News Ticker

REVIEW: Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson



BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Scientists search for answers while quarantined at a remote government research facility set up to observe an alien on another planet.


PROS: Crystal clear writing; a quick read.

CONS: Light on the SF

BOTTOM LINE: A good book that’s 3 parts fiction, 1 part SF.

Blind Lake is a government research facility that uses little understood quantum physics technology to observe lobster-like aliens on another planet. At the start of the story the facility goes into lockdown, essentially quarantining all within. There are no outside lines of communication and nobody is allowed in or out. While those trapped within ponder the reason for the quarantine, work progresses as usual. Marguerite Hauser is an exobiologist obsessed with “The Subject” who is the main focus of the Eye, the spectacular telescope that allows the alien to be watched. Ray Scutter is her divorced husband who believes the Eye should be aimed elsewhere. Chris Carmody is a visiting journalist who, during the lockdown, is living with Marguerite and her troubled daughter Tess. Tess is convinced that her hallucination, a look-alike she named The Mirror Girl, is real.

I think I would describe this story as fiction set against a science fiction backdrop. Although set in the near future, it is largely a character study. Even the minor characters get a fairly detailed description of their background. For example, as a husband and wife attempt to escape the newly-established quarantine, we learn the man is desperate to resolve the issue of another woman’s abortion. Although interesting background, I wonder why it was done especially since that couple was grotesquely killed by automated Phantasm-like military drones within a few pages. The point of the scene was really to show that the outside military meant business about closing off the facility. It also served to show that this is not a story about escape during the months-long lockdown, but about understanding a situation.

The situation is essentially that the ever-increasingly psychotic husband Ray wants to shut down the Eye, or at least re-align it on a different subject, while Marguerite wants to continue focusing on the same subject. But this debacle slowly takes a back seat to Tess’ story when her encounters with The Mirror Girl go from Cuckoo’s Nest to Twilight Zone.

Wilson’s writing style was clear and easy to follow. This is a quick read and that’s always a good thing. He is very capable of painting a very clear picture without mincing words. The plot starts a bit slowly (except for the really cool and aforementioned meat salad scene courtesy of flying metal spheres) and continues to build up until the very science fictiony end. I’m not sure I buy into the premise unveiled near the end as to the reason for the “contagious madness” that happens at Blind Lake, but it was still a fun read along the way.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
%d bloggers like this: