Customer Reviews


15 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intense but incomplete novel
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...
Published on January 14, 1999

versus
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, melodramatic, but worth attention
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...
Published on May 25, 2008 by Rory Coker


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intense but incomplete novel, January 14, 1999
By A Customer
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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful novel by one of SF's greatest short story authors, July 31, 2000
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Different Book, October 8, 2006
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, melodramatic, but worth attention, May 25, 2008
By 
Rory Coker (Austin, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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). There are many likable characters, many suspenseful situations, an action-filled climax, and some plausible yet unexpected plot twists.

This is far from Tiptree's best work, but she was clearly getting some ideas important to her off her chest and into print, and the discerning reader is the ultimate beneficiary.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad, beautiful tale - Tiptree's best, September 28, 1997
By A Customer
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Although it combines elements of detective fiction melodrama it is nonetheless an exceptional science fiction novel, September 25, 2012
By 
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.

It did occur to me that those observing the passing of radiation waves from a Nova - especially on a planet with a very troubled history of alien-human relations would of been restricted to a highly screening group of scientist.

A rarity in science fiction novels is an appendix detailing the cast of characters, glossary of terms, titles, places and things. I was constantly refering to it since the author is very imaginative with character names.

Brightness Falls From the Air"(1985) was one of only two novels written by author James Tiptree, Jr. (1915-87). Triptree was the pen name for Alice Sheldon.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Mood Piece, March 15, 2010
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unique, memorable, but ultimately unsatisfying, August 22, 2010
I wanted so badly to like this book. It was beautifully written, with a memorable world that still lingers in my mind and a deep sympathy for the characters and their trials. It is at times difficult to read, as it doesn't flinch away from describing the atrocities of war and despotism, but I had to know if all turned out happily for the characters.

Sadly, this book, while intriguing and full of beautiful imagery and unique concepts, failed to satisfy me in the end. I was left wanting more once the final page had passed, and feel that the book ultimately failed to deliver.

I think the problem was that the author tried to stuff too many concepts into a short novel. We have a gentle alien race that was (and still is) the target of brutal exploitation, a second alien race of which only one member survives and seeks revenge, an expanding supernova that causes random fluctuations in time, vague mentions of a dark creative force at work, at least two ongoing love stories, and a good dozen-and-a-half or more characters to follow. In trying to juggle so many concepts and characters, the book suffers by not being able to develop any of them very far. It almost feels like the plot has ADD at times.

This is still a beautiful book, but I feel it could have been improved either by being longer, or by having some of the excess plot baggage trimmed from it. All in all, lovely but unsatisfying.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful novel, August 10, 1998
By A Customer
The sheer beauty of the language Tiptree uses to tell her compelling tale is incredible. I have always thought that if I could ask Tiptree what the meaning of life is, and why I should go on living, she'd know...her passing is unfortunate.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Oldtimer's lament, May 20, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
From the late 1940s through the 1970s and early '80s I was a frequent reader of science fiction - hard science, soft science, whatever classification Philip K. Dick can be placed in, and the sort of fantasy-with-gestures-toward-science that Silverberg wrote in his prime. The James Tiptree stories I read and loved were pretty much in that Silverberg vein, with a hard-nosed toughness at or near the surface, or somewhat more science based but just as strong.

I hadn't realized that the author's style had matured in this direction. "Brightness Falls From The Air" is soft fantasy. It may be 'better written' than her work from the Good Old Days, but I don't like it.

I recently picked up an anthology of "the best science fiction of 2003", and didn't find a 'real' SF story in the bunch, or even a story that was well written. So... the problem is mine, folks. My tastes are too far out of date to be relevant.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Brightness Falls from the Air
Brightness Falls from the Air by James Tiptree Jr. (Hardcover - Feb. 1985)
Used & New from: $0.03
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.