The Helena Orbit

Philosophically brilliant and thoughtful, James Dunham’s debut novel, The Helena Orbit, charts a twisting and skillful course through the volatile pitfalls of family and politics, the thrill of scientific exploration, and the quiet, musical stirrings of humanity alone in the sublime void of space.

After 500 years of deep space travel, the diverse artistic and scientific inhabitants on board the colony ship Euclid celebrate their arrival in orbit above the planet Helena.

Everywhere young scientist Edwyn Santiago looks, the inhabitants of the Euclid seem restless. Centuries of deep space travel have taken their emotional toll on this small, artistic, and scientific society, which has precariously held itself together through generations of isolation. The arrival celebrations provide a momentous but brief respite. Pre-colonization research of the planet remains to be done and, while festivities dwindle, new threats surface.

Even as Edwyn helps to make startling new findings about the planet, she discovers a less idyllic, more cloistered side of the colony, and uncovers intrigues and secrets hidden for centuries that reopen old societal and family wounds. Taking on a duty much larger than her scientific inquiries, she strives to locate some saving grace for her yearning and divided civilization.

The Helena Orbit explores the choices a society and its individuals must make in order to survive and function for 500 years alone in space. The book delves into questions of science and ethics, exploring realistically the technical and moral difficulties that arise when a population impatient to colonize a new planet arrives and finds its destination a little less dead than it expected.

James Dunham’s stories have appeared in The Southeast Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Philadelphia Stories, and other publications. The Helena Orbit is his first published novel. He earned his MFA in fiction from Bowling Green State University and is a graduate of the Writers Institute at Susquehanna University. He is also the editor of the online literary magazine The Quiet Circle. He lives in New Jersey with his wife.