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The Chronoliths [Hardcover]

Robert Charles Wilson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 11 2001 Tor Science Fiction
Scott Warden is a man haunted by the past-and soon to be haunted by the future.

In early twenty-first-century Thailand, Scott is an expatriate slacker. Then, one day, he inadvertently witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar in the forested interior. Its arrival collapses trees for a quarter mile around its base, freezing ice out of the air and emitting a burst of ionizing radiation. It appears to be composed of an exotic form of matter. And the inscription chiseled into it commemorates a military victory--sixteen years in the future.

Shortly afterwards, another, larger pillar arrives in the center of Bangkok-obliterating the city and killing thousands. Over the next several years, human society is transformed by these mysterious arrivals from, seemingly, our own near future. Who is the warlord "Kuin" whose victories they note?

Scott wants only to rebuild his life. But some strange loop of causality keeps drawing him in, to the central mystery and a final battle with the future.
The Chronoliths is a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel and the winner of the 2002 John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

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From Amazon

Robert Charles Wilson is an accomplished and acclaimed writer with an impressive body of work. The Chronoliths is his best novel yet, an intelligent, fascinating, and frightening account of a unique incarnation of time travel.

American software developer Scott Warden is living a careless expatriate life on the beaches of 21st century Thailand when a monolithic pillar, sheathed in ice and composed of an unknown, indestructible material, appears in the jungle. The artifact is a chronolith, a memorial commemorating the conquest of Thailand--20 years in the future. As Warden follows his estranged wife and badly injured daughter back to the U.S., more chronoliths celebrating future victories appear, to devastating effect. Bangkok and Jerusalem are destroyed, and societies worldwide dissolve in chaos or teeter on the brink of collapse. As the chronoliths close in on America, Scott joins with biker and undercover agent Hitch Paley and experimental physicist Sue Chopra in a literal race against time to find a way to change the future--which has already happened. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

A talented SF writer who has never gained the name recognition he deserves, Wilson (Darwinia) is a master of character development, comparable to the late Theodore Sturgeon in his believable portrayals of emotionally scarred loners. Scott Warden, an abuse survivor, first drags his family off to Thailand for a short-lived programming job and then refuses to leave the country when his job ends, forcing his wife and daughter into poverty. One fateful day, Scott takes off for the backcountry to witness the advent of the first Chronolith, an enormous high-tech monument sent from 20 years in the future to commemorate the military victory of an Asian tyrant named Kuin. By the time Scott returns home he discovers that his family has fled to the U.S. and that his marriage is effectively over. Soon after, another Chronolith appears, destroying Bangkok, and it's followed by many more, each one proclaiming the victories of the mysterious Kuin. Scott is contacted by a former teacher, the physicist Sue Chopra, who believes that Scott's proximity to the original Chronolith has connected him to the ongoing disaster in some strange fashion. As Sue and Scott attempt to figure out what's going on, society gradually collapses around them. People begin to worship Kuin as a virtual god and, as the years pass, the date on which the first Chronolith was launched draws near. This superb novel, combining Wilson's trademark well-developed characters and fine prose with stunning high-tech physics, should strongly appeal to connoisseurs of quality science fiction. (Aug. 20)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It was Hitch Paley, rolling his beat-up Daimler motorbike across the packed sand of the beach behind the Haat Thai Dance Pavilion, who invited me to witness the end of an age. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Looks Like Nonsense... March 11 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
..., I mean: please - The Chronoliths? The vague, futurey/fantasy-inspired cover art?

Despite appearances, however, this is a mature, heartbreaking, but ultimately optimistic novel about believable, flawed characters.

Highly recommended.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
I’ve been working hard to read a lot of the ARC’s I received at Book Expo America and have read and reviewed three. But on a recent trip, I finished one and had only my trusty backup emergency paperback in my bag. It was The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson, recommended to me by my friend Christopher (who also turned me on to Illium).

Christopher is 2 for 2; I could not put this book down. And he made me use the Internet to connect the dots of my long ago Physics degree and go back and refresh my old brain on manifolds and their relationship to quantum mechanics (yeah, I know…geek boy).

The Chronoliths tells of massive monuments that spring up instantaneously, the first one in Thailand, observed by our main character Scott. All of them have inscriptions of a battle won some twenty years in the future by a warlord named Kuin. Another springs up in the middle of Bangkok, causing devastation. The monuments are named Chronoliths, and begin showing up all over Asia, apparently foretelling the path of conquest of this future warlord.

The science is, of course, how can these monoliths be sent twenty years back in time, and how to stop them. Because as they appear with alarming regularity, mankind begins to believe that there is no way to stop them and society sees itself as doomed. A former college professor of Scott’s, Sue Chopra, believes she can first predict and then stop the Chronolith’s from forming, with some string theory / M-theory constructs:

I did not then and I do not now understand the physics of the Chronoliths, except in the pop-science sense.
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4.0 out of 5 stars unique ideas Feb. 6 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I picked up one of his earlier works -- I want to say 'by accident', but it's tough to 'accidentally read a novel' -- by chance a half-decade ago, and it was one of those few books that I sat down and read right through in a short span of time (I'm a slow but careful reader.) Usually I take my time, get distracted, and it takes months to read a book from start to finish when all the little breaks get factored in. But there is something about the style that is not especially complex, but brings together a absolutely solid concept into a flowing narrative. But, I don't think it's that Wilson has so much a 'great' writing style, but rather that his ideas are just plain unique: think philosophical or scientific paradox set in the near future, with fairly solid three-dimensional character development.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Sci-Fi July 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I found this book superior to Darwinia which Wilson wrote first. If he continues to top his previous efforts like this, I look forward to reading his next work.
The basic story follows an initially irresponsible expatriate in Thailand who witnesses the arrival of the first "Chronolith" which has been sent back in time by an unknown conqueror. They continue to appear with dates of victories in the near future.
As everyone scrambles to learn the secret behind them, the expatriate turns out to be something of a catalyst for the story and even a hero of sorts.
The concept is unique and suspenseful with some attempts to explain the phenomonon that don't bog the story down in technicalese. Best of all Wilson pulls the whole thing off in a reasonable length unlike some of the bloated and under edited books inflicted on us lately by "name" authors like David Hamilton.
If you are looking for a taut thriller with some humour and even family drama plus a great Science Fiction concept and a twist ending; pick this up. It is a greaat summer read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Turbulent Times June 17 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In Wilson's Chronliths, Scott Warden tells of how the Chronoliths -- giant monuments sent back in time about 20 years by some entity known as Kuin -- have effected his life via his memoirs (this book). Scott was on the scene soon after the arrival of the first Chronolith in Thailand. Because of this, Sue Chopra -- a brilliant physicist -- takes an interest in him. Sue is determined to figure out how Kuin is sending the Chronoliths back in time...and ultimately how to destroy them.
This is the second book I've read by Wilson and this is the second time I have felt like the characterizations Wilson puts together are quite decent, but that the story itself is lacking...though Wilson's ideas on the social upheaval brought on by the arrival of the monuments are worthy of note...I just wish he had gone farther with it. In both the Chronoliths and the other Wilson book I've read, Mysterium, Wilson skips around in time quite a bit. Maybe it is because of this that his plots seem to suffer. The overall concept of the Chronoliths was an interesting one and the general way in which Wilson handles it isn't bad -- via Scott's memoirs -- I just wish he had put a bit more time into drawing the plot better.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the SF?
A science fiction story with a great premise: giant monuments, commemorating a conqueror's future victories, start appearing in cities all over Earth, creating social and political... Read more
Published on May 13 2004 by "midorikatt"
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand SF concept, wonderful human protagonists
This is, quite simply, one of the best SF books I have ever read. This book made Wilson my favorite SF author. Read more
Published on April 20 2004 by Daniel Roy
5.0 out of 5 stars What a clever concept.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The concept of a future conqueror sending back victory monuments to influence public opinion and smooth his way for conquest is just brilliant. Read more
Published on March 18 2004 by V. A McCoy
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for simple reading.....
If you like nice tight simple stories with everything laid out for you to follow then this book is not for you. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004 by Mathew A. Shember
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Science Fiction Writer" Who Can Actually WRITE
I won't add much to the positive reviews this book has already gotten. I first got hooked on Robert Charles Wilson by his wonderful novel "Darwinia," then read his first... Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by John Beadle
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent, quick read
This is the third book by Mr. Wilson that I've read and all three were intelligent and interesting, although not exactly action packed. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by Dan Donlin
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good Writing, Pointless Story
I tried to read Darwinia, an earlier novel by this author, and put in down due to its inability to interest me in what was a most intriguing plot. Read more
Published on Nov. 28 2003 by Jack M. Walter
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting...right up until the end.
When I first came across this book, I had never read anything by Wilson, but thought the premise of this was very interesting. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2003 by John Howard
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