Book Discussion: all books: spoiler alert in effect…

If you have not read the book being discussed, you’ll be happier not reading further.


  1. Jcrow9

    Well, I’ll start. While the comment is specifically Alliance-Union, presumably the actual issue is somewhat common to all orbital stations.
    A while back we were discussing the size of stations, docking, etc., and part of the discussion was about the distance between adjacent decks or levels. In Heavy Time, one of the characters is thinking that there’s 100 feet between emergency-stair access doors for adjacent levels. That’s quite a bit more than I’d thought, but not unreasonable if you consider all the plumbing and auxiliary systems you need to house.

  2. Spiderdavon

    I suppose it depends how you define a “deck”. I suspect you put decks in for structural strength more than anything else. Then you cram in as many sub-levels within that volume as allowed by available space and defined by purpose. If the decks are indeed that far apart I bet theres a honeycomb of units stacked in there.

    • Jcrow9

      As used in HT, ‘deck’ was used to mean “levels upon which people normally walk”, e.g. offices, Helldeck, etc. Naturally there would be mezzanine levels (or call ’em what you want) interleaved between decks which would contain what on my Navy ship would have been called auxiliary systems–cable runs, heat/ water, support systems, etc.

  3. Hanneke

    Ever since the last big discussion of spacestations I’ve been thinking about the differences between what I remember of the descriptions in Chanur and in the Heavy Time etc. and Foreigner universes. I’m not very good at spatial relationships or maths, so please bear with me while I explain my question.
    Both HT and Bren describe docking at a very cold weightless dock (Bren) or core (HT), then travelling a ways to reach the weighted section.
    That is consistent with the spacestations discussed, with a central weightless axis that the ships dock to, connected by spokes to a turning wheel that houses the people and the businesses. I forget if it was radius or circumference of almost 1 km that gave the 1 g weight sensation at reasonable turning speed; but inner deck-rings give a lower weight, and going ‘down’ to the 1g ‘central’ offices means moving outwards on the wheel, and going ‘up’ to the core means moving inwards.
    The description in HT of travelling ‘up’ a line in the weightless core towards their ship (which also concurs with the colonists’ removal from the station in kyo territory), passing other docked ships on the way, demonstrates that the core axis can be a lot longer than the rim-thickness of the wheel, so a lot of ships can dock alongside this axis, not just on the two outer ends. If they need more docking space, they can just lengthen the central core-axis (probably evenly on both sides, for balance).
    And if the station grows a lot, they can add another rim-thickness to the wheel, doubling the living-space and turning it into a cylinder. So far, I can understand things.
    But in Chanur’s universe, when the ship docks, it’s connected by an access tube to the docks: spacefarers walk down the tube, around the bend, and walk out onto the docks. The docks are clearly part of the wheel-rim: they curve up in the distance.
    The bend in the tube was necessary because the docked ships were snugged in to the sides of the station, not left sticking straight out, to cause the least disruption to the station’s smooth rotation.
    There was some discussion about how ships could dock in a zigzag pattern to use the dock-space more efficiently, and I can see that working, if all the uneven-numbered access tubes are longer and more steeply slanted than the even numbers: the ‘uneven’ ship would be docked nearer the ‘ceiling’ of the docks instead of the floor-level. This staggering of the docked ships seems to be most relevant to ships docking to the rim of the wheel, not to a (possibly quite long) central axis such as in HT, where evenly distributing weight would demand something like 2 or 4 ships of equal weight docked ‘across’ from each other.
    What I don’t understand is: if they are docked to the outside (rim, not lid) of the cylinder, wouldn’t going through an access tube to the dock mean they’d be climbing up the ramp to emerge from the floor of the docks?
    The centrifugal g-force should mean that the rim of the wheel is the floor, shouldn’t it?
    So does that mean the ships dock to the sides of the wheel?
    Or just on one side?
    I don’t remember ever reading about ships docked opposite each other on the same dock : there are always shops and bars and such on the opposite side to where the ships are docked.
    So, perhaps the rim is always broad enough to accommodate a lot of living-space between the two sides with the docks – though I’ve always understood that the docks are just one broad ring-shaped deck, not that there are two: even the methane-breathers’ docks can be reached by walking around the ring, not passing through office-space and such to reach a second ring.
    If the docks are only on one side of the wheel, that would make adding a new slice of cylinder to increase living space easier: otherwise half your docks would be out of commission while they were transformed to living-space and a new dock-ring added.
    But doesn’t that also mean that stations are unable to grow to accommodate more ship traffic?
    The radius of the wheel is determined by the desired g-force at the rim, so the cylinder couldn’t grow broader, only longer. You could double the docking-space just once, by using both sides of the wheel; thereby curbing any future expansion of the station.
    As there is a vast difference in station-sizes, from Meetpoint to Annuurn, I don’t see how this works economically.
    Can somebody please explain where I’m going wrong in my thinking?

    • Jcrow9

      Who says you’re wrong, Hanneke? 🙂
      Here’s my view of things:
      Taking the latter part of your post, for example, think of the common garden-variety airport you’ve probably used many times. As you walk down the concourse (down=toward the end), there are (usually) gates on both your left and right, with shops in the center of the walking area. Or there may be shops on left, gates on right, and down the concourse a ways, the opposite–gates left, shops right. Now visualize that the floor you are walking upon is the dock of the station, the rim (outermost surface) of the station, as far as you can get from the core (axis of rotation). If the station was a can of soup, you’d be walking on the inside surface of the Campbell’s label! 😀 Beneath your feet, if you could only see it, is the starry void, and your horizon curves upward ahead of you and behind. On your left and right are gates (docking points) which pierce the ‘sides’ of the toroid station–using the can of soup analogy, about where the can opener blade cuts.
      The docked ships are oriented with their long axis in the same direction as the station’s core. The same rotational forces that give the illusion of gravity (actually centripetal acceleration) within the station act upon the ships, of course, so while in dock only part of the ship’s internal spaces are accessible to crew without mountaineering skills; the ship’s internal arrangement is a series of concentric circles about the core (just like the station) but the ship is rotating about the station’s core, not its own. So you only walk about and work within compartments in the ship which are oriented ‘down’ while in dock. An access tube runs from the ship’s airlock to the dock’s airlock; this access runs at a constant or near-constant distance from station core, so G is the same throughout its length. Walking ‘down’ (or ‘up’) the access tube is really just a conversational convention, like walking up or down the street–“going thataway,” not climbing or descending.
      So as you enter the station docks via the airlock from your ship, you experience G normal (perpendicular to) the deck, straight up through your body toward the rotational core of the station. You’ve entered the soup can via the outermost edge of the lid (or bottom, makes no difference). In front of you are shops, bars, etc., and beyond them are more docks, maybe–the other ‘end’ of the soup can. Or if it is a big station (and they seem to tend toward ‘huge’ since the given populations run to 100s of thousands, in terms of length this is a very large (tall) soup can (64oz instead of 15 oz, maybe). The docks take up only the volume toward the outermost ends of the bean can–the rest is probably one-G manufacturing, warehouses, offices, whatever.
      Of course the station is not a solid cylinder (can of soup), it is more like a very wide motorcycle wheel, complete with spokes. The label on the beans is the tread of the tire. the lifts run both through the spokes and within the body of the tire And, as you say, the core or axle can be as long as you need it to be, independent of the ‘width’ of the tire or rim.
      No doubt others will point out my errors. Hopefully I have not muddied the waters excessively.

  4. Spiderdavon

    Nope, spot on.
    Back to “decks” – there’s the named deck (A Deck, Helldeck etc) and the literal deck – the one you’re walking on. If they’re 100 feet apart, then you have to accept that accomodation units, shops, factories etc have to be multi-story. Sub-decks, if you like. Otherwise it’s an awful lot of dead volume that has to be heated and filled with air. Yes, service ducts will occupy some of that space, but not that much.

    • Jcrow9

      Oh, I agree 100%. Not just sleepovers, but full-g manufacturing, etc., will need more than one story’s height. Warehousing, tree gardens, anything that you want 1g for (or whatever your rim acceleration is).

  5. Jaxartes

    Regarding the size of a station.

    “The radius of the wheel is determined by the desired g-force at the rim” — Not exactly. The centrifugal force is determined by the radius *and* the speed of rotation. So if you build a station wider/narrower, you adjust the rotation speed to match. Probably not a practical thing to change once the station is built, but when building a new (or replacement) station you’d have that flexibility.

    Volume is going to be proportional to the length of the station, times the square of its radius. What that means is if you scale up in all three dimensions you can fit a *lot* of people. For instance, if you’ve got a radius of 300m (1,000 feet), a length of 400m (quarter mile), and occupy the outermost 200 feet of it (you don’t want low-g levels) you end up with 40 million cubic meters of inhabited volume. That’s something like 200,000 times the volume of my apartment. I imagine that could fit ten thousand people or more, in a station that only has two or three 100-foot occupied “decks” and isn’t as long as it is wide.

  6. Terry

    Hi I have finished Deceiver – and re-read it again! I think it is a terrific book, for several reasons, not least the omission of most of the wearying self doubt of the protagonist. As an aside, I think that the cover art is fabulous! Unlike most covers in the series, you get the impression the artist has read and achieved an encapsulation of what it is all about. I hope he is doing the covers for Betrayer and Intruder.
    I do have some concerns (having re-read the entire series while waiting in OZ to get my Amazon copy)on the disjunction between this book and others – Cajeri being thoroughly instructed as to the four houses composing the Marid in one book, then suddenly there are five houses! Stil, I am awaiting Betrayer with baited breath. When????

  7. CJ

    😆 it depends on whether one counts Sungeni or not. There’s Senji, Dojisigi, Taisigi, and Dausigi. Taisigi reckoning says there are five clans, because it counts, besides Senji and Dojisigi, itself, the Isles (Sungeni, in the mid-Marid sea) as independent, and Dausigi, on the opposite southernmost coast. There was a time when Dojisigi took over Tanaja (capital of Taisigi) and ruled there, claiming the Isles (Sungeni) and treating it as a subclan. When the Taisigi took their territory back, they treated Sungeni as independent. Now, to complicate things further, there is the Southern Isle, of which Sungeni was once part, politically, but the civilization there was wiped out by a tidal wave, which incidentally wiped out the only known source of the blue glaze used in the ancient porcelains—porcelain-making remains an industry of the Sungeni, besides fishing, so they carry on the traditions of the Southern Isle, though there is not much there now, due to the alteration of the coastline by the Great Wave. The Southern Isle lost their harbors, and their key city. The Marid culture owes much of what it has to that lost civilization, but there were already inhabitants in the Marid while it flourished.

    There you have, hot off the keyboard, the truth as currently constituted—though I keep a notebook of these things, I do occasionally miscount.

  8. Terry

    thank you, thank you, for the clarification. I had thought I was keeping up with things prior to this confusion!

    Looking forward to Betrayer. Regards

  9. ryanrick

    Well, looking at the spoiler and guidebooks which I have just managed to notice [typical — look to the left, look to the right and middle and never hava a clue what’s going on at the TOP!], I hate to admit I cannot remember the Finisterre series at all. Which books does this comprise? Just does not ring a bell….

    • tulrose

      That’s the Nighthorse series, IIRC. I’ld like to see anothe Nighthorse i possible.

      • ryanrick

        , geez. Nighthorse and Rider books kicks on the neurons. Or maybe the smack knocked a few things loose. Thanks! Yep, there’s any number of more-ofs please.

  10. ryanrick

    well, now that was interesting. part of my post got sucked into a black hole. apparently one should not be cute and use non-traditional symbols. it does not like more-than, less-than symbols. basically i smacked myself on the forehead when you mentioned the nighthorse — rider at the gates [which was probably my favorite title for the connotations it evokes] books.

  11. petersig

    I tried posting this on your Facebook Page, but it was too long:

    After spending the summer with the entire Frank Herbert Dune Series (and a few of the franchised series), for depth of world creation, I thought Frank Herbert’s Dune was the epitome, the highest Science Fiction could ever, would ever, achieve.

    Before the summer of Dune, I had been mostly following women writers of SF before that — Marion Zimmer Bradley, a *lot* of Marion Zimmer Bradley, for example. Then I found out that C. J. Cherryh fits that category/gender of science fiction writer. But I struggled, this fall, figuring out where to start with your books, and how to avoid starting a series in the middle.

    Eventually I picked Cyteen. In the last third of the book, I had the extraordinary feeling that the world of Cyteen existed apart, that somehow its reality, its characters, kept moving without the reader’s eye-ear-brain interaction. That is, when I had to stop reading, and do something else, the world of Cyteen and its people would go on without me. When I could get back to it, of course, I hadn’t missed anything — but I *might* have, just by being gone.

    Now that’s uncanny. If psychotic is being out of touch with reality, in some way that experience is psychotic (in a good way). However absorbing the movie Avatar in 3D was, it stopped, ended, and one went home. Cyteen did come to an end, but then Regenesis, when I can afford to get it this next month, will revisit Cyteen. I have just finished Rider at the Gate, from a used book store, out of print, and now available as an ebook from Closed Circle Books, written a little later than Cyteen, I think. Although the narrative is not as absorbing, the world creation has a similar existence-of-its-own quality.

    World creation is a different skill from straight narration, yet most world-creation books don’t move fast enough for me. The exceptions are God Emperor of Dune, where slow change in character trumps narration, and the extraordinary work of C. J. Cherryh in Cyteen, where the unfolding world and the unfolding narration build a world that lives, and lives apart, from the world we know.

    Thank you for extraordinary art between pages!

    • rollingstone

      Kind of a late comment, I know, but don’t miss the Chanur series, or Heavytime and Hellburner. Angel with a Sword was my first Cherryh read (some 20 or so years ago) and it’s a wonderful experience, too. I rather envy you for being new to this author. Me, I haunt the book stores, waiting for new books in my favorite series or picking up new copies of the books I’ve literally read to death. (The next best thing to finding a new book is finding an old one with different cover art!) Also incredibly fond of The Faded Sun trilogy and the Fortress series, too. If I could possibly pick a favorite (I can’t, I’ve tried), it might be Cyteen.

  12. Xheralt

    Random thought about Chanur: Hani seem to use the color of their breeches to denote status. Spacer blue, Immune black, etc. What color is Py going to select for Personage/mekt-hakkikt? For those occasions when her (probably) favored common blues just won’t do? I think gold lamé would be an amusing choice, thankyewverymuch…

    • rollingstone

      In the last scene of Chanur’s Homecoming, Pyanfar is wearing ordinary spacer blues when Hallan Meras first meets her at Gaohn Station. I think it’s her way of thumbing her nose at the excess formality of her new career. Coincidentally, I was reading Chanur’s Legacy again last night and noticed Hilfy wore black silk breeches to meet with No’shto-shti-stlen (yes I had to look that spelling up!) in the first scene. So, perhaps Immunes only wear black but not only Immunes wear black? And is it wrong to think that Skkukkuk (Vikktakkht) is just adorable? Or have I read this series WAY too many times?!

    • paul

      It’s covered somewhere in the series. Other hani may wear black, but immunes always do.

  13. purple_reading_giraffe

    Chanur clan is now immune as Pyanfar is in charge of the Amphictiony of all space (or something like that) as the mekt-hakkikt, that’s why Hilfy is wearing black. At least, that’s what I understood. I loved Chanur’s Legacy, too, and yes, it is very wrong to think a kif adorable. 😆

  14. purplejulian

    ammonia smelling adorable ….. hmmmm … know what you mean though! and I never thought of Chanur being immune, no matter I have read the series about ten times, at least, but that sounds right to me. 😀

  15. rollingstone

    Chanur Immune? Can’t believe I never thought of that! And I just have this mental picture of Skukkuk awaiting his ride from Gaohn station, weapon and Dinner clutched to his chest, visions of glory in his ugly little head and absolute kifish loyalty in his litte black heart. There’s just something sweet about that.

    I love to picture what the Hani reaction would be the first time they meet Earth’s domestic feline. Utter horror? And Tully trying to explain cats to the Pride’s crew . . . I’m sure the translator would stutter terribly!

  16. rollingstone

    Come to think of it, Chanur clan couldn’t be Immune after the events of Chanur’s Homecoming, because they are still open to challenge, or so it seems to be from Hilfy’s recollections in Chanur’s Legacy.

  17. purple_reading_giraffe

    {psst – actually I think Skukkuk is adorable, too, no matter how wrong it may be} 😉

    I don’t recall Chanur clan being subjected to any external challenges post Homecoming, just ‘challenges’ by males brought into the clan by clan members (Hilfy’s husband; Aunt Rhean’s find of a cousin); I don’t recall the immune status being ‘spelled out’, though it does state Pyanfar is the elected President of the spacefaring amphictiony of Anuurn – and other books stated that clans holding amphictionies are Immune. So … I stand by my interpretation of why Hilfy is wearing black satin trousers, but hope for a definitive answer from the Creator. 🙂

  18. rollingstone

    I didn’t think Immune males could be challenged by anyone, but maybe they just can’t be challenged by someone outside their clan? (One prefers not to pester the Creator with such questions, but rather tiptoes carefully by her office and wishes never to disturb her creativity!) But I think you’re right after all, Purple, and Chanur is Immune. But how much fun is that?

  19. HRHSpence


    I have a question about the drink the Hani seem to favor: gfi. It seems to be similar to our coffee. Could you tell us what you envision when you write about it? How would it smell to a human and what would it taste like?

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