Blind Lake [NOOK Book]

Overview


Robert Charles Wilson, says The New York Times, "writes superior science fiction thrillers." His Darwinia won Canada's Aurora Award; his most recent novel, The Chronoliths, won the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Now he tells a gripping tale of alien contact and human love in a mysterious but hopeful universe.

At Blind Lake, a large federal research installation in northern Minnesota, scientists are using a technology they barely...
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Blind Lake

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Overview


Robert Charles Wilson, says The New York Times, "writes superior science fiction thrillers." His Darwinia won Canada's Aurora Award; his most recent novel, The Chronoliths, won the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Now he tells a gripping tale of alien contact and human love in a mysterious but hopeful universe.

At Blind Lake, a large federal research installation in northern Minnesota, scientists are using a technology they barely understand to watch everyday life in a city of lobster like aliens upon a distant planet. They can't contact the aliens in any way or understand their language. All they can do is watch.

Then, without warning, a military cordon is imposed on the Blind Lake site. All communication with the outside world is cut off. Food and other vital supplies are delivered by remote control. No one knows why.

The scientists, nevertheless, go on with their research. Among them are Nerissa Iverson and the man she recently divorced, Raymond Scutter. They continue to work together despite the difficult conditions and the bitterness between them. Ray believes their efforts are doomed; that culture is arbitrary, and the aliens will forever be an enigma.

Nerissa believes there is a commonality of sentient thought, and that our failure to understand is our own ignorance, not a fact of nature. The behavior of the alien she has been tracking seems to be developing an elusive narrative logic--and she comes to feel that the alien is somehow, impossibly, aware of the project's observers.

But her time is running out. Ray is turning hostile, stalking her. The military cordon is tightening. Understanding had better come soon.... Blind Lake is a 2004 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Robert Charles Wilson continues to fascinate and delight. I can't think of another science fiction writer who understands the strengths of the genre so well and who works with such confidence within its elastic boundaries. Blind Lake is a first-contact-with-aliens story that revolves around a group of humans whose lives, like those of many of Wilson's characters, are seriously askew. — Gerald Jonas
Publishers Weekly
Wilson (The Chronoliths) grapples with the ineffable in a superior SF thriller notable for credible characters and a well-crafted plot. In the mid-21st century, revolutionary new technology allows scientists to watch life forms on planets circling other stars as if they were just a few feet away. At Blind Lake, one of two installations devoted to this purpose, Marguerite Hauser studies an enigmatic alien being who has been dubbed Subject, while also dealing with her ex-husband, Ray Scutter, a mid-level bureaucrat who constantly questions her fitness to have custody over their daughter, Tessa. Then Blind Lake mysteriously goes into lockdown the day after Chris Carmody, a journalist beset by self-doubt and a sordid past, arrives in hopes of finding a story that will restart his career. Automated trucks continue to deliver food, but all communication with the outside world is cut off. Military drones kill anyone attempting to break the quarantine. As the months pass, the installation's large population begins to come unglued. In particular, Ray, who disapproves of Marguerite's new relationship with Chris, starts to stalk his ex-wife. Tessa's possible contact with an alien even stranger than Subject adds to the suspense. Thoughtful and deliberately paced, this book will appeal to readers who prefer science fiction with substance. (Aug. 7) FYI: The Chronoliths won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel of 2002, and was nominated for both the Hugo and Aurora awards for that year. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When the research facility at Blind Lake, MN, is placed under military blockade and quarantine, the scientists and workers who live and work there can only connect their enforced isolation with their research on a newly discovered form of alien life on a distant planet. Journalist Chris Carmody, trapped in Blind Lake, finds his life transformed by his chance encounter with researcher Marguerite Hauser and her troubled daughter, Tess, a young girl whose unusual mind may hold the key to unraveling the alien mystery. Veteran sf author Wilson (The Chronoliths; Darwinia) crafts a taut sf suspense tale featuring compelling personal dramas and hard science in a story of alien contact and the mysteries of the universe. For most sf collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Near-future psychological SF puzzler, from the talented author of The Chronoliths (2001), etc. Far out in space, an array of detectors functioning as a single gigantic telescope captures images from planets circling distant stars; processed and amplified by quantum computers, the images show living detail. At Crossbank, one facility studies the watery world HR8832/B and its teeming, nonsentient life; Blind Lake spotlights UMa47/E and one of its intelligent, city-dwelling "Lobsters," referred to as Subject. Astonishingly, after the detectors fail, the quantum computers effortlessly continue to capture images. Then, one day, Blind Lake finds itself under lockdown conditions; nobody and nothing, not even signals, may enter or leave. In charge by default is ambitious bully Ray Scutter. Also among those trapped is Ray’s ex-wife Marguerite Hauser, her daughter Tessa, and their involuntary lodger, whistle-blowing journalist Chris Carmody. Tessa has an invisible companion, Mirror Girl, who appears in reflective surfaces; clearly, she’s aware of something beyond the ability of adults to apprehend. Marguerite, impatient with the stiffly hands-off approach of the scientific studies, publicly calls for attempts to interpret the increasingly odd behavior of Subject. But as the lockdown extends into weeks and months, all Ray can come up with are cryptic hints of apocalyptic events at Crossbank. He becomes murderously convinced that to break the stalemate he must shut down the quantum computers. Another staff member, watching their Subject, somehow finds that he’s touching the creature. And Tessa, ever more disturbed and eerie, vanishes. Fizzing with ideas while tightly focused on the characters:intense, absorbing, memorable work. Agent: Shawna McCarthy
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429915427
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 7/11/2004
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 187,817
  • File size: 735 KB

Meet the Author


Robert Charles Wilson was born in California and grew up in Canada. He is the author of many acclaimed SF novels, including A Hidden Place, The Divide, Gypsies, Bios, Darwinia, and The Chronoliths. His work has won the John W. Campbell Award, the Aurora Award, and two Philip K. Dick Awards. He lives near Toronto.
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Read an Excerpt


One


It could end at any time.
Chris Carmody rolled into a zone of warmth in an unfamiliar bed: a depression in the cotton sheets where someone had lately been. Someone: her name was elusive, still lost in layers of sleep. But he craved the warmth of her recent presence, the author of this lingering heat. He pictured a face, benevolent and smiling and a little bit walleyed. He wondered where she had gone.
It had been a while since he had shared anyone's bed. Strange how what he relished, as much as anything, was the heat she left behind. This space he entered in her absence.
It could end at any time. Had he dreamed the words? No. He had written them in his notebook three weeks ago, transcribing a comment from a grad student he had met in the cafeteria at Crossbank half a continent away. We're doing amazing work, and there's a kind of rush, knowing it could end at any time
Reluctantly, he opened his eyes. Across this small bedroom, the woman with whom he had slept was wrangling herself into a pair of pantyhose. She caught his glance and smiled cautiously. "Hey, baby," she said. "Not to rush you, but didn't you say you had an appointment somewhere?"
Memory caught up with him. Her name was Lacy. No surname offered. She was a waitress at the local Denny's. Her hair was red and long in the current style and she was at least ten years younger than Chris. She had read his book. Or claimed to have read it. Or at least to have heard of it. She suffered from a lazy eye, which gave her a look of constant abstraction. While he blinked away sleep, she shrugged a sleeveless dress over freckled shoulders.
Lacy wasn't much of a housekeeper. He noted a scattering of dead flies on the sunny windowsill. The makeup mirror on the side table, where, the night before, she had razored out skinny, precise lines of cocaine. A fifty-dollar bill lay on the carpet beside the bed, rolled so tightly it resembled a budding palm leaf or some bizarre stick-insect, a rust spot of dried blood on one end.
It was early fall, still warm in Constance, Minnesota. Balmy air turned gauzy curtains. Chris relished the sense of being in a place he had never been and to which he would in all likelihood never return.
"You're actually going to the Lake today, huh?"
He reclaimed his watch from a stack of the print edition of People on the nightstand. He had an hour to make his connection. "Actually going there." He wondered how much he had said to this woman last night.
"You want breakfast?"
"I don't think I have time."
She seemed relieved. "That's okay. It was really exciting meeting you. I know lots of people who work at the Lake but they're mostly support staff or retail. I never met anybody who was in on the big stuff."
"I'm not in on the big stuff. I'm just a journalist."
"Don't undersell yourself."
"I had a good time too."
"You're sweet," she said. "You want to shower? I'm done in the bathroom."
The water pressure was feeble and he spotted a dead cockroach in the soap dish, but the shower gave him time to adjust his expectations. To ramp up whatever was left of his professional pride. He borrowed one of her pink disposable leg razors and shaved the ghostly image of himself in the bathroom mirror. He was dressed and at the door by the time she was settling down to her own breakfast, eggs and juice in the apartment's tiny kitchenette. She worked evenings; mornings and afternoons were her downtime. A tiny video panel on the kitchen table played an interminable daytime drama at half-volume. Lacy stood and hugged him. Her head came up as far as his breastbone. In the gentle embrace there was an acknowledgment that they meant essentially nothing to each other, nothing more than an evening's whim recklessly indulged.
"Let me know how it goes," she said. "If you're back this way."
He promised politely. But he wouldn't be back this way.
* * *
He reclaimed his luggage from the Marriott, where Visions East had thoughtfully but needlessly booked him a room, and caught up to Elaine Coster and Sebastian Vogel in the lobby.
"You're late," Elaine told him.
He checked his watch. "Not by much."
"Would it kill you to be punctual once in a while?"
"Punctuality is the thief of time, Elaine."
"Who said that?"
"Oscar Wilde."
"Oh, there's a great role model for you."
Elaine was forty-nine years old and immaculate in her safari clothes, a digital imager clipped to her breast pocket and a notebook microphone dangling from the left arm of her zirconium-encrusted sunglasses like a stray hair. Her expression was stern. Elaine was a working science journalist almost twenty years Chris's elder, highly respected in a field where he himself was lately regarded with a certain disdain. He liked Elaine, and her work was top-notch, and so he forgave her tendency to address him the way a grade-school teacher might address the kid who planted the whoopee cushion.
Sebastian Vogel, the third member of the Visions East expeditionary force, stood silently a few feet away. Sebastian wasn't really a journalist at all; he was a retired professor of theology from Wesleyan University who had written one of those books that becomes an inexplicable bestseller--God & the Quantum Vacuum, it was called, and it was that ampersand in place of the conventional "and," Chris suspected, that had made it acceptably fashionable, fashionably elliptical. The magazine had wanted a spiritual take on the New Astronomy, to complement Elaine's rigorous science and Chris's so-called "human angle." But Sebastian, who might be brilliant, was also terminally soft-spoken. He wore a beard that obscured his mouth, which Chris took as emblematic: the words that found their way out were sparse and generally difficult to interpret.
"The van," Elaine said, "has been waiting ten minutes."
The van from Blind Lake, she meant, with a young DoE functionary at the wheel, one elbow out the open window and a restless expression on his face. Chris nodded and tossed his luggage in back and took a seat behind Elaine and Sebastian.
It was past one in the afternoon, but he felt a wave of exhaustion sweep over him. Something to do with the September sunlight. Or last night's excesses. (The coke, although he had paid for it, had been Lacy's idea, not his. He had shared a couple of lines for the sake of companionability--more than enough to keep him buzzed nearly until dawn.) He closed his eyes briefly but refused himself the indulgence of sleep. He wanted a glimpse of Constance by daylight. They had come in late yesterday and all he had seen of the town was the Denny's, and later a bar where the local band played requests, and then the inside of Lacy's apartment.
The town had done its best to reinvent itself as a tourist attraction. As famous as the Blind Lake campus had become, it was closed to casual visitors. The curious had to make do with this old grain-silo and rail-yard hamlet, Constance, which served as a staging base for Blind Lake's civilian day employees, and where the new Marriott and the newer Hilton occasionally hosted scientific congresses or press conferences.
The main street had played up to the Blind Lake theme with more gusto than taste. The two-story brick commercial buildings appeared to date from the middle of the last century, yellow brick pressed from local river-bottom clay, and they might have been attractive if not for the wave of hucksterism that had overtaken them. The "lobster" theme was everywhere, inevitably. Lobster plush toys, holographic lobster window displays, lobster posters, lobster cocktail napkins, ceramic garden labsters…
Elaine followed his gaze and guessed his thought. "You should have had dinner at the Mariott," she said. "Lobster fucking bisque."
He shrugged. "It's only people trying to make a buck, support their families."
"Cashing in on ignorance. I really don't get this whole lobster thing. They don't look anything at all like lobsters. They don't have an exoskeleton and God knows they don't have an ocean to swim around in."
"People have to call them something."
"People may have to call them something, but do they have to paint them onto neckties?"
The Blind Lake work had been massively vulgarized, undeniably so. But what bothered Elaine, Chris believed, was the suspicion that somewhere among the nearer stars some reciprocal act might be taking place. Plastic caricatures of human beings lolling behind glazed windows under an alien sun. Her own face, perhaps, imprinted on a souvenir mug from which unimaginable creatures sipped mysterious liquids.
The van was a dusty blue electric vehicle that had been sent from Blind Lake. The driver didn't seem to want to talk but might be listening, Chris thought, trying to feel out their "positions"--the public relations office doing a little undercover work. Conversation was awkward, therefore. They rolled out of town along the interstate and turned off onto a two-lane road in silence. Already, despite the lack of obvious markers beyond the PRIVATE ROAD--U.S. GOVERNMENT PROPERTY and DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY signs, they were in privileged territory. Any unregistered vehicle would have been stopped at the first (hidden) quarter-mile checkpoint. The road was under constant surveillance, visual and electronic. He recalled something Lacy had said: at the Lake, even the prairie dogs carry passes.
Chris turned his head to the window and watched the landscape scroll past. Dormant farmland gave way to open grassland and rolling meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. Dry country, but not desert. Last night a storm had rumbled through town while Chris sheltered with Lacy in her apartment. Rain had swept the streets clean of oil, filled the storm drains with soggy newsprint and rotting weeds, provoked a late blush of color from the prairie.
A couple of years ago lightning had ignited a brush fire that came within a quarter mile of Blind Lake. Firefighters had been shipped in from Montana, Idaho, Alberta. It had all looked very photogenic on the news feeds--and it emphasized the fragility of the fledgling New Astronomy--but the risk to the facility had never been great. It was just another case, the scientists at Crossbank had grumbled, of Blind Lake grabbing the headlines. Blind Lake was Crossbank's glamorous younger sister, prone to fits of vanity, hypnotized by the paparazzi…
But any evidence of the fire had been erased by two summers and two winters. By wild grass and wild nettles and those little blue flowers Chris couldn't name. By nature's enviable talent for forgetting.
* * *
They had started at Crossbank because Crossbank should have been easier.
The Crossbank installation was focused on a biologically active world circling HR8832--second planet from that sun, depending on how you tallied up the ring of planetesimals circling half an AU inward toward the star. The planet was an iron-cored, rocky body with 1.4 times the mass of the Earth and an atmosphere relatively rich in oxygen and nitrogen. Both poles were frigid agglutinations of water ice at temperatures occasionally cold enough to freeze out CO2, but the equatorial regions were warm, shallow seas over continental plates and rich with life.
That life was simply not glamorous. It was multicellular but purely photosynthetic; evolution on HR8832/B seemed to have neglected to invent the mitochondria necessary for animal life. Which is not to say that the landscape was not often spectacular, particularly the huge stromatolite-like colonies of photosynthetic bacteria that rose, often two or three stories tall, from the green sea-surface mats; or the fivefold symmetry of the so-called coral stars, anchored to the sea-beds and floating half-immersed in open water.
It was an exquisitely beautiful world and it had captured a great deal of public attention back when Crossbank was the only installation of its kind. The equatorial seas yielded stunning sunsets every 47.4 terrestrial hours on average, often with stratocumulus clouds billowing far higher than any on Earth, cloud-castles extracted from a Victorian bicycle ad. Time-adjusted twenty-four-hour video loops of the equatorial sea-scape had been popular as faux windows for a few years.
A beautiful world, and it had yielded a host of insights into planetary and biological evolution. It continued to produce extraordinarily useful data. But it was static. Nothing much moved on the second world of HR8832. Only the wind, the water, and the rain.
Eventually it had been labeled "the planet where nothing happens," a phrase coined by a Chicago Tribune columnist who considered the whole New Astronomy just one more federally funded font of gaudy but useless knowledge. Crossbank had learned to be wary of journalists. Visions East had negotiated at length to get Chris, Elaine, and Sebastian inside for a week. There had been no guarantee of cooperation, and it was probably only Elaine's rep as a solid science journalist that had finally sold the public relations staff. (Or Chris's reputation, perhaps, that had made them so difficult to convince.)
But the Crossbank visit had been generally successful. Both Elaine and Sebastian claimed to have done good work there.
For Chris it had been a little more problematic. The head of the Observation and Interpretation Department had flatly refused to speak to him. His best quote had come from the kid in the cafeteria. It could end at any time. And even the kid in the cafeteria had finally leaned forward to eyeball Chris's name badge and said, "You're the guy who wrote that book?"
Chris had confessed that he was, yes, the guy who wrote that book.
And the kid had nodded once and stood up and carried his half-eaten lunch to the recycling rack without saying another word.
* * *
Two surveillance aircraft passed overhead during the next ten minutes, and the van's dashboard all-pass transponder began to blinking spastically. They had crossed any number of checkpoints already, well before they reached the steel and accordion-wire fence that snaked into the prairie in both directions, the steel and cinderblock guardhouse from which a uniformed officer stepped to wave them to a stop.
The guard examined the driver's ID and then Elaine's and Sebastian Vogel's, finally Chris's. He spoke into his personal microphone briefly, then supplied the three journalists with clip-on badges. At last he waved them through.
And they were inside. As simple as that, barring the weeks of negotiation between the magazine and the Department of Energy.
So far it was just one stretch of rolling wild grass separated from another by chain-link fence and barbed wire. But the entry was more than figurative; it carried, at least for Chris, a genuine sense of ceremony. This was Blind Lake.
This was practically another planet.
He looked back as the van gathered speed and saw the gate glide shut with what he would remember, much later, as a terrible finality.

Copyright © 2003 by Robert Charles Wilson
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent!

    This book was absolutly fantastic! It went beyond my expectations. Wilson has a way with his characters bringing them fully alive and multi-dimensional. His imagination and storytelling top grade. Very inspiring work. I loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    Sci fi that makes you think

    Great classic that is dtill fun to read today

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

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