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The Dark Beyond the Stars: A Novel Paperback – November 15, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sparrow is a crew member on the Astron , a multigenerational ship sent from earth on an unavailing, 2000-year search for other life-bearing worlds. On the last planet, Seti IV, Sparrow fell off a cliff and nearly died, losing his memory in the process. While recovering in sick bay and also while back on the job, he is beset by more accidents. Eventually he decides that someone is trying to kill him. Trying to find out who and why, Sparrow is plunged into an ever-deepening mystery; nobody will discuss his past with him, the computer has restricted his data, and the little he does discover about his history leads only to further secrets. Robinson ( The Power ) plants plenty of clues for the reader, scattering them skillfully amid exciting action and dialogue. The technical and social aspects of a centuries-long voyage are ingenious and clearly depicted. This is a welcome variation on an old SF theme, and the writing easily holds the reader's interest.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Aboard the generation ship Astron , bound on a mission to seek out life amid the stars, an insane captain resolves to lead his crew into empty space (and almost certain death), while a crewman struggles to retrieve his lost memories so that the last remnants of humanity can survive. Best known for his coauthorship with Thomas N. Scortia of The Glass Inferno ( LJ 7/74), Robinson demonstrates his storytelling expertise in a gripping psychological sf drama that belongs in most libraries.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; 1st Orb Edition/ 1st Printing edition (November 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312866240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312866242
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,243,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By abt1950 on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read "The Dark Beyond the Stars" shortly after its original publication in 1991 and was blown away by it at the time. I lost track of both the name and the author, but the plot stayed with me. Thanks to Google, I've rediscovered the bibliographic details and plan to reread the book in the near future.
This book is an engrossing piece of SF that blends many disparate elements into a coherent whole. It takes place on a decaying generations ship whose mission has been to search for sentient life. Robinson ably depicts the necessities of life in such a closed environment, but he also uses them as a backdrop against which to spin out other themes--the protagonist's search for identity, the captain's obsession with the mission and his endangerment of the crew, plus portrayals of love, friendship, rivalry, competition, and above all, loneliness.
The many plot twists and reversals make "The Dark Beyond the Stars" an exciting read, but what lingers afterwards is the humanity of its characters and their sense of aloneness in a big, dark universe.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Chad Sosna on January 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm a periodic sci-fi reader and must be interested to finish a book in this genre. This met my needs--a thrilling page-turner that's a fine blend of sci-fi (without too much science) and suspense. I heard about this after finding it was a Lambda award winner in 1991. After reading it, I'm surprised it won a "gay" award--though that occurs in the book, it's in the context of how all of society feels. I wouldn't call it a "gay" novel.

The story is of 17-year-old Sparrow, who, after an accident, has no memories. He's on a ship called the Astron, which has been in space for centuries looking for other life. As others and events begin to seem vaguely familiar, he discovers a secret movement aboard--some want to go back to earth. They've been to hundreds of planets and found nothing and believe earth truly is the only source of life.

Things are at a crisis point now. They must enter the "dark," a part of space where there are no planets to explore. After they will pass through it (which will take a whopping 100 generations), they will enter an area of more planets to explore.

This story kept me gripped, and the main character and other characters were well-drawn. I was surprised at the level of sophistication in the characterization. Fine points usually found only in literary novels make the characters a rich tapestry. The spaceship environment seems likely and real. Apparently Frank M. Robinson has not written a lot of sci-fi, but I am sure to read the rest of his books.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on July 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully-told, fascinating story that begins in a fairly straightforward, but enjoyable, direction and takes several 180-degree turns--moments that make you say, "Yes! That's exactly how it has to happen! And yet I had no idea that *that* was going on!" I love it when authors can do that. The best advice that my old creative writing professor gave us was that the ending of a story should be "surprising yet inevitable." Robinson does an incredible job of accomplishing that very thing, not once but *twice*.
One caveat: Do not read this book just because it is a Lambda Literary Award winner, and do not pay attention to the note on the back that claims it is "a powerful epic of interstellar travel, alternate sexuality, and overpowering obsession." The so-called "alternate sexuality" is a *very* minor aspect of the book, and it is really closer to what I would call "normal" (i.e. people are generally bisexual--although even in this case, there are conspicuously few gay pairs). Nevertheless, it is a beautiful, enthralling story that I couldn't put down, and I urge everyone to get their hands on a copy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cartimand on July 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This immensely thought-provoking sci-fi extravaganza must surely be the most vibrant depiction ever of the generation-ship concept.
The Astron, once the shining zenith of humankind's technological achievement, has been in deep space searching unsuccessfully for alien life for two millennia, and is now rapidly falling into decrepitude. Robinson paints vivid pictures of the grime-smeared bulkheads, the fetid stench of recycled air, bland reconstituted food and gradually failing life support systems. In this daunting environment however, the ever hopeful spark of human spirit shines forth like a diamond. The few hundred crew represent a true microcosm of humanity. Good, bad, noble and treacherous; everyone has hidden depths and all the time in the world to reveal them.
The skillfully depicted dynamic human interaction would be enough in itself to recommend this book. But there's more, much more. Our hero - Sparrow's quest for his missing memories reveals intrigue and mind-blowing secrets of Machiavellian proportions, which lead to a breathtaking conclusion. Throughout, Robinson's prose is flawless - I'm sure I shivered whilst reading the description of the frozen methane hell of Aquinas II. My only criticism would be that the novel does take rather a long time to gather momentum. It is a substantial work (over 400 pages) and its measured pace may not appeal to lovers of more conventional action-packed sci-fi.
The poignancy in the book's denouement, generated by relentless turning of the wheel of time, has a profound philosophical edge to it and will certainly make you consider your own humanity. I am very glad to have read this book.
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