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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making Your Mark
In many ways, this is a very depressing book, as it shows just how badly the dream of space exploration has been lost, corrupted, mismanaged, and shoved under the carpet, out of sight of all too many people. At the same time, by investigating just what is important in life, it is uplifting and insightful.
The story tracks former astronaut Richard Baedecker, who is...
Published on 14 Feb. 2006 by Patrick Shepherd

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2.0 out of 5 stars Before he wrote his sci-fi
I was wondering when the sci-fi/mystery element was going to occur - and then realised it wasn't and this was a general fiction attempt by Simmons. You can see many of the same themes of his later works: travelling to utterly different locations; an older man with a younger girl - does happen a lot in his books; a misunderstanding of and obvious dislike for Christianity;...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making Your Mark, 14 Feb. 2006
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Paperback)
In many ways, this is a very depressing book, as it shows just how badly the dream of space exploration has been lost, corrupted, mismanaged, and shoved under the carpet, out of sight of all too many people. At the same time, by investigating just what is important in life, it is uplifting and insightful.
The story tracks former astronaut Richard Baedecker, who is plagued by feelings of not doing anything meaningful in his post-NASA job, a divorce and an estranged son. The son has taken up with an Indian guru, seeking something he is not getting from his famous father, while Richard cannot seem to find a way to re-connect with his son, but does manage to connect with his son's semi-girlfriend. That connection leads him on a search for what is meaningful for him, from recollections of the items he left on the moon as a permanent mark on that world, to finding the magic of high places. His final actions of this book show that he has found, at least for him, some answers to the meaning of life, answers that will resonate with most readers.
This story is told very stylistically, with clean descriptions, very quiet actions, and with quick flashes backward and forward in time - potentially a confusing method of telling a story, but Simmons brings this off nicely. Richard's character is nicely portrayed, building on his recollections of his past exploits and his current interactions with those around him to show a fully realized man, one who has many doubts, fears, and sometimes moments of happiness. The characters around him, while not shown in as great a depth, are more than adequately developed, especially Dave, his former NASA crewmate. Perhaps the best item about this book is that all the characters and themes are developed by showing, not telling or pontificating.
The dream of space flight is here, still dazzling, but it is shown in today's light, not center-focus, almost just a background to Richard's story. And as such, I found some of this heavy going, for regardless of how realistic this portrayal is, for me that dream has not died, and if I can help it, it never will. Perhaps this book can help galvanize people into once more putting real effort into making this dream a true, commonplace, and daily reality.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very moving journey, 4 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Paperback)
I like this author and he is well known for being successful in crossing genres, be it horror, sf, or crime, but this is something completely different. I suppose it is a character study about one man called Richard Baedecker, who dreamed of going to the moon with NASA, finally acheived this, and was underwhelmed by the results. When we join him he has already retired as an astronaut, and has a boring desk job which he is desperate to get away from. He is travelling to India on business, but as it so happens his estranged son is currently there training with some sort of religious guru, having dropped out of college, and so he is hoping to rebuild relations with his son at the same time. What he in fact does is form more of a relationship with his son's friend, a young girl called Maggie. They form a bond, and she undertands Baedecker's plight, and his sense of loss at drifting from his son & ex-wife & having no real direction in life, and she introduces him to her theory of "places of power". These are places which give people a really true sense of "being", and realising that there is somthing bigger going on in the world, and that they are part of something unimaginably greater in scope than we can possibly contemplate. Baedecker then goes on his own personal journey to find purpose and closure to certain things, and find his own place of power. Its a very moving story, and I suppose everyone feels "lost in it all" at times, and this book basically said to me that as long as you keep the dream alive, then there is always reason to keep looking. Brilliantly written, its just a shame there is not a better edition out there, as this is a cheaply produced print-on-demand publication that is more like a school text book than something to fit nicely on your bookshelf. Still, never mind, its what's written that counts I guess!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Before he wrote his sci-fi, 21 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Kindle Edition)
I was wondering when the sci-fi/mystery element was going to occur - and then realised it wasn't and this was a general fiction attempt by Simmons. You can see many of the same themes of his later works: travelling to utterly different locations; an older man with a younger girl - does happen a lot in his books; a misunderstanding of and obvious dislike for Christianity; and irritating, very empty pseudo-spiritual nonsense, which thinks it is deep and profound.

I wasn't impressed. However, it is interesting and quite on the money, the way he's portrayed an ex-astronaut having to deal with life in an America that's stopped trying to reach for the moon. When he returns to his old hometown it's quite well done - although descends into predictable cliche, as does most of the book. The way he portrays Christians and the comments about them are utterly superficial, show no insight, and don't do him any credit.

I've enjoyed some of his other books, but they all have these same failings - and this one doesn't have the great story telling of his science fiction to make it worthwhile reading.

Ultimately it has nothing to say
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Quest for the meaning of life and love, 3 Jan. 2000
This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Paperback)
A former astronaut who walked on the moon, middleaged travels to India to visit his estranged son who lives in a guru's commune. This kicks off a spiritual journey during which he discovers more about himself than he ever hoped to learn.
I might be slightly biased to Dan Simmons' work but this is surely one of his finest books. Whilst it defies classification , no horror or scifi here, it is an intriguing tale of self discovery and more importantly the discovery that man is not Atlas , the titan who carries the whole world on his shoulders.
This book had a profound impact on my life and if I could take 5 books to a deserted island this would be one of them. Superb!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Phases of Gravity, 23 Aug. 2002
This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Paperback)
Phases of Gravity tell the story of Richard Baedecker, a retired fighter pilot and astronaut. The story takes him to India and various North American locations as he searches for his "Places of Power"-a quest to find meaning in his life.
The book is well written and characterised, and is never less than interesting. One tiny criticism is that it's not quite as clever as it thinks it is, the reader is left wanting to know more, but in a slightly disatisfied way. That being said, it's certainly worthy of investing a day or so in it, as I'd rather have read it than not.England
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Asking the right questions., 25 Jan. 2010
By 
oz (Vaour France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Paperback)
SOME SPOILERS

A rounded story, well told, about an ex-astronaut, Richard Baedecker and his search for meaning in his life. He is intelligent and wary and it is his friends, old and new who provide the pointers by which he finds his way.
Maggie, his son's friend, tells him that it is asking the right quesions that matter and not accepting easy answers. She dismisses as facile the answers provided by New Age Gurus and Born Again Christians ...'people who trade their brains in for sacred truths that can be boiled down to poster slogans.'
The story is told in multiple flashbacks, each one is a piece in Baedecker's puzzle. He realises that it was his absence and emotional neglect that led to his divorce and to his son embracing those easy answers. His guilt leads him to mount a rescue of his son both physically and perhaps emotionally.

His two ex-crew mates are shown as opposites. Dave who rejoices in the present, the practical joker who followed the line of least resistance, who grasped the importance of 'living' almost too late to pass on his wisdom but allows by his death a route forward for Richard. And Tom who's 'Epiphany' fake or otherwise on the far side of the moon was a cry for certainty in his own life, but whose total 'born again' immersion alienates his own son. His new, blinkered, unquestioning view, highlighted by his or his wife's assumption that needle lines on a scruffy teenagers arm indicates a heroin addict rather than a diabetic.

I believe the author is trying to demonstrate that true enlightenment is found in love and family and nature. That the supernatural is not required to justify our presence and is wary of the false security provided by organised religions in that they can hinder rather than this enlightenment. And it is only in the final reel we meet an old Indian, a metaphor for the natural world, who allows Baedecker a drug enduced/ enhanced? revelation, prosaically perhaps; love, question, wonder and stop being afraid of the dark.

Oz
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the other reviews, 11 Jan. 2011
By 
A. Walker - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Phases of Gravity (Kindle Edition)
Don't get me wrong, I believe that Dan Simmons is one of the best writers of recent years - Ilium, Hyperion, The Terror being sufficiently diverse examples of his expertise in storytelling. However, this one sticks out a mile. Admittedly, it's well written as you would expect, but the gradual exposure of Baedecker's history and the events that shaped his persona are deathly dull and the tail-away ending further exposes the weakness of this short story transposed to novel form.

Some will blather about the frailty of the human condition, how inner enlightenment and discovery are worthwhile reading material, that the episodic nature of the book enhances the 'true life' experience that the book brings. For me, these all add up to an extremely bland story, populated by one or two well-fleshed characters, and loss of interest at each story jump. I feel that this was a good idea that should have been capped at 80 pages.

Those expecting Simmons' trademark character expositions will be left feeling short-changed, while those new to the author will inevitably be put off his other classic stories. As such, this book should not be recommended to any but completists, which is incidentally why I read it in the first place.

Utterly disappointing.
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Phases of Gravity
Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons (Paperback - 13 Jun. 1991)
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