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First, in spite of the low star rating, this is not an awful book; it just has some deal breakers for me.
I was intrigued by this book for the first hour or so. It moved quickly and introduced some interesting ideas about perception and identity. (I'm not going to go into any real plot information; you can find that anywhere.) The framing with switching between diary entries and direct first-person narrative is also well-handled, and the narrator was good.
Gilman's point in writing Dark Orbit was obviously to explore the issue of perception. How much can we trust our senses? How integral are our senses to our ability to our experience of reality? On a related note, she also deals with identity. These are great ideas, and the initial introduction of these concepts is well handled and fascinating. I love science fiction for its ability to do exactly this. I'm not a battles-in-space sci-fi reader.
Unfortunately, the novel bogged down when Moth, a planet native boards the ship and asks to be taught to see. The descriptions of trying to teach not just "her," but her brain to see quickly become tedious and take over the book at the expense of everything else. Gilman had made her point, to me anyway, quickly and did not need to belabor it. Over. And Over. And Over. At this same time, a member of the crew is trying to learn to live without sight. ~sigh~ same song, second verse. I get it, already.
I think this would have been a stellar (pun intended) short story, with all the repetitiveness eliminated and everything tightened up. It could have worked; it should have worked. It didn't. At least not for me.
It's not that nothing happens; it's just that it's so long between things happening that I stopped caring about the plot or characters. These philosophical science fiction novels only work when the philosophy is integrated, not superimposed.
Would I try another Gilman book? Well, Yes and no: The characters were well-developed, and the ideas were worth exploring, but I'd be more apt to pick up another Gilman book in print so that I could just skip over the digressions once I got the point. I don't need ideas pounded into my head with a jack hammer.
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What did you like best about Dark Orbit? What did you like least?
The book itself has some interesting ideas and a decent story. It bogs down a bit in places, and there is a bit too much sophomoric philosophy
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Melanie Ewbank?
Unfortunately, the narrator is pretty awful. She over-enunciates and over-emotes, frequently mispronouncing words (e.g. "solipsist" with the accent on the second syllable), and while her use of a second accent is good, there is little else to distinguish the voices of the characters.