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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: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 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: #2,324,623 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

The environment of the story is painted clearly but with otherness required for a space story.
Mary Ann Neuroth
This is one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time, and is an excellent introduction to the work of James Tiptree, Jr.
"sdixonsf"
In trying to juggle so many concepts and characters, the book suffers by not being able to develop any of them very far.
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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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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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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Galgar on March 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel is not traditional science fiction in that it does not revolve around either action or a plot, and it avoids the easy, simple answers and characters so common in the genre. In a way this was what made James Tiptree a cut above most genre authors, in that she was willing to express what she felt, whether despair (usually) or joy (rarely), rather than simply focusing on making the reader feel good. In Brightness Falls from the Air, we get an example of the kind of despair that seems to have dominated Tiptree in the last years of her life.

The mood is melancholy, focusing on death, of a race, of a world, of a star. And this is not merely death, but violent death through love. The planet Vlyracocha was destroyed by a lovesick girl, and now the last of its inhabitants seeks vengeance. The inhabitants of the world on which the drama is set, the Dameii, produce a joyous drug through their despair. Even the sex is tinged with the death of innocence, since among the guests to observe the death of Vlyracocha's sun are a child pornographer and his chattel, children to be used for lust under the light of the dying star.

It's dark stuff, which is normal for Tiptree, and it leaves the reader with little in the way of hope. While it lacks the intense pace of her short stories, it does leave an impression in the mind, a longing to make the world better than the story we are given here. Perhaps this was the point.
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