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Spin
Robert Charles Wilson
Tor, 364 pages

Spin
Robert Charles Wilson
Robert Charles Wilson was born in California and moved to Canada at the age of nine. His novel Spin won the Hugo Award in 2006. Earlier, he won the Philip K. Dick Award for his debut novel A Hidden Place; an Aurora Award for Darwinia; and the John W. Campbell Award for The Chronoliths.

Robert Charles Wilson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Spin
SF Site Review: Bios
SF Site Review: The Chronoliths
SF Site Review: The Perseids and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Bios
SF Site Review: Bios
SF Site Review: Darwinia
Robert Charles Wilson Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Since recorded history, human beings have looked to the skies for wonders and inspiration. We have found everything from myths and legends to confirmation of scientific theories in the observations made of space and what it contains. Imagine the implications, for both human understanding and human psychology if one night the sky was taken away. That's what happens at the beginning of Robert Charles Wilson's Spin. The story that results is one of a generation coming to grips with a universe that may literally be passing them by.

The main characters in Spin are three people who have been friends since childhood. Tyler Dupree has become a doctor since the night of the Big Blackout. Diane Lawton seeks comfort in religion, her brother Jason has become the organisational and conceptual genius behind the effort to understand the Spin. And that understanding has led to a second surprise. Out in the universe, on the other side of the shroud that envelopes the Earth, time is passing quickly, so quickly that in fifty years the solar system will have perished along with the dying sun.

The people of Spin are thus indeed a lost generation. Many, if not most, simply go on as if nothing strange has happened. But as the years pass and reality sinks in, people begin to act out of fear, desperation, and hopelessness.

The beauty of Spin is that it tells its story through the ordinary, everyday details of its character's lives. There is not much heart-pounding, adrenaline-laced adventure here, simply real people trying to cope with their own problems in the face of what can only be seen as the impending end of the world. The action that does ensue comes not from the character's attempts to save their world, but from their attempts to take care of each other.

By keeping its story low-key and focused mainly on the character's emotional lives, Spin goes against the fashion of much current science fiction, especially SF that is concerned with the big ideas of physics and cosmology. M. John Harrison's Light is similar in its use of the problems of everyday existence as a contrast to the standard science fictional delights of cutting-edge technology and cosmic speculation, but Spin is not quite so dark, a little more human in its emotional underpinnings. There is no post-human angst here.

What there is is a novel which, by grounding itself in real characters with real emotions, is all the more successful in its evocation of the sense of wonder that we expect from SF. Wilson has hit upon one of those basic dilemmas of human existence: How do you maintain a sense of hope and purpose in a universe where, the more you learn about it, the more it seems to have little or no room for either? Spin addresses the issue with style and substance, an approach that makes for one of the best science fiction novels of this or any year.

Copyright © 2005 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson was left to wonder whether, somewhere in the far-flung Halls of Galactic Justice, Jason Lawton was being prosecuted for much the same crime as that which was committed by Cordwainer Smith's Commander Suzdal. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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