I first read Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson over 20 years ago. When I sat down to read it again, I thought it was a great book with aliens in it, dancing, and spacefaring.
While there are aliens, it’s really a story about adapting to new circumstances, why humans aren’t interchangeable, and about being human. The aliens only appear twice, for a short time, rather than throughout the book. The true aliens/stars of the story turn out to lie elsewhere.
A dancer who doesn’t fit in
It all starts in Canada, with Charlie Armstead. Charlie was once a modern dancer, until a bullet ruined his leg and ended his career. Now, he ekes out a living making videos of the dances he can no longer perform.
His life changes when he meets Shara Drummond, the sister of his friend Norrey. Shara is an incredibly talented modern dancer – she’s also an Amazon – too big and too unusual to blend into a dance troupe.
Dancing among the stars
It’s heartbreaking at first, but her difference proves to be an incredible asset once she finds a place where size doesn’t matter – space. She wrangles her way there, by “befriending” billionaire Bryce Carrington. Then the aliens come – they look like red fireflies – are they dangerous? or peaceful? Are their movements intelligent? Language? Some form of dance?
Shara is the only one who can find out.
Predictions are tricky
The original novella (published in Analog magazine), ended with Shara’s close encounter with the aliens. Spider and his wife expanded the original story, winning the Hugo and Nebula awards (big science fiction prizes, if you don’t know) the year it was published.
Some of the technology misses (the book was published in 1979) are overly hopeful (a working, expanding space station with regular service – if only). Others are hopelessly outdated – cassette tapes? But the real story, as with all good science fiction, isn’t about the technology, it’s about the people. It doesn’t just expand your list of books you’ve read; it expands your mind too.
Besides, you’ve got to love a book with an acknowledgment list that includes (in part) “the whiskey of Mr. Jameson, the coffee of Jamaica, and the music of Frank Zappa, Paul Simon, and Yes.”
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
About the author
Jodi Kaplan has been called The Wizard of Words and a Clarity Driver. When she’s not reading, you can find her most days on her blog Fix Your Broken Marketing, where she helps bring left-brained focus to right-brained creatives.