27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2006
The Spin is the name given to a mysterious veil that one October night in the near future, shuts off the stars and isolates the earth, but not only that, for every minute that passes on Earth, three years pass outside the veil.
The three main characters deal with this in three very human ways. Jason tries to understand who created the Spin, and why, emersing himself in science. Jason's twin sister, Diane, follows the path of faith, spirituality and enlightenment. Tyler, childhood friend of both takes the middle road, dedicating himself to helping others, becoming a doctor and attempting to simply live life.
Wilson exposes the vulnerability we all feel when we look at the sky and wonder, "What if we're not alone?". When an event so powerfull as to dwarf every human endevour occurs, one cannot help but feel completely overwhelmed.
Spin is not hardcore SciFi, but good tale, well told. involving everything you'd expect from a good scifi book, but without the technobabble. Technical issues that do arise are well explained, as Tyler is just your everyday, cynical Joe, and requires a lot of explanation.
Spin is shortlisted for the 2006 Hugo awards, and well deserved so.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2009
Good characterisation and a novel idea, what more does a good SF novel need? I confess the female lead irritated me and maybe the narrator was a bit supine but I really cared what happened to them.
Great pace throughout and excellent cutting from now to the end to keep the tension going. I was left only worrying that the technical explanation we get near the end might be disappointing or unconvincing but once again Robert Charles Wilson did not let me down.
I'm going to read the sequel, Axis, for sure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2010
This is just a really such a good read on so many differing levels - science fact, science fiction, a good human story and appealing characters. This is up there with the best of Science Fiction. If you liked books by Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Philip K Dick, Robert J Sawyer (TV Series 'Fast Forward' was adapted fromn his book), etc., then you'll love this. Although classed as 'Hard Science Fiction' (ie. fictional characters in a plausible fiction story based in real Science fact/theory) I think this would appeal to mainstream readers of good fiction as the Science within the pages gives it a real 'what if?' plausibility, and it's written in an approachable, non-condescending way that will appeal to non-science fiction readers.
The story: Three childhood friends witness the stars literally disappear from the sky as they sit outside while their parents are at a party inside. Their relationships and lives are never the same again, yet their destinies are all intertwined (with each other and the outcomes from this moment). What has blocked out the stars? Who are the strange hypothetical beings who have done this? Are they dangerous or benign? Is it some secret technology/warfare by the Russians/Chinese? The story begins at the end of the cold war era and certainly catches the paranoia of the period. As the storylines and characters develop so does the societal change in the background as we move into modern times. The end is nigh (or is it?) and some people start living each day as though it's their last, others join reliigious cults, some commit suicide, crime rises substantially in the fact of uncertainty. Yet, through it all, these three friends intertwine their friendships (there's also a bit of unrequited love of the 'will they, wont they' kind of sexual tension in the background - but no overt sex scenes to taint this classy tale and waste the story!) with the actual events occuring as one becomes a doctor, one a scientist working on the events directly, one turns to a religious cult in all the vulnerable uncertainty. This is one epic story.
I won't divulge any more since I don't want to ruin such a good story for anyone. If you want to read a good novel and like fact intertwined with your fiction, then read on! This is a good one.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2007
Some SF writers use deliberately obscure language to presumably enhance the complexity of the ideas or the plot. The more difficulty you have undestanding what's going on, the more technically/scientifically complex the story is supposed to be. What happens, in fact, is that you plod through virtually unintelligible text to hopefully glean some kind of meaning.
What I appreciated in this novel is that it reads like a novel. It is clearly written, it respects the reader and it is very exciting!!
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2006
`Hard' science fiction novels, all too often, get bogged down in their `gee-whiz' science, to the detriment of their story and characters. Happily, such is not the case here, as the characters of Tyler Dupree and Jason and Diane Lawton are well depicted, and their story, of just how they react when all the stars suddenly disappear one night, remains front and center throughout this book.
The `gee-whiz' science here is the `Spin', a membrane folded around the earth that slows the time rate experienced by its denizens by a factor of 100 million versus the `normal' universe. This has an implication: in just 40 Earth years, 4 billion years will have passed on the outside, our sun will be nearing the end of its life, and will have expanded to the point that an unprotected Earth would be immediately fried. Where did this membrane come from? Who put it there, and perhaps more importantly, why? What can be done about it? Wilson's characters, in one way or another, attempt to answer these questions, an involvement that shapes much of their lives, and the lives of everyone on Earth, who are effectively facing a true end of the world scenario.
Wilson presents his science in fairly small, well explained chunks - you don't need to be an actual rocket scientist to grasp what he is presenting, and this presentation doesn't interrupt the story flow, unlike all too many books that belong to this sub-genre.
While all the above is quite good, I found I was disappointed in the final answers the book provides. I saw most of the answers long before they were directly shown - not good for a concept of this grand scope. Nor was I greatly impressed by the philosophical points raised. In these two areas, I expected more from a book that took the Hugo award over some other books that are just as inventive and possibly have a deeper level of meaning than this one. The Martian, introduced about the middle of the book, was not characterized very well, nor was his described culture very believable - probably because his function was that of deus-ex-machina device, a way for Wilson to get to his `solution' space.
An entertaining read with some good concepts, but for my money the Hugo should have gone to John Scalzi's Old Man's War.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2015
I wanted to like it more than I did. The premise was interesting, but the character development let it down. I didn't really care about any of them. Weird typos. Lots of unusual words in this book, which was fun, but I'd put money on some of them having been made up by the author... ;)
I think the book would really benefit from some proper pruning by a fearless editor. At about two thirds the length I think it could be a winner.
I feel about this similar to how I felt about 'Ender's Game' (setting aside the fact that EG was supposed to be a prequel) - it was fine on its own, but having read this book, I have no urge to immediately snap up the subsequent books in the series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2012
I read this a while ago now but I still can't decide if I really liked it - although I haven't bought the two sequels. The general idea was good and did keep me guessing for some time. I also liked the ending. I did feel it went on for too long and the typos drove me demented!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 August 2009
Brilliant - I couldn't put it down from stat to finish. Having not read any of this author's work before, I picked it up in Borders whilst browsing, and read the first 40 pages in the store without realising how long I'd spent in there!
Character development was plausible, coherent and realistic; a real mix of emotion and yearning. The science and scope of the story itself was brilliantly conceived, and I loved the handling of scientific subjects without the story becoming simply a vehicle for them.
The ending was pretty good, not too rushed and mostly in-line with the rest of the pace of the book.
I'd recommend this book for hard and soft sci-fi fans alike.
David Brin's Existence is a near future novel which attempts to solve the problem of communication on a galactic scale in a relativistic universe without resorting to worm holes and warp drives. In some ways, this is a similar near future novel, although Robert Wilson's solution requires a level of technology which would make the physics of Star Trek a bit like banging two rocks together.
In his novel "Freedom", Jonathan Franzen gives a family saga powered by a triangle at its core. Here the three way relationship between siblings Diane and Jason Lawton, and the son of their family's housekeeper, Tyler Dupree, is a different one, but it is still at the core of this surprisingly character-driven science fiction novel.
Throw in a bit of Dallas-like family and business feuding to the near future hard-SF and coming of age (and beyond) tale, and you get something of a feel of this ambitious, large scale, original and largely successful story.
Teenage Jason, Diane and narrator Tyler are in the garden of the Lawton family home, while the adults party indoors when suddenly the stars disappear. That is the set up for the novel which spans around 30 years (from one perspective) as Jason becomes a scientist seeking to understand what has happened, Tyler qualifies as a doctor, while Diane becomes embroiled in an apocalyptic cult inspired by the Spin, as the loss of stars becomes known.
As Tyler goes from lovelorn schoolboy, to doctor, to interplanetary diplomat to fugitive, we see a world psychologically tossed around as the human race swings from hope to despair to resignation in the face of impending extinction. On the family level, we learn about the tensions and conflicts of the Lawton household, centred on overbearing father "ED". As with any good family saga, there is a buried secret which provides a plot twist. This is a twist which is telegraphed from a long way out, but then, pleasingly is very different to expectations.
So all in all, this is an excellent, and highly original book. Its weaknesses are that sometimes the dialogue is somewhat stilted a la Basil Exposition, and not every aspect of the Spin is fully thought through. As an example, one sign that the rest of the universe is out there is that the tides still work, but when the true nature of the Spin is revealed, this couldn't happen. On the plus side, Wilson delivers an intelligent, entertaining, easily readable fast paced, multi faceted story with much more 3 dimensional characters than are to be found in much speculative fiction.
on 14 September 2010
Wilson's work is regularly nominated for awards, and rightly so. He writes dense, complex novels in which the scientific elements and characterisation are both admirably dealt with. His work is generally character driven and here we find a trio of people who grew up together, brother and sister Jason and Diane, and their friend Tyler.
One night, when they were still teenagers, they witnessed the stars disappearing. A shell had appeared around the Earth, along with a false sun that rose and set just as the old one did.
Jason's father, ED Lawton, an important businessman with US government contacts, immediately creates a plan to replace the satellites which were lost when the enclosure occurred.
It becomes clear that the sphere is neither a barrier nor an inert shell. Outside, time is running at a different rate and Jason, (who is a physics genius) calculates that within 50 years our sun will have come to the next stage of its life and expanded beyond the orbit of the Earth. In order to employ this knowledge against The Hypotheticals (as the possible aliens who may have erected the sphere have been named) a plan is hatched to fire rockets at Mars loaded with bacteria, algae and lichens that exist in extreme climates. Thus, we could create a habitable Mars within weeks as millions of years of evolution would have taken place outside the sphere.
Then we send a human colony.
The narrative is split between two timelines, one dating from the advent of The Spin, and leaping forward in years. The other is set in Tyler's future where he is suffering the effects of a drug which extends human life through nanotechnology rebuilding the cells of the body.
It's a powerful and moving novel featuring damaged characters to a greater or lesser extent. Jason and Diane's father, ED Lawson, is a control freak and openly despises those he considers below his social level. Jason is the tool he moulds to inherit his mantle, blind to the fact that Jason must at some time supplant him. Tyler, who has always been in love with Diane, stands by as she gets deeply involved with an Armageddon cult. Jason's mother is an alcoholic, perhaps driven to drink by her husband's dispassionate singlemindedness.
Along the way they have other relationships, but the three main characters remain inexorably bound by the love they have for each other.
Structurally Tyler is the middle ground between science and religion, acting as both narrator and confidante of both Jason and Diane.
As in `The Chronoliths' the issue of father and son relationships is a central theme, although here, unlike `The Chronoliths', the human drama is well-balanced against the backdrop of vast science and forces beyond anyone's control.