Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Book Review : Orbit

Written By: amodini - Jul• 18•11

Orbit: A NovelTitle : Orbit

Author : John J. Nance

Genre : Science Fiction

Rating : 3.5/5

It was a coincidence that I was reading this book about the same time as the recent Atlantis mission was going through. Ironical really that I was reading about the future of space travel just as NASA space shuttle program was upon the brink of closure. Orbit by John Nance, who is the aviation correspondent for ABC, was published in 2006 and tells the story about a traveler on a commercial space jaunt in the year 2009.

Kip Dawson, a pharmaceutical rep has won the lottery. Or something like it – he has won a trip to outer space aboard a commercial space craft. When he decides to go on the trip, he angers his wife Sharon, who believes that he is putting himself in grave danger and risking the future of his family for what is essentially a pleasure trip. Dawson plows on ahead undeterred, even when he is informed by the Company that he will be the only passenger aboard, the other three paying passengers having been unable to fly. D-day arrives and the flight takes off smoothly. All is well until a small piece of flying debris crashes through the spaceship, kills the pilot and knocks out the communication with earth, leaving our intrepid hero, Kip, to fend for himself. Dawson, now for all purposes alone in the world, must figure out, sans help, how to get out of orbit and back to earth.

At first unable to believe that such an accident has happened, Dawson succumbs to despair. Then, he begins to fight back trying to recall the training and beginning to look for manuals which will help him get his house (or ship) in order. His efforts fail though when he misses the window time to remove the ship from orbit, and as he contemplates death by carbon-dioxide, he begins to record his thoughts on a laptop. Unknown to him, his musings are being published on the internet, via a remaining communication link. As people on earth begin to read his logs, preparations are also afoot for a rescue mission. Will Dawson ever get to see another earth dawn ?

This is the first Nance authored book that I have read, and if this is the kind of story he spins, I wouldn’t mind reading all the rest of them (12 in total). This is a good old fashioned yarn, well-told and nicely paced. Nance intersperses his writing with cleverly placed twists which keep one engrossed. Note that although this is the sci-fi genre the book doesn’t delve too deeply into scientific matters. The middle of the book did get quite emotionally heavy, as Kip alone in orbit reminisces about his family and his life. So although this book has a “space/science fiction” setting, this book can be enjoyed by everyone – not just sci-fi afficionados . The writing is simple and serves to convey the plot, and the emphasis is on the human story.

The story is told from Kip’s point of view and Kip is a hero you can get behind. Still, I do have to agree a bit with the Kirkus Review which pegged this book as being about “men doing manly things”. Kip is quite a hero, but he isn’t perfect – note the wandering eye and the lissome, leggy Diana Ross – I haven’t read many books where a married heroine would admire the physical attributes of a man. I wouldn’t say that this detracted from the book, although I’m a little miffed that Kip is not above reproach – a hero needs the 100% support of his readers.

This book will become a movie in 2013, it’s rights having been bought by Fox, and I can quite see this as the perfect candidate for a film, because – and this is my grouse with the book – it is a cliched story. Man goes into space – reluctant husband, not-great-father, uncaring son and comes back reformed and appreciating life and family, having realized the error of his ways.

Still a good read – recommended.

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One Comment

  1. […] If you have watched Moon, you have already met the lone man on the moon. If you’ve read John Nance’s Orbit, you know what “stuck in orbit” means. “The Martian” might seem like one of these […]

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