By: Carolyn Ives Gilman
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
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. Thought to be uninhabited, the planet is in fact home to a blind, sentient species whose members navigate their world with a bizarre vocabulary and extrasensory perceptions.
Lost in the deep crevasses of the planet among these people, Thora must battle her demons and learn to comprehend the native inhabitants in order to find her crewmates and warn them of an impending danger. But her most difficult task may lie in persuading the crew that some powers lie beyond the boundaries of science.
The premise of this book sounded interesting so I kept it on my wishlist some time ago. Came across the book again some time ago and decided to pick it up on a whim; was in the mood for some science fiction as well as a break from all of my school readings.
The story was interesting enough. I think I was more fascinated about the worldbuilding than the actual plot of this planet that this team is exploring and the suspense as the story diverges and the disappearance of one of the crew members. I was more interested in the structure of the Twenty Planets, the hierarchies and power struggles that were happening and that was affecting this team and how Sara ended up on this particular team at this particular time. I actually wish we spent more time on these elements than the mystery of the planet but it does tie back in towards the end, which was pretty intriguing as it does fall to the backdrop for a while.
As for discovering the planet itself and the mysteries that begin to emerge as the characters begin to investigate was interesting in the way that they approach this new civilisation: how do you understand how they live, function, comprehend things like sight and gravity, how to see and how to move, when we take these activities for granted? I suppose I appreciate the ideas more especially as I’m currently back in school right now and lookin now at why we do the things we do within my profession.
Dark Orbit overall was an interesting standalone science fiction title. While the intrigue and the worldbuilding interested me more than the actual story itself, the ideas it also raises about first contact and our understanding of knowledge and the way we function were also thought-provoking. If you’re looking for a standalone science fiction title, then look no further 🙂