Although Cherryh was active in the 1970s, I think her 1981 Downbelow Station was my first exposure to her work in general and to her Alliance-Union setting in specific. Not that this is strictly speaking an Alliance-Union novel … at least not until towards the end.
I remember finding it a bit of a slog at the time. Clearly other readers disagreed with me, because it not only won the 1982 Hugo Award for Best Novel, but was named by Locus as one of the top fifty SF novels of all time.
The good news for humanity is that by the 24th century, humans have spread far beyond the confines of the solar system, first at sub-light speeds and later with FTL. The bad news is that the human worlds outside the solar system are caught in a vast interstellar war, with the predatory Earth Company on one side, the authoritarian slave-drivers of the Union on the other, and a handful of neutrals, mainly merchants and a few stations, caught in the middle.
The war between Company and Union has dragged on and on, far beyond the point the balance sheets would justify. Earth Company is ready to beg Union for peace. The problem is, the Earth Company’s Fleet is not ready to stand down, and it answers not to the Company now, but to Commander Conrad Mazian.
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