Spin is Robert Charles Wilson's Hugo Award-winning masterpiecea 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 diska 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 insidemore 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 sunand report back on what they find.
Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.
About 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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By Robert Charles Wilson, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 Robert Charles Wilson
All rights reserved.
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.
"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.CHAPTER 2
The Big House
I was twelve, and the twins were thirteen, the night the stars disappeared from the sky.
It was October, a couple of weeks before Halloween, and the three of us had been ordered to the basement of the Lawton house — the Big House, we called it — for the duration of an adults-only social event.
Being confined to the basement wasn't any kind of punishment. Not for Diane and Jason, who spent much of their time there by choice; certainly not for me. Their father had announced a strictly defined border between the adults' and the children's zones of the house, but we had a high-end gaming platform, movies on disk, even a pool table ... and no adult supervision apart from one of the regular caterers, a Mrs. Truall, who came downstairs every hour or so to dodge canapé duty and give us updates on the party. (A man from Hewlett-Packard had disgraced himself with the wife of a Post columnist. There was a drunken senator in the den.) All we lacked, Jason said, was silence (the upstairs system was playing dance music that came through the ceiling like an ogre's heartbeat) and a view of the sky.
Silence and a view: Jase, typically, had decided he wanted both.
Diane and Jason had been born minutes apart but were obviously fraternal rather than identical siblings; no one but their mother called them twins. Jason used to say they were the product of "dipolar sperm penetrating oppositely charged eggs." Diane, whose IQ was nearly as impressive as Jason's but who kept her vocabulary on a shorter leash, compared them to "different prisoners who escaped from the same cell."
I was in awe of them both.
Jason, at thirteen, was not only scary-smart but physically fit — not especially muscular but vigorous and often successful at track and field. He was nearly six feet tall even then, skinny, his gawky face redeemed by a lopsided and genuine smile. His hair, in those days, was blond and wiry.
Diane was five inches shorter, plump only by comparison with her brother, and darker skinned. Her complexion was clear except for the freckles that ringed her eyes and gave her a hooded look: My raccoon mask, she used to say. What I liked most about Diane — and I had reached an age when these details had taken on a poorly understood but undeniable significance — was her smile. She smiled rarely but spectacularly. She was convinced her teeth were too prominent (she was wrong), and she had picked up the habit of covering her mouth when she laughed. I liked to make her laugh, but it was her smile I secretly craved.
Last week Jason's father had given him a pair of expensive astronomical binoculars. He had been fidgeting with them all evening, taking sightings on the framed travel poster over the TV, pretending to spy on Cancun from the suburbs of Washington, until at last he stood up and said, "We ought to go look at the sky."
"No," Diane said promptly. "It's cold out there."
"But clear. It's the first clear night this week. And it's only chilly."
"There was ice on the lawn this morning."
"Frost," he countered.
"It's after midnight."
"It's Friday night."
"We're not supposed to leave the basement."
"We're not supposed to disturb the party. Nobody said anything about going outside. Nobody will see us, if you're afraid of getting caught."
"I'm not afraid of getting caught."
"So what are you afraid of?"
"Listening to you babble while my feet freeze."
Jason turned to me. "How about you, Tyler? Want to see some sky?"
The twins often asked me to referee their arguments, much to my discomfort. It was a no-win proposition. If I sided with Jason I might alienate Diane; but if I sided too often with Diane it would look ... well, obvious. I said, "I don't know, Jase, it is pretty chilly outside ..."
It was Diane who let me off the hook. She put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Never mind. I suppose a little fresh air is better than listening to him complain."
So we grabbed our jackets from the basement hallway and left by the back door.
The Big House wasn't as grandiose as our nickname for it implied, but it was larger than the average home in this middling-high-income neighborhood and it sat on a bigger parcel of land. A great rolling expanse of manicured lawn gave way, behind it, to an uncultivated stand of pines bordering a mildly polluted creek. Jason chose a spot for stargazing halfway between the house and the woods.
The month of October had been pleasant until yesterday, when a cold front had broken the back of Indian summer. Diane made a show of hugging her ribs and shivering, but that was only to chastise Jason. The night air was merely cool, not unpleasant. The sky was crystalline and the grass was reasonably dry, though there might be frost again by morning. No moon and not a trace of cloud. The Big House was lit up like a Mississippi steamboat and cast its fierce yellow glare across the lawn, but we knew from experience that on nights like this, if you stood in the shadow of a tree, you'd disappear as absolutely as if you had fallen into a black hole.
Jason lay on his back and aimed his binoculars at the starry sky.
I sat cross-legged next to Diane and watched as she took from her jacket pocket a cigarette, probably stolen from her mother. (Carol Lawton, a cardiologist and nominal ex-smoker, kept packs of cigarettes secreted in her dresser, her desk, a kitchen drawer. My mother had told me this.) She put it to her lips and lit it with a translucent red lighter — the flame was momentarily the brightest thing around — and exhaled a plume of smoke that swirled briskly into the darkness.
She caught me watching her. "You want a drag?"
"He's twelve years old," Jason said. "He has enough problems. He doesn't need lung cancer."
"Sure," I said. It was a point of honor now.
Diane, amused, passed me the cigarette. I inhaled tentatively and managed not to choke.
She took it back. "Don't get carried away."
"Tyler," Jason said, "do you know anything about the stars?"
I gulped a lungful of cold, clean air. "Of course I do."
"I don't mean what you learn from reading those paperbacks. Can you name any stars?"
I was blushing, but I hoped it was dark enough that he couldn't see. "Arcturus," I said. "Alpha Centauri. Sirius. Polaris ..."
"And which one," Jason asked, "is the Klingon homeworld?"
"Don't be mean," Diane said.
Both the twins were precociously intelligent. I was no dummy, but they were out of my league, and we all understood that. They attended a school for exceptional children; I rode the bus to public school. It was one of the several obvious distinctions between us. They lived in the Big House, I lived with my mother in the bungalow at the east end of the property; their parents pursued careers, my mother cleaned house for them. Somehow we managed to acknowledge these differences without making a big deal of it.
"Okay," Jason said, "can you point at Polaris?"
Polaris, the North Star. I had been reading about slavery and the civil war. There had been a fugitive slave song:
When the sun comes back and the first quail calls, Follow the Drinking Gourd. The old man is waiting to carry you to freedom When you follow the Drinking Gourd.
"When the sun comes back" meant after the winter solstice. Quail winter in the south. The gourd was the Big Dipper, wide end of the bowl pointed at Polaris, due north, the direction of freedom: I found the Dipper and waved my hand hopefully in that direction.
"See?" Diane said to Jason, as if I had proved a point in some argument they hadn't bothered to share with me.
"Not bad," Jason allowed. "You know what a comet is?"
"Want to see one?"
I nodded and stretched out next to him, still tasting and regretting the acrid tang of Diane's cigarette. Jason showed me how to brace my elbows on the ground, then let me hold the binoculars to my eyes and adjust the focus until the stars became blurred ovals and then pinpricks, many more than I could see with the naked eye. I panned around until I found, or guessed I had found, the spot to which Jason had directed me: a tiny node of phosphorescence against the merciless black sky.
"A comet —" Jason began.
"I know. A comet is a sort of dusty snowball falling toward the sun."
"You could say that." He was scornful. "Do you know where comets come from, Tyler? They come from the outer solar system — from a kind of icy halo around the sun that reaches from the orbit of Pluto halfway to the nearest star. Out where it's colder than you can possibly imagine."
I nodded, a little uncomfortably. I had read enough science fiction to grasp the sheer, unspeakable largeness of the night sky. It was something I sometimes liked to think about, though it could be — at the wrong time of night, when the house was quiet — a little intimidating.
"Diane?" Jason said. "You want to look?"
"Do I have to?"
"No, of course you don't have to. You can sit there fumigating your lungs and drooling, if you prefer."
"Smartass." She stubbed the cigarette into the grass and held out her hand. I passed over the binoculars.
"Just be careful with those." Jase was deeply in love with his binoculars. They still smelled of shrinkwrap and Styrofoam packing.
She adjusted the focus and looked up. She was silent for a time. Then she said, "You know what I see when I use these things to look at the stars?"
"Same old stars."
"Use your imagination." He sounded genuinely annoyed.
"If I can use my imagination why do I need binoculars?"
"I mean, think about what you're looking at."
"Oh," she said. Then: "Oh. Oh! Jason, I see —"
"I think ... yes ... it's God! And he has a long white beard! And he's holding up a sign! And the sign says ... JASON SUCKS!"
"Very funny. Give them back if you don't know how to use them."
He held out his hand; she ignored him. She sat upright and aimed the binoculars at the windows of the Big House.
The party had been going on since late that afternoon. My mother had told me the Lawtons' parties were "expensive bull sessions for corporate bigshots," but she had a finely honed sense of hyperbole, so you had to take that down a notch or two. Most of the guests, Jason had said, were aerospace up-and-comers or political staffers. Not old Washington society, but well-heeled newcomers with western roots and defense-industry connections. E. D. Lawton, Jason and Diane's father, hosted one of these events every three or four months.
Excerpted from Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2005 Robert Charles Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents4 X 109 A.D.,
The Big House,
Coming of Age in Boiling Water,
Time Out of Joint,
4 X 109 A.D.,
Rumors of Apocalypse Reach the Berkshires,
No Single Thing Abides,
4 X 109 A.D.,
Under the Skin,
Snapshots of the Ecopoiesis,
4 X 109 A.D.,
Four Photographs of the Kirioloj Delta,
4 X 109 A.D.,
The Cold Places of the Universe,
The Ticking of Expensive Clocks,
4 X 109 A.D.,
Home Before Dark,
4 X 109 A.D.,
By Dreams Surrounded,
The Morning and the Evening,
The Abyss in Flames,
4 X 109 A.D. / We all Land Somewhere,
North of Anywhere,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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...
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recommended the book to a coworker and my wife. Both loved the story.
A great tale of the world we know falling apart and how humanity copes. I couldn't put the book down.
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"
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).
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!!
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
Another world-in-isolation book, but with real characters. Wilson does big idea fiction, but the payoff doesn't really arrive till the last chapter. What keeps you reading to the last chapter is the characters. He develops real people with real motivations. Every character has their own special hurt, and it drives their actions realistically. I liked the amazing pace of Egan's "Quarantine" better, but the people in Spin felt real - usually the least developed part of big idea fiction. I'll see if the sequel "Axis" keeps up the quality...
I just finished Spin by Robert Charles Wilson as part of my Hugo novels list (2006 winner). I liked it. It was an interesting idea that I never would have come up with and it addressed both the science/techie geek aspects and the human dimension. What would happen if everyone in the world was confronted with the end of life as we know it in our lifetime, growing up with the certainty of no future, thanks to a technologically advanced membrane that coccoons the planet into almost stasis as the rest of the galaxy ages billions of years. It is an idea somewhat reminiscent of Vernor Vinge's bobbling technology (see for example Marooned in Realtime), except that the people contained inside--the entire human race--are aware of their fate every moment. On reflection, though, the fraternal twins who are the center of the story (besides the first-person narrator), rather stereotypically (in terms of gender) represent the extremes of rationality and intellectual knowledge (the brother) and emotional and spiritual knowledge (the sister).
I found the premise for this book to be very interesting. Really, it's a mystery. One night, on a night very much like tonight, the stars go out. The moon is gone, too. The sky is just black. What happened? Why did it happen? And can it be undone? I can't say much more about the plot without giving away spoilers, but mostly this is the story of society's reaction to this event and in particular, one very intelligent man's quest to try to figure it out. I enjoyed the way the story was told by jumping back and forth between the present and the future until the two converged. I never knew what was coming next and I certainly never guessed how it would end. My biggest complaint about the novel is that I never understood why they called it the Spin. This book won the Hugo Award in 2006. It is the first of a planned trilogy, but this book could easily stand alone, leaving something to the imagination.
Not too long from now, while privileged twins and their housekeeper¿s son are watching, the stars go out. The Earth is sealed off from the rest of the universe, nearly stopped in time, as the solar system ages around it, with incomprehensible technology keeping an illusion of the sun in place so that most life goes on¿at least until the sun dies, which will be within about 50 subjective years. Wilson can¿t decide whether he cares more about the human reactions to impending extinction or the science, and, with his chilly narrator, he never made me connect with the characters. I see why it won the Hugo: it really does try Big Ideas, and it¿s not indifferent to the fact that sf is made with people; it just didn¿t gel for me.
Quick summary? It's a decent sci-fi with detailed character development.It's science fiction so, of course, you have to accept the possibility of things that may not exist. And, nope, at the end we may not know why the Spin occurred, but, really... if an extra-planetary life force decided to play with us, would we know the why of it? Probably not. That's part of the point of the story - humankind might think everything is 'knowable' but... is it?? There is a LOT of character involvement/development... so a lot of 'touchy-feely' stuff that may not usually be in a sci-fi... it's well done but if you like your sci-fi hardcore (Asimov/Niven) you might find it a bit too much development. The only thing that might be bothersome is that some parts seem to have been repeated. For example - early in the story there'll be a description of sending a satellite into space, then a couple hours later in the story there's another description which sounds very similar to the first. I didn't check to confirm how similar it was, but it's close enough to give me the feeling that it was copied and pasted... this sort of repetition occurs a half dozen times throughout the story. The story may not answer all the questions it raises, but it's a good sci-fi story with significant character development.
Weak, certainly not worthy of a major award.
Spin won the Hugo award in 2006 and the award was well worth it. Wilson puts together a fine novel detailing the human drama that takes place between the Lawton family and their friend Tyler Dupree as the apocalypse approaches. The twists and turns related to Mars, politics, religion, nano-machines, bio-engineering, etc. all work together for this engrossing novel.***Spoilers below***The ending however relies on several assumptions such as (1) all civilizations are doomed to fail, (2) nano-machines know best, etc., but nonetheless the ending is quite cool. This is really what good science fiction is about.
Good science fiction with an unusual level of character development. By the end the characters seem both familiar and realistic. Still, the best part of "Spin" is the idea, and then following through with a very plausible account of what would happen in such a situation. A great book, but the sequel, "Axis", definitely it not as good. If you enjoy "Spin", think about skipping "Axis".