has to lie, fake, and humiliate herself. She manages to get transport from Pell to Thule, her chance at anonymity and finding a ship, perhaps Fleet, that will turn up and take her on.
But instead of a Fleet ship the next one, when she’s almost out, is a rimrunner, a spook, the most detested of all ships, whichever side they’re on… and they don’t even run for Fleet but for the Alliance. Her old enemy. She fights to stay inconspicuous but sooner or later…
The story feel very much pre-word processing software – terse, not spilling anything but the most essential, leaving to the reader to fill in the blanks, yet showing enough for it to be a full experience.
I think everyone who think they understand how politics, society, and groups of humans work and react should read all of the Company War books. No single tome, however scholarly, can manage to so aptly illustrate the three-dimensional jigsaw society is – how most people basically tries to find a way to survive and in that end up on one side or the other, more by chance and geography than by being quintessentially good or evil.
Enough said. Go get all those books, Rimrunners among them.
Not the most important, or the most difficult and complex. But without which the tapestry is incomplete.