Deep Wheel Orcadia

Paperback, 176 pages

English, Scots, Orcadian language

Published Jan. 10, 2021 by Pan Macmillan.

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4 stars (8 reviews)

Astrid is returning home from art school on Mars, looking for inspiration. Darling is fleeing a life that never fit, searching for somewhere to hide. They meet on Deep Wheel Orcadia, a distant space station struggling for survival as the pace of change threatens to leave the community behind.

1 edition

Intriguing hybrid text

4 stars

Unlikely blend of science fiction and prose poetry, with the (complementary) Orcadian Scots and English translation run alongside each other, and a slow accretion of relatively contained poem-chapters building up to a bigger picture, a (fraught) romance intertangling with (what I took to be) a ghost story, and glimpses of an insular, long-isolated community on the brink of sudden, potentially far-reaching change. Enjoyed it a great deal, particularly at a more granular, linguistic and conceptual level. I was initially a bit perplexed by what seemed like an abrupt ending, with insufficient narrative resolution or closure, but, on reflection, have come to terms with this being about my own (genre) expectations (of science fiction), rather than any deficiencies in the text. Would warmly recommend, but I really should have tackled it in fewer sittings, as it clearly benefits from sustained reader immersion.

Review of 'Deep Wheel Orcadia' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This is a beautiful book, and as near to perfect as I can imagine a poem or a science fiction story could be. The English translation is a shimmering lens that draws you into the Orkney text but never overwrites it—a tremendous achievement—and the text of the poem itself is a sonic latticework that rolls and ravishes without demanding a close semantic reading. The story is told through many voices, and the focus on everyday interpersonal moments is a welcome change from the bombastic norm in science fiction. This is a work that feels whole, but not closed, and one that I anticipate returning to again and again.


  • English literature, Science Fiction