by Robert Charles Wilson
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Blind Lake of the title in Robert Charles Wilson's novel is a research base which is placed under quarantine for an unspecified reason. Wilson follows Marguerite Hauser and her ex-husband, Raymond Scutter, both of whom are working at Blind Lake, their daughter Tessa, and a team of journalists who happened to be stranded by the quarantine, most notably Chris Carmody.
The team at Blind Lake is recording to happenings on a distant planet, UMa47/E and trying to figure out how their quantum computers are maintaining the visual link between earth and this distant world. While this research is always in the background, the main focus of Blind Lake is the reactions the scientists and support staff have towards the quarantine and their interpersonal relationships. On occasion, the situation with UMa47/E intrudes on those relationships, especially as the characters have different opinions of how to deal with issues that arise of the planet.
While most of the characters are very well drawn out, there are a few, most notably Scutter, who seem somewhat one-dimensional. Scutter is portrayed as a single-minded bureaucrat who has achieved his own level of incompetence and alienated everyone with whom he works. He appears misogynistic in all his relationships with women from his wife to his secretary to his daughter, who he is determined to mold in his own image without allowing her any freedom of personality. While this all makes him an excellent foil to the other characters, he never really comes to life and when Wilson would appear to want the reader to sympathize with Scutter, there is no real room for empathy.
For much of the novel, the connection between Blind Lake and UMa47/E seems as if it is a Maguffin, something the reader is supposed to think is important, but really had no real bearing on the plot or the characters. In fact, by the end of the novel, Wilson has managed to tie UMa47 and the Subject in to the lives of Marguerite, Tessa, Ray, and the rest of the people quarantined at Blind Lake in a satisfying manner.
Blind Lake will probably not satisfy a reader who is looking for nuts and bolts science fiction, but for one who is interested in individuals against a background of a scientific establishment, Blind Lake delivers on its promises. Wilson is able to use the aliens of UMa47/E in juxtaposition to the humans to talk about alienness, and the alienation of people by Ray Scutter to focus on how alien humans can be among their own kind.
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