I recently finished reading ORBS (aff link) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith and thought I’d write a quick review. In the interest of transparency, I bought this ebook with my own money and paid the regular price Amazon had it listed at.
Overview of ‘Orbs’
The novel started off a little slow, as it took me a while to really get into it. But even during the slow rise to action, the whole concept of a group of scientists living and working in a biodome fascinates me, as does the prospect sending the first humans to Mars. It still kept my interest and I never thought about putting the book down.
I should add (in fairness to Smith), I’m usually one that takes a while to really get into a novel. More so than a lot of people.
The main character is Sophie, a highly regarded physicist who wanted nothing more than to go to Mars. Emanual, is the team’s biologist and has a casual relationship with Sophie. Holly is the team psychologist, looking out for the mental well-being of the team. But Holly also appears to serve as a counterbalance to her very science-oriented colleagues (despite herself being highly educated).
Timothy is another member of the team. He’s the computer specialist. I felt like he was out of place in this book. Not because of bad characterization or anything, rather, his personality is so different. This added an interesting element to the novel that gave some much needed tension, especially early on before the real action began.
There are other characters that become very important in the novel, but I really don’t want to mention them or go into detail because it’ll start to give pieces of the plot away.
Once the characters realized they had to leave the biodome after only several days, the pace really began to pick up. It’s in the following chapters where we learn about the orbs, and the mysterious sentients that appear to be behind the invasion of earth. We also learn just how dangerous these organisms really are. It takes the characters a while to figure out exactly what these aliens want. But once they do, the reality is terrifying.
A few of the chapters seemed to dragged. I’m thinking specifically of the chapters that detail the strange dreams Sophie is having. Maybe I’m a little bias because I’m not a big fan of dream scenes in fiction to begin with. To be far, however, the dreams do serve a larger purpose and help pull parts of the story together.
Surprisingly, the chapters I really enjoyed, were those written from the point of view of Alexia, the AI computer that is helping the team on their mission. She’s an interesting character by herself because she has an omnipotent view of the biodome, access to all the world’s knowledge, yet she struggles to fully understand humans. She can make very educated guesses about emotion and motivation, but at the end of the day, she’s still a computer.
I really want to write more about this novel, but it would require me to spoil the plot and all the surprises Smith throws at the characters.
So I’ll end by saying Orbs is a great piece of science fiction. I can confidently recommend it to any science fiction fan. Even if you’ve never read science fiction, this might be a good novel to start with, as it’s a good read with a great plot (not heavy on the science like some sci-fi can be).