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May Books 2) Spin

2) Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson

I've read two of Wilson's previous novels, Hugo nominees Blind Lake and The Chronoliths, and based on that experience probably wouldn't have bothered reading this if it had not also been nominated for the Hugo this year. And that would have been a mistake: much as I have enjoyed reading the other Hugo nominees, and much as I respect and like the other authors concerned, I think Spin is going at the top of my list. (Yes, I have bought a non-attending membership of LaCon IV.)

The Chronoliths had a fantastic story of Strange Alien Happenings in the near future on such a wide scale that the world is changed for ever; but lost out rather badly on the denouement. Blind Lake was a bit more modest on the Strange Alien Happenings front, concentrating a bit more on the social drama for the main characters, but essentially also failed in the delivery. Spin takes all the best aspects of the previous two, combines them with some very interesting political and philosophical commentary, and delivers a climax whose punch matches the expectations the rest of the story sets up.

The basic story is that one day, some time in the near future, humanity wakes up to find that the stars have disappeared, and that the earth is surrounded by a mysterious barrier. The mystery deepens when it becomes plain that time outside the barrier is passing 100 million times faster than time inside. But rather than rely on sensawunda to sell the story for him, Wilson concentrates on the implications of such a massive disruption for human society, telling it as the story of a family who are heavily implicated in the politics of the change.

Having just read Carl Yoke's book on Zelazny, I was struck also by the Christ-like career of Wilson's main character, Jason Lawton, perhaps a deliberate subtle contrast with the nutty Christian cultists with whom his sister Diane gets deeply involved. There is also a fascinating Martian character, who gives interesting responses to Wells, Bradbury and Heinlein's takes on his own planet.

A really good book. Haven't read Scalzi's Old Man's War yet - in fact I think that is the last piece of Hugo-nominated fiction for me to read this year - but I doubt it will change my mind: hope it wins.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
Your comments are enticing me to seek out and read Spin. I love sf novels that deal with the impact on individuals and that explore the political ramifications of the sf situation.

I particularly liked Ken MacLeod's Dark Light. I told him it was like a manual for insurrection. He replied that he based it on his understanding of how the troubles started in NI in the sixties.

As it happens, I think Dark Light's approach was more closely followed by the Love Ulster riots in Dublin earlier this year.

Sep. 23rd, 2006 03:50 am (UTC)
I bought it because TNH had edited it and you had praised it, but I have to say that I find the prose almost unbearably clunky. I am very perplexed. I have read nothing but praise for this book and I was not prepared to hate it so much. I'm just on page 15, but it sure has to make up for a lot to earn back my respect.
Sep. 23rd, 2006 06:37 am (UTC)
Well, you're no alone. Try another 15 pages before you give up, though.
Sep. 23rd, 2006 01:26 pm (UTC)
I certainly will, but it keeps throwing me out of the flow. I find the prose really difficult to ignore, and the same goes for the characters. Is the main dude supposed to be insufferable? I wasn't impressed with the treatment of gender, either. Not everybody can aspire to the Tiptree, but, well, if there is a feminist, genderbending center of the universe, this is pretty far out in the Rim.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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