"Downbelow Station" by C.J. Cherryh (1981)
C.J. Cherryh's earliest books were published in the late 1970s, and she is still writing fiction today. "C.J." is short for Carolyn Janice, and the "H" was added to her last name at the suggestion of her publisher. She didn't want to be identified as female early in her career, and her publisher thought that "Cherry" sounded too feminine. Given that the likes of Ursula Le Guin and Marion Zimmer Bradley were well-known long before her, I'm not sure if the name change was truly warranted.
"Downbelow Station" is her best known book. It won the Hugo, and one of its many sequels, "Cyteen," also won that coveted award. Cherryh's bibliography is indeed extensive, though she remains one of the lesser-known science fiction authors. Having only read one of her novels, I cannot say whether she deserves to be better remembered or not.
Downbelow Station details a war between Earth and its daughter colonies in another solar system. Much of the action centers around the space station Pell, which orbits one of the three life sustaining planets then known to humankind. Humans from Pell have also settled on the planet around which their station orbits, and it is this settlement, known as Downbelow Station, which proves crucial to the competing interests presented in the story.
This novel is written from a third person perspective, limited to things that only the character thus described would notice. For example, the captain of the ship isn't going to notice what his or her ship looks like, so these details are entirely absent from the book. For this reason Downbelow Station can be extremely confusing, though I think the experiment is more successful towards the end of the book.
I don't know how much Cherryh embraced this style in other books, but hopefully she modified it somewhat for later books in the series. Lacking the more descriptive passages that would have made Downbelow Station more convincing, it falls strangely flat in places. In other places, it doesn't feel quite far enough removed from the present day.
Though this isn't to say that Downbelow Station is a bad book. Actually, as 80s sci fi goes, I would consider it a resounding success. It's better written than books by some other sci fi "legends," and the plot hangs together nicely. My only complaint is that it somehow feels rather pedestrian, and lacks that element of strangeness which would have lifted it to another level. When most of us read sci fi, we want to be taken somewhere new, somewhere different, and yet Downbelow Station reads like something that could have existed in a historical period known to us - minus the aliens and space travel, of course.
I'll probably read one or two of the sequels. Maybe the series gets better as it goes along. As it is, I would give Downbelow Station a passing grade. It's nothing that will blow your mind, but it's a competent work of science fiction.