Orbiter by Warren Ellis and Colleen Duran
Orbiter is a gorgeous graphic novel that is about a world where we are no longer sending manned ships into space (hm..sound familiar? This was written in 2004 though…) after the shuttle Venture disappears in orbit. But then Venture reappears, 10 years later, with only one of its original 7 crew-members still alive. That isn’t the only strange thing about it, as it has had a few modifications that are beyond our technological knowledge and had done the seemingly impossible.
A review on Amazon referred to this as a love letter to Neil Armstrong, which is a lovely way to describe the book in my opinion.
Now what I love about Orbiter is that the theory behind the science is pretty sound. (Which, as you should see in an upcoming post, is dear to my heart.) But the technology (mechanism? specimen? Not really sure what the appropriate term is) is awesome. Like actually totally rad. I don’t think I have encountered anything like it before really. And I have been exposed to my fair share of science fiction. I just love how it functions on the ship as well as directly with the passengers.
Also this is not just a book. It is a graphic novel, and the images are really worth talking about. From the haunting images of the desolate Kennedy Space Center to the awe inspiring shots of space, it was just so pretty. The characters were so expressive. Which actually brings me to another point. There are three main characters that we follow, and two of them are women, which I think is awesome. And they aren’t just sexpot journalists, they are both active in solving and furthering the plot in their roles as psychiatrist and biologist/last living astronaut. It was really great to see women presented in the STEM fields, not just as pretty faces but actually solving problems. They both are leaders of the three groups created to help figure out what happened. And they weren’t your standard barbie doll physique women you see in graphic novels and comic books. They seemed realer, in thanks to the graphics as well as the story.
But yeah as I mentioned before this was written years ago, before the recent NASA budget cuts. I am really glad I read this now rather than when it was published though, because it now takes a whole new level of meaning. In the story NASA stopped sending people into space out of fear of what could happen to them. The panels depicting the decaying space center were some of the most haunting in the whole book. Yet what is more depressing is that in real life we stopped sending men out, not because of fear but because of the lack of motivation. What will it take to inspire us to get off of our asses and back into space? Orbiter has a happy ending, but do we?
Well on a slightly less depressing note, I loved the book and am planning on checking out a few other by Ellis. Ocean and the Planetary series (mostly because vol. 4 is titled “Spacetime Archaeology” so cool!!) look really cool. May pick them up sometime this summer. You know, once I have free time again.