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Dark Orbit

(Twenty Planets)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,092 ratings  ·  350 reviews
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 be ...more
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  2,092 ratings  ·  350 reviews

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Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Scalzi

I don't know that I've ever said this, but what this story needs is more words.

You read that right.

Sara, an exoethnologist, has just returned to her home world of Capella. Things have changed quite a bit since she was last here, most significantly, a former mentor is now a government power-player and wants her to take a position on a first-contact mission. Unofficially, he'd also like her to keep tabs on a disgraced member of his clan. She readily agrees, and shortly after she and the contact te
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Dark Orbit is a fascinating novel and I enjoyed it a lot, but the book description is misleading, making it sound like it is a murder mystery (it’s really not), as well as a first contact with an alien species is involved (well, only sort of). However, I was hooked by the idea of an interdisciplinary team of scientists going on a research expedition to study a strange new planet, and as an Anthropology nerd, I was especial
I liked this more than I thought I would, rounding up to a 3.5 stars, but even though the big ideas were pretty interesting in themselves, it didn't quite reach the level I thought I wanted.

These big ideas came pretty fast and furious after a certain point, which I have no problems with. The novel begins with solid characterization, fairly interesting first-contact scenarios including the normal fish-out-of-water plots on both sides of the glass.

There's dark matter and interesting gravitationa
Nov 05, 2015 marked it as zzz-books-not-for-me  ·  review of another edition
Read in 15-17 February, 2016. DNF:70%

-A highly original and thought-provoking story mixed with eastern philosophy and existential questions.
-Technology - I loved how the author described the huge amount of time spent during the travel between solar systems as "going to sleep", and waking up the next day to find all your grand-children are 3 times your age! Technology plays an important role in sci-fi and the author has done her share of research.
-The Alien World - the planet is pretty uns
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-read
I thought this one was very well written and incorporated some extremely interesting and different ideas. I loved the way dark matter and quantum entanglement were explained so clearly. I have to disagree with those who felt the ending was unsatisfactory; I was quite happy with it.
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is that a group of scientists are on a mission to an odd solar system that looks to have a high concentration of dark matter (it's gravitationally lensing stars behind it). The main protagonist Sara is an exoethnologist with a twofold mission, to supervise the other main protagonist Thora, and to study the social structure among the other scientists. That all goes quickly out the window when Thora goes missing and the planet they're investigating turns out to be inhabited.

The setup for
4.5. I loved the characters, the science/magic, the world building. We just need - MORE! I can imagine many endings, though, which if proof to me that this was a book that got my brain going.
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Dark Orbit' is a fast easy read which nonetheless is loaded with speculative ideas. Gravity wells, meditation, dimensions, branes, blindness, particle science and seeing reality are combined with the exploration of another planet in another galaxy far away. However heroic the pursuit of life in the Universe may be, the story of the questship Escher is a satisfying Big Idea story. A very light touch of mystery and conspiracy spike up the anxiety levels a couple of ticks. Little Moth in particula ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Saraswati Callicot lives a life out of time: she travels via lightbeam from world to world, hopping decades each time, emerging in a changed culture. But one day she gets a unique opportunity: visit a new planet, deemed habitable, with all sorts of weird dark matter aberrations. Her secret mission? Keep an eye on Thora Lassiter, who's claimed to have had "visions" that have now been treated.

It only takes a few chapters for everything to go wrong. A crew member is murdered. Thora disappears. An
What a wonderful surprise this turned out to be. If you're at all interested in perception - that is, not just how people see one another, but how humans from Earth perceive the world around them, this book is worth picking up. I also love that the ideas are so alien - many books about space travel include landscapes very similar to our own, or beings who are just like us but on another planet. This book goes a bit further and makes you consider some what ifs.

Really impressive overall.
Carolyn F.

This book was just okay to me. I didn't really know where the plot was going. Who is the main protagonist? Is there a romance? What's next? I was pretty much confused through the whole thing.

The narrator Melanie Ewbank did a great job with all of the different characters' voices. 2-1/2 stars
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of the year. It's also one of the most epistemological novels I've ever read. (Epistemology is the part of philosophy that deals with knowledge - What is it? How do you get it? Do we have any of it?) Knowledge is the central issue of Dark Orbit, specifically whether the senses and empirical scientific methodologies are giving us the full picture of the universe. It's no surprise that Plato is mentioned at least twice (p. 39, 141).

Our story begins far in the futur
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Dark Orbit deliberately harkens back to the Hainish novels of Le Guin, but it is no pale imitation. Set in Gilman's "Twenty Planets" universe (no need to read the previous works, though you may want to when you're finished with this one), the premise of Dark Orbit finds a team of scientists sent to explore a distant, recently discovered planet. The planet and its surrounding space exhibit some inexplicable (and dangerous) phenomena, and the team stumbles upon a long forgotten settlement of human ...more
Sci-Fi & Scary
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
This was a library book so...

DNFed. I got about 200 pages in, and it became reams of psychobabble and philosophy and I just got... bored.


Too many good books out there to waste time on a boring one.
Dark Orbit's striking cover, strong promotional buzz, and positive reviews and recommendations (Ursula le Guin wrote the cover blurb) had me very excited when this book finally came into the library. It doesn't quite live up to the hype, but it certainly strives to some high expectations and in a shoot-for-the-moon situation, it lands pretty solidly in the "good sci-fi" category.

I really wanted this book to be as good as the hype, and as I read it, I really wanted it to be as good as it could be
3.5, actually.

Nice setting and interesting anthropological, philosophical and physical discussions. It got a little slow towards the end, hence the rating, but a nice read anyway.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first this was choppy, very short episodes, actually saccades. And political intrigue, and the technique of introducing the reader to things she won't understand until later... I almost gave up. But then we got down to the planet and things are actually happening and it's very cool. Oliver Sacks would like it (he was a fan Star Trek after all).

(view spoiler)
The ending is inevitable, and ineffable.

3.5 stars rounde
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remember those terrible kitten experiments you read about in intro psychology where they deprived the poor dears of light at infancy to see the impact it would have on their development? Remember how such kittens were permanently blind? Remember the conclusions people drew about the nature of seeing (relies more on the brain than on radiation)? Couple that to a long, philosophical discussion about the something inane like "redness" (cue obnoxious analytical philosopher: "under what conditions is ...more
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...The year 2015 is a good one for science fiction. Despite the fact that a handful of angry fans almost succeed in wrecking the genre's best known award, the number of books that challenge the genre's boundaries, that push the reader to think, and that allow them to experience cultures, frameworks of thought and lifestyles unfamiliar to them has never been greater. Gilman's novel does not take this development to extremes, one could say this approach to science fiction is fairly traditional. Wh ...more
Ian Mathers
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rt, 2015
The two human worlds depicted in this book (the Twenty Planets and life on Iris) are both so alien, and so well done; one of the more satisfying and real feeling novels of First Contact I've read in a while. No matter which plotline I was on I wanted to get back to the other, and in addition to being a fantastically gripping story it made me think about vision and perception and reality in a really deep and sometimes scary way. ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-my-best-of
This novel will really make you think about why we evolved this way. And I think Le Guin must be proud by the way science-fiction evolved, because Dark Orbit has the same "selfish genes" as The Left Hand of Darkness. ...more
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Dark Orbit had a strong opening act, filled with distinctive characters, an interesting political system, and plenty of intrigue. The story seemed like it was shaping up to be an engrossing space opera filled with backstabbing, uneasy alliances, and a first-contact scenario...and then the characters land on the alien world, and Gilman immediately commits one of the cardinal sins of science fiction.

This book was published in 2015, so why are we still seeing scenarios where people are landing on u
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alien, sci-fi

This has been on my radar awhile and have actually been waiting for it to go on sale on Amazon. The more I read the reviews and after reading the sample I decided to go for it (full price and all). I have not been disappointed!

Science fiction, when done right, deals with concepts that are different than our current reality. "What if?" questions. But not just "the weirder the better", these concepts need to be made to seem possible. And if your really lucky you get strong interesting chara
Jan 27, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, speculative
Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It

I just want to forget this book. Yet this review has 2107 words. I want to apologize for that in advance. If you don’t want a fairly detailed analysis (plot holes, etc.), you can just skip to the 2.5 last paragraphs.

This fourth entry in the Twenty Planet universe started promising, and I enjoyed the first 100 pages a lot, but after about 1/3rd it turned into a giant mess. Really, a giant, giant mess. Then again, maybe I have read too
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun, quick read with some interesting ideas. Focuses around a scientific expedition to a newly discovered planet in an area of space displaying some odd gravitational and dimensional phenomena. I was very interested in the way the author had to describe a new planet and culture. I enjoyed the themes and ideas embedded in the story, the ethics of first contact with new cultures and appropriation of culture and cultural knowledge. There are two point of view characters who we switch betw ...more
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I still can't quite decide how I feel about this book. When I saw the cover and how short it was, I thought it would be horrible. I will say that it definitely wasn't horrible, but I can't really say it was awesome. The ending was too rushed for sure. ...more
Richard Abbott
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Let me say up front: I loved this book, and it was definitely a five star read for me. I had not heard of Carolyn Gilman before, and encountered her book through an online book club I belong to. Why did I like it? For starters, it is one of a tiny handful of books I have read which offers an explanation for instantaneous communication along with sub-light-speed travel - almost everyone simply assumes this without explanation as a plot device.

But my enjoyment of the book goes way beyond apprecia
Sara Callicot travels to a newly discovered habitable planet located in a pocket of bizarre phenomena in order to spy on another member of the exploratory crew, Thora Lassiter. The planet Iris is beautiful and strange, but this initial premise in no way conveys the variety of speculative concepts which come into play: multiple alien cultures, disability and culture-building, alternate forms of perception and dimensions and travel. Cultural and methodological diversity functions as a tool to expl ...more
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Carolyn Ives Gilman has been publishing science fiction and fantasy for almost twenty years. Her first novel, Halfway Human, published by Avon/Eos in 1998, was called “one of the most compelling explorations of gender and power in recent SF” by Locus magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies such as F&SF, Bending the Landscape, The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Realms of ...more

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Twenty Planets (4 books)
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“To die this way seems so random, so trivial. I have been robbed of meaning before being robbed of life. To die in darkness, alone -- for what purpose was I ever alive. It is as if I emerged from darkness into delusion, then sank back into darkness forever.” 2 likes
“The core principle is that our senses receive a far broader spectrum of messages than the narrow range we are taught to pay attention to. Our brains still receive many of those messages, but they are shunted into the subliminal and subconscious, and surface only as intuitions, emotions, premonitions, dreams, and visions. If we study those experiences not as illusions but as cues to other modes of apprehension, it might give us access to layers of reality we barely suspect, since the evidence for them is drowned out by the noise of ordinary perception.” 2 likes
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