A Thorough Introduction

I wasn’t supposed to finish this book so quickly. Stuck on a snowy mountain for four days with sore muscles from panicked skiing, I was supposed to stretch this book out to last each evening, and instead I finish it my second night here. Sometimes it’s not the best to be a quick reader.

Titled, Dark Orbit, it’s about two women: Sara and Thora, who are both sent to Iris, a newly discovered planet, and find out they have to save the inhabitants from the outcropping space-folds. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although Carolyn Ives Gilman is not a poetic writer, I get the impression she is very organized. Everything she writes seems to have some importance, being directly relevant to the story in some way, which I quickly sensed after reading the introduction. It quickly gives her away as being a very direct, focused writer.

In the first line of the book, the reader learns about which planet and timeline we’re on: “In the course of Saraswati Callicot’s vagabond career, she had been disassembled and brought back to life so many times, the idea of self-knowledge had become a bit of a joke” (Gilman 1). Through this internal reflection, the reader learns that in this timeline, the people can travel through a process of particle dis- and re-assembly.

Continuing the process of self-reflection, we learn the type of story this will be: “Even with endless experience, she still felt like an anachronism until she accounted for the years everyone else had lived, and that she had spent as a beam of clarified light. / It had been five years in her subjective time since she had left Capella Two” (Gilman 8). This story will be one of science fiction that treads the line between make believe and theory, which makes it a more convincing story to have some anchor in truth. I certainly believed more in the theme. This line also introduces part of the background of the character, slowly transitioning as a sort of past reflection, letting the reader catch up with the character.

The introduction continues by having Sara examine herself in a mirror – oddly cyclic when compared to the ending, though it’s perhaps not a coincident. And then by her past catching up with her for her mission, the true start of the story, the reader gets a sense of the character’s attitude, looks, and background. By the one of the main character’s being an exoethnologist, a scientist who studies outside cultures and ideas, she’s much more analytical of her surroundings, hence the critical POV from this character.

This book would be a good study for authors looking to introduce their story. As always, there’s multiple ways to do it, but by choosing this moment of the story – after her transport by light beam – it gives the reader to catch up with the character, to check out her appearance and the world around her, to reflect on how things have changed from her past and etc. I’m sure everyone would have a good point in a timeline to better examine their characters, and self-reflection seems like a good start on how to do it.

Gilman, Caryoln Ives. Dark Orbit. New York, NY: Tor, 2015. Print.


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