by Samantha Harvey
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Pub Date 05 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 05 Dec 2023
Grove Atlantic, Atlantic Monthly Press
A singular new novel from Betty Trask Prize–winner Samantha Harvey, Orbital is an eloquent meditation on space and life on our planet through the eyes of six astronauts circling the earth in 24 hours.
A slender novel of epic power, Orbital deftly snapshots one day in the lives of six women and men hurtling through space—not towards the moon or the vast unknown, but around our planet. Selected for one of the last space station missions of its kind before the program is dismantled, these astronauts and cosmonauts—from America, Russia, Italy, Britain, and Japan—have left their lives behind to travel at a speed of over seventeen thousand miles an hour as the earth reels
below. We glimpse moments of their earthly lives through brief communications with family, their photos and talismans; we watch them whip up dehydrated meals, float in gravity-free sleep, and exercise in regimented routines to prevent atrophying muscles; we witness them form bonds that will stand between them and utter solitude. Most of all, we are with them as they behold and record their silent blue planet. Their experiences of sixteen sunrises and sunsets and the bright, blinking constellations of the galaxy are at once breathtakingly awesome and surprisingly intimate. So are the marks of civilization far below, encrusted on the planet on which we live.
Profound, contemplative and gorgeous, Orbital is a gift—a moving elegy to our humanity, environment, and planet.