Spin

( 135 )

Overview

Spin is Robert Charles Wilson's Hugo Award-winning masterpiece—a stunning combination of a galactic "what if" and a small-scale, very human story.

 

One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as ...

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Overview

Spin is Robert Charles Wilson's Hugo Award-winning masterpiece—a stunning combination of a galactic "what if" and a small-scale, very human story.

 

One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.

 

The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk—a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world's artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they'd been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside—more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.

 

Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister cult leader who's forged a new religion out of the fears of the masses.

 

Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work, turning the planet green. Next they send humans…and immediately get back an emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars. Then Earth's probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars. Jason, desperate, seeds near space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun—and report back on what they find.

 

Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.

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Editorial Reviews

Rocky Mountain News
"Wilson is one of the best science-fiction writers alive… Spin is the best science-fiction novel so far this year."
San Diego Union-Tribune
"Wilson's most ambitious and most successful novel to date…Wide-ranging and well-crafted."
The Washington Post
"Wilson does so many fine things, it's hard to know where to begin to praise him."
From the Publisher
"Robert Charles Wilson is a hell of a storyteller."

—Stephen King

"One night the stars go out. From that breathtaking 'what if,' Wilson builds an astonishingly successful mélange of SF thriller, growing-up saga, tender love story, father-son conflict, ecological parable and apocalyptic fable in prose that sings the music of the spheres."

Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Spin

"Robert Charles Wilson is one of the best science-fiction writers alive, a fact borne out in his latest work… Spin is the best science-fiction novel so far this year."

Rocky Mountain News

"Wilson's most ambitious and most successful novel to date…Wide-ranging and well-crafted."

San Diego Union-Tribune on Spin

"The long-anticipated marriage between the hard sf novel and the literary novel, resulting in an offspring possessing the robust ideational vigor of the former with the graceful narrative subtleties of the latter, might finally have occurred in the form of Robert Charles Wilson's Spin. Here's a book that features speculative conceits as brash and thrilling as those found in any space opera, along with insights into the human condition as rich as those contained within any mainstream mimetic fiction, with both its conceits and insights beautifully embedded in crystalline prose….Wilson does so many fine things, it's hard to know where to begin to praise him."

—The Washington Post

"Of all SF writers currently active, Robert Charles Wilson may well be the best at balancing cosmic drama with human drama…Spin is many things: psychological novel, technological thriller, apocalyptic picaresque, cosmological meditation. But it is, foremost, the first major SF novel of 2005, another triumph for Robert Charles Wilson in a long string of triumphs."

Locus

"One of SF's distinctive qualities, often derided by mainstream critics as a weakness, is its literalization of metaphor, but Wilson's masterful exploitation of the Membrane's fictional possibilities provides an exhilarating demonstration of why precisely the opposite can be true...Spin is also a family drama that would not be out of place on mainstream shelves...Spin is a provocative, frequently dazzling read."

—SCIFI.COM

"A subtle and thought-provoking writer. Just when the reader thinks he knows where Wilson is going, he finds himself somewhere else entirely."

—Robin Hobb on Robert Charles Wilson

"Robert Charles Wilson continues to surprise 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…Wilson never loses sight of the human angle. His theme is the importance of communication, which, as his characters come to learn, should never remain one-way."

The New York Times on Blind Lake

"A superior SF thriller."

Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Blind Lake

"Fizzing with ideas…Intense, absorbing, memorable."

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on Blind Lake

"The steely quiet of Blind Lake draws you in like a magnet…Wilson does not ever raise his voice, which does not mean he speaks softly. How he speaks is still. In his calm, stony exile's gaze upon the prisons of the world, and in his measured adherence to storylines that say that everything may become a little better with much work, he is the most purely Canadian of all the writers brought together here, and Blind Lake is the finest Canadian novel of all these."

—John Clute, Toronto Globe and Mail

Locus
"Yhe first major SF novel of 2005, another triumph for Robert Charles Wilson in a long string of triumphs."
SCIFI.COM
"Spin is a family drama that would not be out of place on mainstream shelves... a provocative, frequently dazzling read."
Kirkus Reviews
Another character-oriented, surpassingly strange SF yarn from the ever-reliable author of, most recently, Blind Lake (2003). As ten-year-old Tyler Dupree sits with his friends Jason and Diane Lawton in the back yard of their Big House near Washington, DC, the stars go out. The "sun" that rises the next day is but an image: a barrier now encloses the Earth, generated by huge artifacts hovering over the poles. Weirder yet, time passes one hundred million times more swiftly outside the barrier, so that the sun itself may last only another 40 subjective years. Tyler becomes a doctor; Diane, with whom Tyler is never quite able to develop a satisfactory relationship, marries apocalyptic cultist Simon Townsend; Jason, a brilliant scientist, founds the Perihelion Center in Florida to research the effects of the Spin, as it becomes known. Later, Jason develops an incurable form of multiple sclerosis and asks Tyler, now his personal physician, to conceal the illness from the public and his staff. The staggering time differential turns out to have certain advantages: the terraforming of Mars, for instance, takes only a subjective year or two, and a handful of intrepid colonists rapidly develop an advanced civilization-before another barrier appears around Mars. A visitor from Mars, Wun Ngo Wen, brings advanced knowledge and medical techniques-they may save Jason's life-together with a plan to seed the distant, iceball-filled Kuiper Belt with slow-growing, living machines capable of investigating the activities of the so-called Hypotheticals. Others, however, suspect Wun has a hidden agenda. A far-fetched yet fascinating time-odyssey that pushes the envelope in every direction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765348258
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 2/7/2006
  • Series: Spin Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 175,186
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.78 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT CHARLES WILSON was born in California and lives in Toronto. His Darwinia won Canada's Aurora Award and was a finalist for the science fiction's Hugo Award; The Chronoliths was also a Hugo finalist and won the John W. Campbell Award; and his most recent novel, Blind Lake, was a Hugo finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. Earlier, his novel A Hidden Place won the Philip K. Dick Award.

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Read an Excerpt

4 X 109 A.D.

Everybody falls, and we all land somewhere.

So we rented a room on the third floor of a colonial-style hotel in Padang where we wouldn’t be noticed for a while.

Nine hundred euros a night bought us privacy and a balcony view of the Indian Ocean. During pleasant weather, and there had been no shortage of that over the last few days, we could see the nearest part of the Archway: a cloud-colored vertical line that rose from the horizon and vanished, still rising, into blue haze. As impressive as this seemed, only a fraction of the whole structure was visible from the west coast of Sumatra. The Archway’s far leg descended to the undersea peaks of the Carpenter Ridge more than a thousand kilometers away, spanning the Mentawai Trench like a wedding band dropped edge-up into a shallow pond. On dry land, it would have reached from Bombay on the eastern coast of India to Madras on the west. Or, say, very roughly, New York to Chicago.

Diane had spent most of the afternoon on the balcony, sweating in the shade of a faded striped umbrella. The view fascinated her, and I was pleased and relieved that she was—after everything that had happened—still capable of taking such pleasure in it.

I joined her at sunset. Sunset was the best time. A freighter heading down the coast to the port of Teluk Bayur became a necklace of lights in the offshore blackness, effortlessly gliding. The near leg of the Arch gleamed like a burnished red nail pinning sky to sea. We watched the Earth’s shadow climb the pillar as the city grew dark.

It was a technology, in the famous quotation, "indistinguishable from magic." What else but magic would allow the uninterrupted flow of air and sea from the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean but would transport a surface vessel to far stranger ports? What miracle of engineering permitted a structure with a radius of a thousand kilometers to support its own weight? What was it made of, and how did it do what it did?

Perhaps only Jason Lawton could have answered those questions. But Jason wasn’t with us.

Diane slouched in a deck chair, her yellow sundress and comically wide straw hat reduced by the gathering darkness to geometries of shadow. Her skin was clear, smooth, nut brown. Her eyes caught the last light very fetchingly, but her look was still wary—that hadn’t changed.

She glanced up at me. "You’ve been fidgeting all day."

"I’m thinking of writing something," I said. "Before it starts. Sort of a memoir."

"Afraid of what you might lose? But that’s unreasonable, Tyler. It’s not like your memory’s being erased."

No, not erased; but potentially blurred, softened, defocused. The other side effects of the drug were temporary and endurable, but the possibility of memory loss terrified me.

"Anyway," she said, "the odds are in your favor. You know that as well as anyone. There is a risk . . . but it’s only a risk, and a pretty minor one at that."

And if it had happened in her case maybe it had been a blessing.

"Even so," I said. "I’d feel better writing something down."

"If you don’t want to go ahead with this you don’t have to. You’ll know when you’re ready."

"No, I want to do it." Or so I told myself.

"Then it has to start tonight."

"I know. But over the next few weeks—"

"You probably won’t feel like writing."

"Unless I can’t help myself." Graphomania was one of the less alarming of the potential side effects.

"See what you think when the nausea hits." She gave me a consoling smile. "I guess we all have something we’re afraid to let go of."

It was a troubling comment, one I didn’t want to think about.

"Look," I said, "maybe we should just get started."

The air smelled tropical, tinged with chlorine from the hotel pool three stories down. Padang was a major international port these days, full of foreigners: Indians, Filipinos, Koreans, even stray Americans like Diane and me, folks who couldn’t afford luxury transit and weren’t qualified for U.N.-approved resettlement programs. It was a lively but often lawless city, especially since the New Reformasi had come to power in Jakarta.

But the hotel was secure and the stars were out in all their scattered glory. The peak of the Archway was the brightest thing in the sky now, a delicate silver letter U (Unknown, Unknowable) written upside down by a dyslexic God. I held Diane’s hand while we watched it fade.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

"The last time I saw the old constellations." Virgo, Leo, Sagittarius: the astrologer’s lexicon, reduced to footnotes in a history book.

"They would have been different from here, though, wouldn’t they? The southern hemisphere?"

I supposed they would.

Then, in the full darkness of the night, we went back into the room. I switched on the room lights while Diane pulled the blinds and unpacked the syringe and ampoule kit I had taught her to use. She filled the sterile syringe, frowned and tapped out a bubble. She looked professional, but her hand was trembling.

I took off my shirt and stretched out on the bed.

"Tyler—"

Suddenly she was the reluctant one. "No second thoughts," I said. "I know what I’m getting into. And we’ve talked this through a dozen times."

She nodded and swabbed the inside of my elbow with alcohol. She held the syringe in her right hand, point up. The small quantity of fluid in it looked as innocent as water.

"That was a long time ago," she said.

"What was?"

"When we looked at the stars that time."

"I’m glad you haven’t forgotten."

"Of course I haven’t forgotten. Now make a fist."

The pain was trivial. At least at first.

Excerpted from Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.

Copyright 2005 by Robert Charles Wilson.

Published in April 2005 by Tom Doherty Associates.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 135 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(99)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 135 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    A New 'Spin' in SF

    There aren't that many new topics for science fiction writers anymore. Events have overtaken them. But Wilson has come up with something which I believe is totally new in an old genre. One night a protective shell or barrier forms around the Earth., blotting out the stars. A hologrpahic image subsitutes for the sun. It distorts time so that eons pass outside the shell, while time on Earth slows, and the charcters try to figure out who or what is behind this strange shielding. The book offers lively sci-fi in a story powered by the lives of three main characters, Jason and Diane Lawton and their friend Tyler Dupree. While Jason struggles against his domineering father to find out who made this planetary barricade, Tyler pursues an almost hopeless love affair with Diane--who has gone off and married a cultist.The author digs into what would happen to humanity socially as well as scientifically if such a thing came to pass. He even throws in some old ideas--nanotechnology, greater longevity and human 'Martians' to spice it up. Meanwhile, outside the barier, the sun has begun to age, and it grows wider and redder and reaches out across space to swallow the Earth...

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2006

    A fantasy in slow rotation.

    Twelve year old Tyler Dupree is enjoying a crisp autumn night stargazing with his close friends Jason and Diane Lawton when without warning, all the stars and the moon vanish from the sky. Someone out there, for reasons unknown, has placed the Earth and all of humanity inside a big, black, general relativistic bag. How the people of the world and especially the Duprees and Lawtons deal with this state of affairs as their lives go on inside the SPIN is the subject of the book. Some see it as the end of the world, some as a new beginning and some take the easy way out. R.C. Wilson presents a good understanding of relativity and sets forth some fascinating illustrations of the vast time spans of the universe contrasted against the tiny blip of human lives. It is also great to see someone writing about the implications of variable time, which, in my opinion, have been neglected far too long. He also does a good job laying out space program politics. On the other hand, the author reveals a jaundiced and outsider view of the aerospace industry, both public and private sector, and displays an ignorance of the true trappings of power and wealth. (The children of billionaire business founders and government program heads in their own right, who might also be targeted by foreign agents, simply do no jump in their friends Honda for an unscheduled cross country drive.) There is some great science fiction technology and philosophy toward the end of the book but it ultimately crosses the line into science fantasy. I wasn¿t really drawn into this novel and one of the reasons was the hero, Tyler Dupree. He comes off as a passionless slug of below average intelligence who remains in the center of attention for no apparent reason. He rarely takes any action that directs the course of the story. Also the premise that human civilization is so special that some great universal entity will descend and prevent us from destroying ourselves is a bit hard to swallow. We are only self important. If we become extinct, like it or not, the universe at large will take little notice of the event. It was made that way. With the title SPIN, (and a Hugo award) I expected a high paced plot line but this novel is more literary than commercial fiction and the plot is flat frankly, parts of it are tedious. At first it seems that there are two converging storylines but in reality, sections of the ending have been pulled forward to keep the readers interest a dodgy proposition at best and a cheap trick in the least. There is a good science fiction novel in there but nearly half of the book could be (and should have been) pared away without any loss to the reader. As I read this Hugo winner for best novel, I wondered at times if winners are chosen the same way we choose presidential candidates. I hope not, but if this is the best the industry has to offer, it bodes well for some fresh faces to rise up in the Sci Fi market. I was not drawn back to this novel when I had to put it down as I am with a true five star book. If you want to be able to talk intelligently about the recent Hugo best novel, I recommend reading this book, it is passing. If you¿re looking for great science fiction entertainment and a fun read, pick up an old Asimov or Lois Bujold novel instead. Reviewed by Hugh Mannfield at stormbold.com

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    This is the best of science fiction because the world-building i

    This is the best of science fiction because the world-building is amazing, but the character-building is even better. I love how the author really takes the time to explore reactions to such an event (learning we are not alone)...I personally enjoyed the spirtual aspects of the book....it asks the big questions...this is the whole package!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting

    Better than average sci-fi that deals with a mysterious cocoon that envelopes the earth and affects time inside of the earth vs outside(space). I believe the strength of this book is two fold, a strong story that connects the characters and a mystery of who and why an entity would have an interest in doing something to the earth. Raises questions on the enviroment,society, religion, politics,and science. Felt the ending was a little weak but a real page turner that does not get too heavy handed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Spin me into a fan

    I am very happy that I decided to read this book. Robert Wilson is able to craft a very well written, very creative science fiction story in Spin. The moderate pace of the book is refreshing and I find that is helps me learn and absorb more of the characters meaning to the story as a whole. I found myself hoping for an end that I knew may be coming but was unsure, in short, I was very much drawn into the lives of the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    Brilliantly Written

    This is a fascinating narrative that is ambitious in both scope and execution. Sci fi, dystopian novel, and love story all in one. Easily my favorite book of all time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Friggen wonderful

    This is a masterpiece. Well written, nothing extraneous, crisp dialogue. I know this is trite but for plugging in my Nook occassionally, i couldnt put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    Surprisingly enjoyable read

    I have to admit I knew nothing about Robert Charles Wilsons writing before randomly purchasing this book after a quick peek at the free sample. His writing style suits me very well and its a joy to read. The plot for Spin is original and have enough good and unexpected surprises for me to give this book a 5 star rating. I'll see what else Mr Wilson have authored.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Very good science fiction book

    I recommended the book to a coworker and my wife. Both loved the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    Excellent story from start to finish.

    A great tale of the world we know falling apart and how humanity copes. I couldn't put the book down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Realistic Tale of Science Fiction

    I really enjoyed this book. Science fiction themes are explored in a very believable way. The story unfolds in a realistic manner and is held together by characters that filter the science and theory aspects of the novel through the emotions and lives of contemporary human beings.
    This tale makes you think about time, cause and effect, and the definition of life.
    I am reading the sequel now, and look forward to purchasing the third in the series. Any fan of the genre will appreciate this book.
    Michael Travis Jasper, author of the novel, "To Be Chosen"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    BREATHTAKING!

    For $3, this book really surprised me. This book is a real page- turner, from start to finish. Actually, the author does sort of leaves you hanging at the end...wonder if he plans a sequel? While not quite as technical as what I usually read, the story is quite believable (I actually found this refreshing).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2011

    Positively Brilliant!

    If you like 'sci-fi' but not quite a Star Wars or a Star Trek fan - this book will thrill you!

    No laser or warp drives here! Just GREAT reading!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2011

    Great!

    I really enjoyed this book- it kept my interest from the very first page. Great plot, great writing. This sci-fi is a must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not for a rainy day...

    You've read the blurbs and other reviews; I'm a generally upbeat person and what I haven't seen mentioned is that the overarching tone of this book is one of near constant depression, caused by mankind's inability to do anything about the barrier and imminent doom. Wilson explores the effects of this impending doom, creating a pre-apocalyptic society with an interesting but depressing result. Characters are solid, storyline and plot consistent although pacing is at times slow. Some themes could be supported more, but the core line is good. It does make you think as you go along and after, a trait of good writing. Despite the ending, it left me with a sense of loss; reading the sequel after helps, but be aware that this book will leave an optimistic reader depressed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2006

    Raises familiar, important issues

    When a strange, inexplicable membrane suddenly appears one day, encasing the Earth and blocking the moon and stars (but providing an artificial, filtered sun) society drifts into two camps: those who believe the mysterious membrane is the work of aliens for some unknown, perhaps sinister reason, or the beginning of the End of Days. With the realization that the passage of time itself has changed, with a minute on Earth equaling a hundred years or more outside the membrane, it soon becomes apparent that the sun will go nova in most of their lifetimes, resulting in the destruction of Earth. This knowledge gives the religious cults ammunition for their apocalyptic beliefs, while the scientists of the world devise experiments to take advantage of the unique properties of the Spin, since rockets can penetrate the membrane and extremely long-range experiments can be performed in nearly an instant. (The phenomenon is called Spin because of the rapid movement of the distant galaxies beyond the membrane.) There are other surprises in store for mankind thanks to the time effect and the resulting vast cosmic changes, some of them as unexpected as the membrane itself. The main characters are well drawn, but they take a close second place to the premise of Spin, which questions the very nature of the universe and our place in it. Finally, while not exactly anti-religion, the novel more than hints at the folly of man to fear the unknown and fall into superstition and supernatural beliefs in a futile attempt to explain those things that frighten us. Another recommendation is An Audience for Einstein by Mark Wakely, an intriguing novel about a secret experiment that questions the medically engineered future of mankind.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2006

    RCW's best yet

    With each novel, Robert Charles Wilson just seems to get better, topping his previous novel. And as much as I enjoyed his other books, SPIN is, almost unbelievably, even better. It's not just that the underlying ideas in the book are brand spankin' new, but they're still cut from the fabric of that great 'sense of wonder' SF that Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov delivered. And he creates strong, interesting characters, too. In fact, that may be the greatest strength in SPIN the characters grow and change in unexpected ways as the narrative develops.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2014

    One of the best stories I've ever read, period. It really makes

    One of the best stories I've ever read, period. It really makes you think about just how different alien life can be from our own. Incredible story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2013

    A chilling and interesting premise leads the reader to examine h

    A chilling and interesting premise leads the reader to examine humanity's role in the greater universe.

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

    Posted October 3, 2013

    B vbst oyozty

    Uyydtg Vtw

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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