Orbital by Samantha Harvey [8/10]

This is my season of nuggety treats, a series of short novels of novella size or slightly longer. At 138 pages, Orbital can be read of an evening, and its subject matter is as brief. A lyrical coverage of one Earth-bound day in the life of six astronauts (actually two of them are Russians, strictly cosmonauts) circling our planet sixteen times. Nothing much happens—this is no Martian-style thriller—but nothing much is meant to happen, just the meditative flux of view after view of the glorious planet, its moon, and space, alongside the thoughts, habits, dreams, and wishes of the floating crew. What is remarkable is the sinuous, glorious prose wrapping around the sweeping, ever-changing portraits of the planet below/above/whatever. Magnificence alternates with mundanity, blankness with grandiosity, existential grandiloquence with thought-bound specificity. Orbital is a sweeping, rapturous feast for the senses and the mind.

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