From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
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.
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When a new planet is discovered, 58 light years away from the Twenty Planets, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is one of the scientists sent to explore it. She's also secretly assigned to protect Thora Lassiter, a mystic who was involved in unrest on the planet Orem. When their ship reaches the planet Iris, they find it surrounded by dark matter. Soon a member of the crew dies, Thora disappears, and the scientists find a civilization in the heart of the planet that challenges their preconceptions. Gilman (The Ice Owl) incorporates intriguing ideas about interplanetary travel, gender roles, mental health, and the senses, but the overall effect is a jumble that doesn't know what it is trying to say. The story jumps from espionage to murder to first contact to philosophy at dizzying speeds, without resting anywhere long enough to come to any conclusions. The one exception is the charming portrayal of a civilization of the blind, which showcases Gilman's talent for description and character.
This title I found to be very well written and thought provoking; An insight into the very perception of consciousness.
Pros: likable characters, interesting environments, and a lot of intrigue.
Cons: ending felt a bit rushed and very little character development.