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Brightness Falls from the Air by James Jr.…
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Brightness Falls from the Air (original 1985; edition 1993)

by James Jr. Tiptree

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
442623,705 (3.57)14
catfantastic's review
Brightness Falls From The Air by James Tiptree, Jr. . . . perhaps a little inspired by the Thomas Nashe poem, 'Litany in a Time of Plague' his lines: "Brightness falls from the air / Queens have died young and fair" is quoted on the back dust jacket flap . . . is a beautiful, detailed science fiction novel that shows humanity's ugliness - greed, brutality, sadism - but also courage, self-sacrifice, acceptance and a desire to protect the weak.

Cor, her mate Kip, and Doctor Bram are the only three humans stationed on a far-off planet called Damiem. Their job is to protect the native population - a race of fragile, beautiful, winged insect-people called the Dameii. The Dameii were once subjected to brutal violence because, under torture, they secrete an elixir that can produce pure happiness - and earn a fortune on the black market. Now Damiem is strictly patrolled with very few, closely screened, visitors.

A group of tourists have come, however, to see the final light show of a super-nova that is viewable only from Damiem. This is the light of the infamous "Murdered Star," a sun that was exploded as the final act in a war, and an act that wiped out another alien race, and destroyed their culture and civilization forever.

The group of tourists includes several interesting characters:

- four teenage porn stars: Star, Bridey, Snake and Hanno, and their surprisingly warm and kind-hearted director, Zannez.

-Pao,a child-prince of the world Pavo, who is surprisingly mature for his age.

-the Lady Pardalianches of Rainbow's End, who has come with her comatose sister, hoping the lights of the nova will somehow revive her.

-Linnix, a red-haired girl who was the officer on the ship that brought the tourists, and has spent her life traveling the universe in search of her father.

-a little old man named Doctor Ochter, who has retired from a life of academia to study stars.

-a taciturn artist named Vovoka, who is obsessed with studying the planet's light.

-two Aquamen - Hiner and Yule - who came to Damiem due to a passenger mix-up and do not have proper clearance.

But not everyone in this eccentric group is who they seem, or what they claim. On the night of the Nova, the three humans tasked with defending Damiem find themselves in the middle of an intense confrontation with more than one enemy - and more than one motive. I found it to be a very compelling read. ( )
  catfantastic | Apr 17, 2012 |
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As a little inside joke with her readers (since by now, the world knew that Tiptree was Alice Sheldon), was the Acknowledgement at the beginning.

The events narrated here took place in the First Star Age of Man, when Galactic was the virtually universal tongue. All credit for back-translation into what is believed to be an antique idiom of Earth, circa 1985 Local, must go to my esteemed colleague in the Department of Defunct Languages, Rigel University, Dr. Raccoona Sheldon, along with my profound personal gratitude. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 21, 2013 |
Brightness Falls From The Air by James Tiptree, Jr. . . . perhaps a little inspired by the Thomas Nashe poem, 'Litany in a Time of Plague' his lines: "Brightness falls from the air / Queens have died young and fair" is quoted on the back dust jacket flap . . . is a beautiful, detailed science fiction novel that shows humanity's ugliness - greed, brutality, sadism - but also courage, self-sacrifice, acceptance and a desire to protect the weak.

Cor, her mate Kip, and Doctor Bram are the only three humans stationed on a far-off planet called Damiem. Their job is to protect the native population - a race of fragile, beautiful, winged insect-people called the Dameii. The Dameii were once subjected to brutal violence because, under torture, they secrete an elixir that can produce pure happiness - and earn a fortune on the black market. Now Damiem is strictly patrolled with very few, closely screened, visitors.

A group of tourists have come, however, to see the final light show of a super-nova that is viewable only from Damiem. This is the light of the infamous "Murdered Star," a sun that was exploded as the final act in a war, and an act that wiped out another alien race, and destroyed their culture and civilization forever.

The group of tourists includes several interesting characters:

- four teenage porn stars: Star, Bridey, Snake and Hanno, and their surprisingly warm and kind-hearted director, Zannez.

-Pao,a child-prince of the world Pavo, who is surprisingly mature for his age.

-the Lady Pardalianches of Rainbow's End, who has come with her comatose sister, hoping the lights of the nova will somehow revive her.

-Linnix, a red-haired girl who was the officer on the ship that brought the tourists, and has spent her life traveling the universe in search of her father.

-a little old man named Doctor Ochter, who has retired from a life of academia to study stars.

-a taciturn artist named Vovoka, who is obsessed with studying the planet's light.

-two Aquamen - Hiner and Yule - who came to Damiem due to a passenger mix-up and do not have proper clearance.

But not everyone in this eccentric group is who they seem, or what they claim. On the night of the Nova, the three humans tasked with defending Damiem find themselves in the middle of an intense confrontation with more than one enemy - and more than one motive. I found it to be a very compelling read. ( )
  catfantastic | Apr 17, 2012 |
What a strange book. Casual child porn imagery aside... (can you put that aside?) -- some of the choices that the characters make just don't make any sense. I did enjoy one of the plot threads involving a dying race... but the others just seemed poorly thought out. ( )
  jlabeatnik | Apr 14, 2010 |
I am a big fan of both James Tiptree, Jr.’s short fiction and her novel Up the Walls of the World, so I brought high expectations to this one. Brightness Falls from the Air is a book that starts somewhat slowly, but builds plenty of suspense through a second half that keeps you turning pages right to the bitter end. Overall, I'd say that while there were indeed things to admire about it, it’s not really up there with her best.

Tiptree is an author who never shies away from probing the bleak depths of humanity at its very worst, and we certainly get a strong dose of that here. There is something seriously screwed up in a universe where sadism and profits go hand-in-hand, or where a career in child pornography is the best thing that could happen to you if you have the misfortune to be a youngster born on (or stranded on) one of the particularly ugly planets. More than in some of Tiptree’s other works, however, in this book we find this darkness largely mitigated by the resolution, sense of responsibility, and willingness to take risks to help those in need demonstrated at various times by the good guys.

The characterization is not a strong as it could have been. I think in part this is due a cast of characters that is too large and overly eccentric. It is exacerbated by jarring changes in point of view that we get at key junctures in the story (often just when you were starting to build rapport with the narrator of the prior section). I thought the Dameii themselves really failed to reach their potential, serving as little more than a prop in the story. The aliens in Up the Walls of the World were much more interesting and compelling.

There are some clever turns in the plot, but ultimately I felt that it was driven by too many coincidences, some of which seem profoundly improbable. The more you thought about some of the key plot points the less plausible they seemed. In the end it was hard to believe that the bad guys fell apart so quickly, and that the good guys came out so well (and for those couple who didn’t make it there was something right about that anyway). In an odd way, it felt like Tiptree was struggling to sew together four different stories that might have worked better on their own: a novelette about Zannez and company, and their meeting with Prince Pao; a short story about Baram and Linnix; a novelette about the Dameii and Star Tears; and a novella about Cor and the murdered star might have made a very effective collection.

Having said all of that, I would still say that Tiptree at less than her best is still worth your time—give it a try. ( )
2 vote clong | Dec 26, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5

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