Review – Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: One night, the stars disappear from the sky. Mankind discovers that Earth has been placed inside of a temporal shell where time moves astonishingly slowly inside. In a matter of Earth years, the Sun will become a red giant. Will Earth survive? And who or what placed Earth in the shell and why?

PROS: Well defined and complex characters, wonderful ‘What If’ scenario, ultimately amps up the wow factor for the end.

CONS: A bit slow in parts and a bit wordy.

BOTTOM LINE: A strong ‘apocalyptic’ novel with scads of ‘sense of wonder’. Read this book!


MY REVIEW:

One night, as friends Diane and Jason Lawton and Tyler Dupree are out watching the night sky, the stars suddenly disappear. humanity soon discovers, as satellites crash to earth strangely dated, that some entity has placed the Earth inside a shell where time moves much more slowly than the outside universe. Jason, as his father’s protege, is destined to probe the mysteries of the shell and the ‘Hypotheticals’ who created it. Tyler becomes Jason’s personal physician while Diane becomes a member of a post-shell cult who believe the second coming is near. Their lives mix and intertwine throughout the following years to a climax that rivals anything by Stephen Baxter in galactic scope.

I’ve read some of Wilson’s previous books, Chronoliths and Darwinia, and I’ve found that Wilson is very good at creating interesting situations, but I found the endings to both books to be a let down compared to the rest of the story. Wilson avoids that fate, for me, in Spin. Wilson has created a sympathetic trio of characters who must deal with a world they no longer understand and they go their separate ways to deal with it. Wilson manages to interweave two time lines, one starting in the ‘past’ of the characters and moving forward (the majority of the story), and one in the ‘present’. Wilson deftly weaves the stories together and we learn a lot about how the three characters have proceeded through their lives, loves and friendships. I thought Wilson did a great job creating deep, sympathetic characters whom the reader was always rooting for, which is an improvement from the two books I read previously. The actual ‘apocalypse’ isn’t really a normal one, but its effects are very similar. There is a breakdown in society in general as panic and fear set in, ultimately finding a new norm where people get by. But what’s the use of living if there really is no future because of the time dilation? This question, and others, is explored in detail. The ultimate answers aren’t necessarily all discovered, but Wilson manages to create an ending whose scope encompasses consciousness, sentient and existence on a galactic scale. I was blown away by how fast the scope increased, reminding me of how Singularity had an ending that ramped up the SF at the end.

If there is any negatives, its that the characters spend a lot of time discussing what has happened and the possible implications of the situation. This happens quite frequently and the middle of the book tended to drag. I never really had to force myself to read it, but it was a slower go than either the beginning or end. Enough to knock a star off, but not enough to mar what turns into a mind expanding ending.

I really enjoyed Spin and would recommend this to anyone looking for a good SF read.

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