Thursday, 18 November 2010

Books Remembered #5: Strange Orbit by Margaret Simpson

This is a semi-regular feature where I reminisce about books or even series that I read over and over again. Or even a book read once that changed the way I looked at life. It can be a book from childhood or a modern series I just can’t get enough off. It’s not a review of the book(s) but merely remembering the impact it had on me and how it’s shaped my reading habits and likes –what made that book(s) memorable.
When I was a teenager I read a lot of teen books. Back in the early 90s in Britain this mostly meant Point Horror books – a print house that specialised in horror stories for teenagers based on premises like The Babysitter – where the call was coming from inside the house (not a scary story that would work so well these days with mobile phones!) - to more supernatural causes such as moving to a new a house to find a vampire living there. I may come back to these stories in the future but what I’m getting at is that Point Horror was extremely successful. So much so, that the print range soon expanded and you could find Point Fantasy and Point Sci-Fi books. And the book I want to remember today is one of the Point Sci-Fi books. It’s no exaggeration to say this book really did change my life.
The book is Strange Orbit by Margaret Simpson (a name which these days conjures an image of a grown Maggie Simpson but meant little to me back then!). The book involved a privately funded trip by a wealthy woman who wanted to take children into space. The heroine was one the children who was picked to go (after having to apply and go through a variety of intelligence and physical tests). I think there were four of them in the end plus the pilot and woman funding the trip. The idea of teens going into space was fascinating to me and what happened when they got there blew me away. Something went wrong when they were orbit and they ended up travelling around the solar system trying to find a way home. This involved them meeting Schrödinger’s Camel (not a cat as is popularly thought), travelling into the future to a dying earth when most humans have left and visiting Mars (or it may have been Jupiter). There was so much imagination and possibility in this small book that I was enthralled – I wanted to go into space! I wanted to meet a talking camel on the moon!
While I can’t say that I’ve ever done either of those things, I did the next best thing I could – I started studying the solar system – the planets, the moon, the sun and the stars. After all we all know they’re there but how much do you really know about them? This soon developed into me wanting to know as much as I could about all things astronomical. This was a phase I never really grew out off and when I was 18 I went off to study Astrophysics at Cardiff university. I finished four years later was a Masters degree – all this because I read Strange Orbit when I was a teenager.
And do you know what? At least three other people I met on the same course also knew about Schrödinger’s Camel!

If you liked this feature, check out previous entries:
Books Remembered #1: Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles


  1. All I can say is WOW, you studied Astrophysics! What a cool story of reading turned into inspiration, now what is your career going to be though? Or rather what is your career now?

    jackie >_<

  2. Sad to say while I enjoyed the theroy behind it all, I wasn't much good at the original research bit. So I came away with a decent Masters and went into Market Research - I now work with Toy retailers and Manufactuers saying what the best selling toys are! It's actually a lot of fun - more so than I make it sound! :)

  3. You are now Tom Hanks character in "Big" in my mind, what a cool job!

    jackie >_<