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Brightness Falls from the Air Paperback – August 15, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; First Edition edition (August 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312854072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312854072
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,683,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Tiptree, Jr., was actually Alice Hastings Bradley Sheldon (1915-1987), a fact she kept secret for the first ten years of her meteoric career under the Tiptree pseudonym, as she won awards and acclaim. The truth came out in 1977. She also wrote as Raccoona Sheldon. She was born in Chicago, but spent much of her childhood in Africa and India. Her father was a lawyer and traveler. Her mother, Mary Hastings Bradley, was a well known geographer, traveler, and author of 35 books, who also wrote a successful children's book of which Alice was the heroine. After leaving her first career in the CIA in 1955, Sheldon got a Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1967 and began her writing career. She won the Hugo, Nebula and Jupiter awards for her short fiction. Today, the annual Tiptree Award, for SF that explores and expands gender roles, is given in her memory.

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Customer Reviews

If you like intelligent science fiction or fantasy, you'll like this story.
Jason K.
They don't use the bathroom, they don't stink, and they don't use harsh language - and they have really boring lovely sex: how enlightened!
Jack Cade
I think the problem was that the author tried to stuff too many concepts into a short novel.
Kenya Starflight

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
A group of humans gather on the planet Dameii to see the light of a war-destoyed star, on a planet that was itself the site of terrible atrocities against the native inhabitants. Some come out of interest, others revenge, and still others plan to start the horrors all over again. As with Tiptree's (aka Alice Sheldon) other work, this features the beautiful, intense prose which sets her apart from other sci-fi authors. It's very moving and, as you near the climax, very suspenceful. Quite a work of art. The story, however, doesn't really start until the story is at the halfway point. Many of the characters seem to lack depth, and the aliens only rarely appear. It is not quite equal to her earlier work, "Up the Walls of the World". I can only give this 4 stars. Had the characterization and pace been better, I would have rated this the best book I'd ever read
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "sdixonsf" on July 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the most surprising announcements in science fiction history was when award-winning but reclusive science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr. revealed that she was actually Dr. Alice Sheldon.
Sheldon wote some of the best short fiction of the 70s, including such classics as "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (which anticipated many cyberpunk themes years before William Gibson), "The Women Men Don't See", and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?".
Brightness Falls from the Air was Sheldon's second (and final) novel. Although Sheldon's best work was certainly in her short stories, my favorite thing about this novel was seeing Sheldon express many of her recurring themes in a longer form, weaving several seemingly disparate plot lines into one. The novel works well both as a mystery and as science fiction, and offers a nice helping of excitement as well.
This is one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time, and is an excellent introduction to the work of James Tiptree, Jr.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NotSoWize on October 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
I can see why the reviewers are pretty much split down the middle on this one. The set-up is extraordinary, the writing style is unusual, and the payoff is less than the reader hopes for. Even so, I really enjoyed this novel. There are more ideas in this book than in a dozen average SF novels, so I can look past the fact that many of the ideas are never fleshed out. It is the first "James Tiptree" novel (or short story) that I've read, and now I will definitely search out some of her earlier and more highly regarded works to see what I think of them.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rory Coker on May 25, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This late novel by Tiptree, better known for her short stories and short novels, has not been popular with either reviewers or readers. It has a number of flaws, but it held my attention throughout.

There are a large number of characters, but they are all so nicely delineated that I had no trouble remembering who was who. The plot involves a small terrestrial caretaker base on an alien planet whose inhabitants had earlier been horrifically physically exploited by earthmen, a base which receives an unusual number of visitors who have supposedly come to see the spectacular final passage of a supernova shock wave through the system... a supernova triggered by one of the novel's main characters, and a supernova which apparently destroyed an entire race of intelligent, artistic creatures and their ultimate artistic creation. Naturally the last surviving alien, in disguise, has come to seek revenge, while three criminals in not very believable or effective disguise have come to torture the natives a bit more to extract some (as usual in sf) impossibly rare and valuable secretion that only pain and torture bring forth, kill everybody at the base in a staged accident, and then depart.

The plot works only because the three main characters are incredibly stupid, lazy, easily distracted and passive in reacting to the very obviously looming "situation". And a preposterous fantasy element (the fact that time can run backward in fits and starts during the passage of the supernova shock wave) allows several sympathetic characters who have been killed off or mutilated beyond recognition to be restored to life (with mixed results, I might add).

Given the glaring flaws, however, the novel ultimately succeeds (at least for me).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is a tale of beauty, horror and greed. On a faraway planet, a nearly extinct species of beauty and love lives, now protected by the very same humans that earlier exploited them in the cruelest ways imaginable. And man returns. This book tells us about the darker sides of humanity, as well as of beauty and love. It made me cry. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Brightness Falls From the Air - James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

"People talk about body language, but his perceptions are subtler that that... In the same way he knows the two passengers who are supposedly enraged at being dumped off here, aren't really angry at all. And that silent-so called-artist stinks of death. And the dear little old jolly Doctor would cut your throat for a half credit." from "Brightness falls From the Air"

This story has some admirable qualities that I find very appealing in a science fiction novel. For one thing it takes place on a believable alien planet, has intelligent non-humanoid beings with a intriguing history and culture, involves a stellar event of considerable significance and the characters and events are set within the framework of credible space exploration.

The story concerns some very unsavory occurrences associated with 13 tourists who are visiting the planet Damiem to observe and to be affected by the passing of the light and energy from a human caused Nova event. The tourist are, well, different: 4 teen "adult video stars" and their producer/director/cameraman, a very wealthy lady and her sister who has been in a coma for years, a doctor that reminds one of Dr. Strangelove, a light sculptor-not sure what that is, the young heir to the royal throne on another planet, two very suspicious characters claiming to have been being dumped off on Damiem and an attractive ship officer with some very serious emotional problems.

Although it combines elements of detective fiction melodrama - a group on strangers in an exotic location - some innocent some maniacs - it is nonetheless an exceptional science fiction novel and highly recommended for interested readers.
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