Review of The Falling Sky by Pippa Goldschmidt

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 135, 1244, 30–31 (February 2015)


This is a book review of The Falling Sky by Pippa Goldschmidt. Although perhaps not science fiction in the strict sense (it takes place in the present and no non-existing technology is assumed), it is a novel in which the main character and several other characters are scientists and the plot revolves around science, in particular astronomy and cosmology. As might be expected of a writer who used to be a professional astronomer, most of the details of the science discussed are correct. More importantly, the atmosphere of scientific research is captured quite well and it is obvious that the author is writing from experience. Having worked for two years in cosmology in the UK, albeit in England, I feel like I actually know some of characters and even some locations which I haven't actually visited. The descriptions of various types of scientists, institutes, observatories, etc. are spot on. Some reviewers have described the book as satire, but to me it is much closer to realism. The story, told in the third person from the protagonist's point of view, consists of two timelines, "then" and "now", exploring the protagonists experiences with regard to astronomy, sex, and her dysfunctional family. The various locations correspond to the locations of real astronomical institutes, though apart from ESA the corresponding names are not mentioned. Most of the book is in the "now" timeline and takes place mainly in Edinburgh. The ending was a surprise, but not in any way unfair to the reader. In retrospect, it is actually quite logical and expresses one of the themes Goldschmidt wishes to convey.


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