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Brightness Falls from the Air

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  709 ratings  ·  64 reviews
They have gathered now on Damiem and are about to witness the last rising of a manmade nova. They are 16 humans in a distant world about to be enveloped by an eruption of violence--horror and murder oddly complemented by a bizarre unforgiving love. But justice is not all that's about to be found. Judgment is coming and the 16 unsuspecting ones are on the threshold of the m ...more
Paperback, 382 pages
Published August 15th 1993 by Orb Books (first published January 1st 1985)
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  709 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
I've read several books that won the Tiptree Award:
(Candas Jane Dorsey - Black Wine,
Elizabeth Hand - Waking The Moon,
Nicola Griffith - Ammonite
Maureen F. McHugh - China Mountain Zhang
Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness -
all books I'd highly recommend!)

but somehow, I'd never read a book by Tiptree (Alice Sheldon), only a short story or two.
So I picked up this book, which the cover says is her 'greatest novel.'

I guess the hype got to me, because I was a little disappointed - it wasn't a
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book. On the whole, it's probably only three stars. It's not as consistently compelling or well-written as Tiptree's short stories and novellas and the plot is sometimes contrived. But there are some scenes that are five-star scenes, in which the emotion and the writing transcend the rest of the book.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I've read Alice Sheldon's (pseudonym: James Tiptree Jr.) short stories and found them haunting. They've stayed with me for a long time. The one that I most often think about is "We Who Stole the Dream." I picked up this book not knowing it was part of the same universe.

The book is paced a little strangely: lots of action in bursts then kind of nothing for long periods of time. The beginning is harrowing: you know something is going to happen but you don't know when or how. There's this sense of
Duane Poncy
I never thought I would be giving a two-star review to anything by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon). I love everything I have previously read by her. Much of the writing in this book is amazing, the suspense often riveting, and the concept behind it was potentially brilliant, but it was tremendously flawed, in my view. The cloyingly sentimental dialogue was at stark contrast to the chilling thematic material. The sweet, kind-hearted, heroic child porn producer, for instance -- I'm not being pr ...more
Jennifer Taw
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
A very detailed and deliberately paced sci fi adventure focused on (often failed) efforts to prevent, overcome, and make reparations for the worst human depredations. Exploitation as a dynamic permeates every aspect of the story, and is examined through the interpersonal, interspecies, financial, political, and professional relationships. Sheldon/Tiptree emphasizes that targets of exploitation may be unaware, resistant, naive, or entirely complicit, depending on their circumstances and the socia ...more
Bryn Hammond
I read in her biography (James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon) she was uncomfortable with the novel format and they had to push her into it. That makes me feel better. I worship Tiptree, but it hurt to try to read this back in the day and it hurt again last year. She was a short story writer. Though she seems to settle at the extended short story of a hundred pages.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sarah by: Roberto Bolano was reading it
Shelves: science-fiction
I wonder why there's a correlation between sci-fi books and their character's unusual eye color? It's like if you're a character, fabricated by a sci-fi writer, your eye (and hair) color will be mentioned again and again and I guarantee it will be a highly uncommon color. I was thinking this and then up popped this sentence by Tiptree: Reality needs no friends.

She doesn't care if all her characters are unrealistic! Neither do I, anymore, violet colored eyes are nice to imagine, sometimes. This b
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, own-it
A confusing mess of a plot full of soap opera revelations every twenty minutes, but mostly a really fun read. The soap opera ridiculousness did distract badly from the horrors going on, often in the background. This novel has some truly great thematic material, but the writing felt like a teenager's melodramatic first draft.
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, sf-by-women
Just found my review of this book.

A really original book. This is an absolutely genuine big gift. The two main plot strands are well woven together, and the whole is deeply thoughtful. I'd rate this not far behind 'Brave New World', although it does have occasional stodgy moments, and verges on the silly once (?) Very very good though.
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
One of my all-time favourite science fiction novels by one of my all-time favorite authors. It's been a long time since I read it, but I remember loving it. I should go back and reread so I can give a proper review.
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the most compelling books I can recall ever reading.
J.L. Dobias
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shelf-001
Brightness Falls From the Air by James Tiptree Jr.(Alice Bradley Sheldon)

I can honestly say I've read few of James Tiptree and that is mostly because she was mostly writing short stories and though I've read a few short stories now and then I prefer novels. She has two of those to her name and this one was in e-book format and after recently reading one of her short stories I felt compelled to read a novel.

Though the novel starts with a paragraph that sounds quite descriptive it is misleading in
Christian Schwoerke
Mar 17, 2016 rated it liked it
As novel, Brightness Falls from the Air is mediocre, but as reading experience—when infusing the novel with the externality of its Sheldon/Tiptree authorship—this is a four-star experience.

In a life characterized by social and sexual awkwardness, Alice B. Sheldon probably found her greatest satisfaction when writing as the James Tiptree, Jr., a writer who burst onto the science fiction scene with a clarity of voice, a dark and disturbing vision, and a pronounced assurance that could only be mas
A diverse group of tourists arrive on a distant, vulnerable planet to witness the aftereffects of a nova. Tiptree wrote so much and such fantastic short fiction; but long fiction is a different beast, and those same skills don't necessarily apply. The opening is slowed by character introductions; the resolution is too long and too detailed, while the more interesting and Tiptree-trademark themes (like thematic illness/disability, death drives, death with dignity vs. life with disability) are lef ...more
Brian Ridderbusch
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Would have been a 2 star rating except for the ending. Terribly frustrating dialogue, again until the end. Unfortunately I don't think the end would have an interesting impact without reading the book. So you need to read the whole book. If you start this just make it to the end, like cory.
Fanny Aboulker
May 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I thought the style was very heavy, everything was over explained and by the end I didn't really care about the fate of any of the characters.
Sarah Rigg
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
A sci-fi classic for a reason.
Ugh. Just don't. Lousy plot. Terrible writing. Ridiculous, stereotypical, flat characters. So many moments of scratching one's head and trying to determine if it's *meant* to be this absurd.
A bit cliche. The various plot points didn't hang together well. I hope this book is uncharacteristic of Triptree's other works.
Tamara Temple
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, favorites
I absolutely loved this novel. The rich descriptions of the planet, the people, the characters, all was so enjoyable. My greatest wish is that Tiptree's work are re-published for a new generation, and available on e-readers.
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Not sure where I read this, but I remember someone saying a person absolutely must read James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon) if interested in queer sci-fi. Of course, almost none of her books are available through our library network in Montana, so Brightness Falls from the Air was the best I could do without committing to buying an author I'd never read or even heard of before.

I should have heard of her before.

Why hadn't I? Probably because she was a woman. I'll probably read Julie Phillips' biogra
Morgan McGuire
Mar 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Cheap salaciousness mixed with minor world building and then bathing in disgusting images...foreshadowing Iain Banks' worst, without his best. The child porn, murder, torture could be serious and addressed well (e.g., Le Guin and Butler) if the rest weren't in the style of Barbarella and Larry Niven.

Stuff I Read – Brightness Falls From the Air by James Tiptree, Jr. Review

I'd actually never read any James Tipree before this book. So I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from it. I can say that I certainly wasn't expecting what I got, which was a very strange mix of things, a science fiction about mistakes and forgiveness and second chances, about genocide and murder and healing. It's a very odd book, set on a remote world that was home to one of the most horrible chapters of human history, w
J. Kevin
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unlikely assemblage of characters -- diplomats, aristocrats, scientists, and porn stars(!) -- arrive on a remote planet to witness the aftershock of an exploded star. The characters are quirky and charming, and the reader might think they're in for a lighthearted romp. But the book gets very dark very quickly. The story behind the cosmic explosion and the history of the planet itself are steeped in tragedy, and once the lightshow begins, secrets and hidden agendas come out, and soon the touri ...more
Natasha Hurley-Walker
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Fairly straightforward old-fashioned sci-fi romp. Aliens, spaceships, culture clashes. Much of the plot seems farfetched given that the author could have made better extrapolations about the technology available. (view spoiler) Since much o ...more
Tiptree was obviously most famous as a short story writer and wrote very few full length novels. This book is great but I think it is obvious that she was not 100% comfortable with this format.

The first half of the book is like a work of art, bright hues and wonderful colours. Fascinating personalities are established and brilliant questions on how society would change over time. However, once the Nova hits it is forced to turn into a thriller which moves quickly but is filled with cliches and c
Nov 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
Acquired this book by accident (free scifi, couldn't resist), sat on my shelf for at least four years, and the only reason I read it now was because it was a hardback and thus sits best on my over-the-tub book holder. Much better than I expected: Interesting aliens (wish we had seen more of them but they are shy), nice hard science to go with the cultural experience, and a different angle on the time 'travel' aspect.

The characters, perhaps there are too many of them, or maybe the author just did
May 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciencefiction
I'm waffling between three and four stars for this book. On the plus side, it was very evocatively written, I loved the characters, and it had some extremely original ideas. On the con side, however, there were many points in the book where I wanted to shout, "Oh come ON! Stop being so naive and DO YOUR JOB!" because people kept ignoring clear threats and acting on partial information. However, it was a fun story, and a good introduction to James Tiptree Jr.. I will read more by her.
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
Lovely prose and beautiful imagery. Although the characters were interesting, they weren't given enough development. I feel compelled to deduct one star for the use of the deus ex machina "time-flurries" and the unbelievable stupidity of the main characters. Otherwise Brightness Falls from the Air is an intriguing story about beauty, love, and the greed and horror humans are capable of.
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"James Tiptree, Jr." was born Alice Bradley in Chicago in 1915. Her mother was the writer Mary Hastings Bradley; her father, Herbert, was a lawyer and explorer. Throughout her childhood she travelled with her parents, mostly to Africa, but also to India and Southeast Asia. Her early work was as an artist and art critic. During World War II she enlisted in the Army and became the first American fem ...more