This sedate, dreamlike exploration of a single day in the life of a space station’s international crew is, in many ways, an extended love poem to life on Earth. There’s no plot per se; rather, the reader experiences 16 orbits of our planet through internal monologues, flashbacks, and descriptions of the world below.
By turns moving, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, each sentence of this little novel is so dense–at times tumbling into stream-of-consciousness outright–that I had to break often to digest what I’d read. Think of “As I Lay Dying,” but in space.— Charlotte
A slender novel of epic power, Orbital deftly snapshots one day in the lives of six women and men hurtling through space--not towards the moon or the vast unknown, but around our planet. Selected for one of the last space station missions of its kind before the program is dismantled, these astronauts and cosmonauts--from America, Russia, Italy, Britain, and Japan--have left their lives behind to travel at a speed of over seventeen thousand miles an hour as the earth reels below. We glimpse moments of their earthly lives through brief communications with family, their photos and talismans; we watch them whip up dehydrated meals, float in gravity-free sleep, and exercise in regimented routines to prevent atrophying muscles; we witness them form bonds that will stand between them and utter solitude. Most of all, we are with them as they behold and record their silent blue planet. Their experiences of sixteen sunrises and sunsets and the bright, blinking constellations of the galaxy are at once breathtakingly awesome and surprisingly intimate. So are the marks of civilization far below, encrusted on the planet on which we live.
Profound, contemplative and gorgeous, Orbital is an eloquent meditation on space and a moving elegy to our humanity, environment, and planet.
About the Author
Samantha Harvey is the author of five novels, Orbital, The Western Wind, Dear Thief, All Is Song, and The Wilderness, which won the Betty Trask Prize, and one work of nonfiction, The Shapeless Unease. Her books have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian First Book Award, and the James Tait Black Prize, as well as longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Women's Prize. She lives in Bath, UK, and teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University.
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