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Orbiter Paperback – June 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ten years after its mysterious disappearance, the space shuttleVenture returns to Earth covered in organic material, rewired withalien technology and missing all but one of its crew members. The dustin its wheel tracks indicates it has been on Mars and possibly otherplanets as well. The United States government drafts an ex-astronautbiologist, a brash young propulsion expert and a washed-outpsychiatrist to piece together what happened to the Venture. Ellis hascrafted a scientific mystery similar in structure to an issue of hisacclaimed series Planetary. However, where the protagonists of thatseries are detached observers of the fantastic, here Ellis gives eachcharacter a personal stake in the investigation. Ellis has struckgold: his old talents for mad ideas and nuanced tough talk melds witha new optimism, giving this story an emotional depth far beyond thatof typical sci-fi. Doran's art serves his story well, as she handlescataclysmic disaster scenes, detailed technical exposition and tenderhuman moments with equal deftness.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Publisher's Weekly, September 15th 2003: " Ellis has struck gold...giving this story an emotional depth far beyond that of typical sci-fi." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401202683
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401202682
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Guy L. Gonzalez on March 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Writer Warren Ellis recalls Neil Armstrong's "odd little jump from the end of the ladder to the soil of the moon" as his "first memory...being held up in front of a tiny black and white TV set by my mother and being told, 'Remember this.'" And remember it he did, as that moment clearly informs much of his exceptional writing over the years.

Orbiter - written a few months before the Columbia disaster and published a few months after - is something of a love letter to that "odd little jump" and the achievements it inspired over the years; an ode to the sense of wonder that for a time had telescopes at the top of Christmas lists, and "Astronaut" as one of the most popular answers to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's also a pretty damn good sci-fi story full of the geeky science theory and quirky characterization that Ellis is best known for.

Taking place 10 years after the fictional space shuttle Venture disappeared without a trace while in orbit, NASA has ended its manned space flight program and the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center have inexplicably become a shantytown. Without warning, Venture returns, crash landing at the Space Center with only its catatonic Captain onboard, bringing with it the mystery of its whereabouts for the past 10 years. Where has it been? Where is the rest of its crew? Why is it still intact? And why the hell is it covered in skin?

A story like this obviously hinges on a willing suspension of disbelief, something that itself hinges on the sincerity and believability of the characters, and it is there where Ellis shines, with Colleen Doran's emotive artwork and Dave Stewart's muted coloring bringing his exuberant story to vivid life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Allan Harvey on May 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Warren Ellis's story presents the reader with an intriguing mystery, while at the same time showing how the space shuttle Venture's return to Earth literally restores the lives of the three scientists tasked with explaining its decade-long absence. These three, having seen their dreams shattered ten years ago, now stand on the brink of the greatest discovery in history; one which will change their lives - and the world - forever. There are echoes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur C Clarke here, and some will see elements of 50s British sci-fi serial Quatermass, but that is all to the good. This is a multi-layered tale that combines the best elements of its influences, creating a unified whole which is positive and uplifting.
While a few extra pages wouldn't have gone amiss, the three leads are strong characters fully-realised by the narrative. We see something of their past, and we come to know their dreams. We like these people because they are not superhuman. They're normal, down-to-earth types whose heads just happen to be in the stars - just like us. The story is aimed at the dreamers who look up at the night sky in wonder; who shed a tear at the Challenger and Columbia disasters; and those who look at the face of the full moon and see themselves reflected...
A graphic novel does not exist with words alone, and in Colleen Doran's art we find perhaps the book's greatest strength. Colleen uses a style which is largely experimental for her, full of stark contrasts, and while it is not totally successful it does suit the story extremely well. The story-telling is exceptional, and the characters are brought to life with graceful body language that is unique in every case.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Koppel on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are many who believe that the space program is just an unexciting shadow of its former glory with all missions merely reaching low orbit and a few remotes sent further. Ellis takes it a little further and has the whole manned program shut down completely.

The time is the near future and the manned space program has been completely shut down since a shuttle just disappeared ten years earlier. But suddenly the shuttle returns to Kennedy.

The return of the shuttle sets off a cavalcade of action as teams are quickly assembled to discover just what happened and what it means. One team is checking out the shuttle and how it is operating. One is checking out where it has been. The third team is looking into the one crew member to return; the pilot. This will not be easy as the shuttle seems to be covered in skin, the pilot is near catatonic, and there is evidence that it landed on Mars.

This is a story of a world where the doors to space travel ravel and exploration have been closed. Now a new enthusiasm is sparked and the reader is taken on a wonderful ride of discovery as the teams delve into the possibilities. Ellis handles the techno-jargon (it's not babble) very well. The excitement the engineer feels as research progresses is almost tangible. He races through ideas an possibilities in a very believable manner. The other team's actions follow similarly-believable lines. In the end the reader is left with one simple thought: I want more!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It's the near future, a decade after the end of manned U.S. Space Shuttle flights, which was the result of the disappearance of the shuttle VENTURE from its orbit. But now VENTURE is back, landing at Kennedy (and taking out a few score squatters in the process) with only John Cost, the pilot-commander, aboard. The quickly cobbled-together team of experts are driving themselves nuts trying to figure out where the shuttle has been, and how, and why. Ellis's story beautifully captures the excitement of weird physics and makes an emotional case for the continuation of manned space flight, and Doran's strightforward drawing style is a perfect match for the prose. The irony, of course, is that between the completion of the book and its publication, we lost COLUMBIA on its landing approach -- an event which especially chills the heart of every proponent of manned space exploration because the cry has again been raised for robots to take the place of humans in space. Ellis and Doran know we must never allow that to happen.
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