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Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman
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179966,229 (3.72)19



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This is an interesting juxtaposition of styles encapsulated in a single book. The story follows two main characters, Sara Ellicot and Thora Lassiter.

Sara's tale is your standard space drama told in third person omniscient with a reasonable smattering of wild science based loosely on actual quantum observations and theories. I am one who adheres to a strict rule on the science in science fiction. "No matter how unlikely, as long as the science is not impossible, then it is acceptable." The author pushes the limits on this, but in the end I relented as to meeting my criteria. I'm not a fan of omniscient as it takes you out of the character too often and I never really got to emote with Sara.

Thora's tale is told in first person and often as notes in a personal log. Her sections tended to have a literary feel to it with a fair amount of navel gazing. As a result, the first half of the story dragged, despite the book being only 303 pages. Again, the log entry aspect of her sections removed me from emoting with her.

There are a number of lesser characters, but the only one I enjoyed was Moth, one of the denizens of the planet, whose role dropped at the end. As a result, I never cared for what happened to the characters.

As to the main story, I found the concept unique and interesting. It's what carried me through as a reader. I liked the science, the politics, the intrigue, the settings and enough surprises to keep you involved. One thing about the author, she is an excellent wordsmith, though I did have one exception was her use of the word "bemind". Her application did not fit with what I believe is the proper definition. Unfortunately, this word is used vociferously throughout the novel.

I give this novel 3.5 stars, but since the system requires me to round off, it wasn't good enough for 4 stars so am left in allocating only 3 stars. ( )
  MichaelDrakich | May 19, 2018 |
Science fiction is quickly becoming a favourite genre of mine. I liked it before, but I've been reading some really great stories lately that have just captured my attention and made me think of things in a new way.

Dark Orbit is definitely one of them. It explores science, and how we perceive things in such a new, interesting way. The themes in this novel just made me think. Humanity, how one culture can affect another, how exploring new phenomenon can be skewed by our current ways of thinking, and how our senses can blind us to other things we would think are insignificant because of what our brain naturally filters out.

I loved the characters of Sara and Thora, their distinct voices really gave insight and depth to their situation from different perspectives and I really liked them. The world they live in is so interesting, with it's many different cultures, religions, and ways to scientifically think about things. I loved how Gilman wove the story together through all of these elements. Her writing was beautiful.

I definitely want to pick up more by this author.
I recommend this to anyone who likes sci-fi and thinking outside the box.
4.5/5 stars! ( )
  jdifelice | Jan 20, 2018 |
Dark Orbit is an entirely readable science fiction novel that for some reason just never really connected. I feel like the length of the book relative to the story is off – it might have worked better if either if the story line had been condensed or the book expanded. As is, it feels strangely short for the story it’s telling.

Sara is an anthropologist who lives out of sync with the rest of the universe, loosing large spaces of time as she travels at light speed from planet to planet. When she gets back from a job twenty light years away, she finds out that a team is being assembled for a mission to a newly discovered planet. Also on the expedition is Thora, a member of the elite who’s being sent far away from a scandal concerning her delusions triggering a religious movement on the planet Orem. The planet they find is surrounded and shaped by dark matter, and against all scientific explanation, inhabited.

If the “against all scientific explanation” gives you a clue, Dark Orbit is one of those books that rely heavily on SF mysticism. Sometimes this works for me (I was fine with both Battlestar Galactica and Planetfall), but I wasn’t so fond of it in Dark Orbit, possibly because it’s centered around philosophy. There were some interesting ideas about how our society is shaped by how perceive the world through our senses, but I often felt like passages were just spewing philosophy at me instead of exploring it through the narrative. Thora in particular could feel like a vehicle for philosophy, although her sections were a bit better once she was lost on the planet and had other things to think about.

It’s been about a week since I’ve read Dark Orbit, and I’m struggling to recall anything in the way of character development or personality when it comes to Sara. She dislikes authority. But did we see that through her actions, or were we just told it over and over again? Thora is a clearer character, mainly because she’s got an important backstory and the aforementioned philosophy. A few of the secondary characters were distinct – Moth – for instance, but there were others that I struggled to keep track of.

Undeniably, my favorite thing about Dark Orbit was the little we saw of the planet itself. There’s some gloriously strange and alien landscapes, like a grove of chiming, reflected light. It’s too bad we got to see so little of it.

The prose style of Dark Orbit also made it easy to read, and I never had any significant issues with pacing. Some of Thora’s early sections did drag (basically they were distant and unemotional philosophical musings), but they did get better later on. I don’t know if I ever fully engaged with Dark Orbit, but it was all right. Someone with a greater interest in philosophy might get more from it.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 23, 2016 |
Better than Lightless; author has given a lot of thought to the world of total darkness
  FKarr | Jun 25, 2016 |
Wow. I picked this book up rather randomly (on the recommendation of io9 maybe?) so I had little to no expectations about it, having never read anything else by the author.

I loved it. I can't stop talking about the ideas in it - about epistemology (how do we know what we know?), about our senses, and how they shape our experience (sight in particular). In some ways the Big Ideas were more important to me than the actual story, but I was truly pleasantly surprised by how good that was, too.

I'm still a little unclear on some of the things that went down (particularly in Orem - timeline issues, mostly), but it was a very satisfying read. I would recommend it to people in particular who are not regular SF readers - it would be a great "gateway" book. But seasoned SF readers will also thoroughly enjoy it. Great characters, interesting plot, a play on first contact, and philosophy - it was kind of an ideal book for me! :) ( )
  chessakat | Feb 5, 2016 |
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In the course of Saraswati Callicot's vagabond career, she had been disassembled and brought back to life so many times, the idea of self-knowledge had become a bit of a joke.
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"Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate. Thora was once a member of the interplanetary elite, but since her prophetic delusions helped mobilize a revolt on Orem, she's been banished to the farthest reaches of space, because of the risk that her very presence could revive unrest. Upon arrival, the team finds an extraordinary crystalline planet, laden with dark matter. Then a crew member is murdered and Thora mysteriously disappears"--… (more)

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