deep-wheel-orcadia cover

Deep Wheel Orcadia

Harry Josephine Giles
Picador Poetry

I have never read anything like this. A motley crew of characters. A slice of life feeling. A novel with little plot, focused on brief interactions within an isolated community struggling to survive. All of that in space, in verse and in a futuristic version of the Orkney Scottish dialect.

We follow Astrid coming home to her parents on the Deep Wheel Orcadia station after finishing art school on modern and metropolitan Mars. At the station she meets fellow traveller and mysterious foreigner Darling. Together they discover and rediscover the precise schedule of daily life on Orcadia, the traditions passed down through generations, the people’s aspirations and frustrations, the difficulties of eking a living as workers in an ever-changing world with limited economic prospects. The space station feels at times homely and at others haunted, coming across unidentified wreckage, spinning in the darkness near Alpha Centauri.

The characters are oddly relatable. They worry about the future and about making the first move at the local pub. They fight with their families and complain about slow internet. They share a general feeling that the rest of the universe might be moving on without them but also, at their individual level, a curiosity about the world around them and a sense of hope.

The book includes both the original version and the English translation, the latter in longer lines and a smaller font to occupy less space on the page. The English version is striking by the attention it draws to its own inadequacy to fully showcase the lyricism, complexity and singularity of the original. This English has been blown apart and assembled back together clunkily like mismatched parts of an engine, revealing through compound words and silences the density of the Orkney dialect. Like a spaceship, this language sputters, stations and then speeds up. Like the characters it depicts, it dances on the page, at times slowly and at times “whirlrushdancespinning.”

Review by






Leave a Reply

Blog at