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by Robert Charles Wilson

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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

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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
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.
The Washington Post
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.
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.
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.
Stephen King
Robert Charles Wilson is a hell of a storyteller.
San Diego Union-Tribune on Spin
Wilson's most ambitious and most successful novel to date…Wide-ranging and well-crafted.
Robin Hobb on Robert Charles Wilson
A subtle and thought-provoking writer. Just when the reader thinks he knows where Wilson is going, he finds himself somewhere else entirely.
The New York Times on Blind Lake
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.
Toronto Globe and Mail John Clute
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.
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

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Spin Series
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4.21(w) x 6.78(h) x 1.21(d)

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.


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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