Deep Wheel Orcadia is unlike anything I’ve read before, a sci-fi novel in verse about home, belonging, and place written in the Orkney dialect with an English translation. The plot follows the meeting of Astrid, who returns to the titular space station after art school on Mars, and Darling, who is fleeing her past and has ended up in the far off reaches of space, but also a cast of characters across Orcadia as they try to keep apace with the changes around them.
I found the form ideal for the setting and narrative, with the verse and the sci-fi combining well to make the world-building concise and leaving plenty of ambiguity in this glimpse into the world of the space station. The short poems, occasionally getting longer to play out a big scene, move quickly between characters and situations and I found the pacing a lot more suited to me than a lot of sci-fi, leaving me wanting more rather than feeling like I’d been told too much. There’s probably a lot of different ways to read the book with its dual text, and though I settled into reading each page first in the Orkney and then English, I could imagine trying out different ways in the future.
The exploration of gender and love in this world was a real highlight, and I also liked the fact that a lot of the story was about a character returning from the “big city” (aka Mars) to their childhood home and perhaps looking for inspiration that won’t come. There’s a lot of stuff in Deep Wheel Orcadia that feels timeless, and in general it is a book that transcends things. I want to think more about Astrid and Darling and I’ll undoubtedly be rereading this a few times and probably picking up more and more each time.