on October 2, 2006
I was a big fan of RCWilson ever since Darwinia and Bios. Wilson's newest book, SPIN is his best work to date. As the title of this review states, unforgettable. It truly is. It's been three weeks since I put down the book and I still fondly remember various scenes.
The timeless, patient and often heartbreaking love conveyed by Tyler for Diane throughout the novel is the backdrop of a significant event that has befallen Earth. A shroud of unknown material encompasses our planet where time on Earth progresses as it should, but the rest of the universe experiences time on a furious speed. In the course of forty odd years in Earth time, the universe has aged in billions of years and the curse/shield is finally lifted. Earth and its inhabitants will never be the same again.
The science involved in explaining the shroud is unsound or unsatisfactory in my opinion but that is not the plot driving device. How people cope with the spin and the lives of our protagonists are what makes the pages turn. The branching of religions, politics, technology, wars, quest for human longevity and seeking life in the universe are all caused by the spin and everyone's lives are affected for good or bad.
on March 7, 2007
I'll make this short and sweet. I finished this book about two months ago and I still can't get it out of my head. This is a perfect blending of a wonderful mind expanding and original story, mixed with characters you come to care about almost immediately. A friend borrowed this book from me who is a newcomer to SF and she loved it. And now another friend is reading it and she just keeps saying, "Wow!". But the next time around, when Robert Charles Wilson releases the sequel, AXIS, in September -- I think they'll be convinced enough to go out and buy their own copies of his new novel. I'm so happy to hear SPIN won the 2006 Hugo Award. Buy it!
on March 31, 2009
How would humanity react if, suddenly and for no apparent reason, the earth was encased by a membrane (i.e. the 'Spin') that distorts time so that one day on earth now represents 100,000 years in the rest of the universe?
The ideas developed in this novel are simply brilliant. Although the Spin technically does not have any impact on the day-to-day life on Earth, it brings new scientific possibilities and it has a profound long-term influence on social behavior. The development of these ideas by the author is realistic, and it is easy to get immersed in the scientific part of the novel.
I am less enthusiastic with the portions of the story that are not strictly related to the Spin. The best example of this is the unconsumed love story between two of the main characters, which I find was rather lame and had for effect to slightly diminish my interest as a reader in a story that otherwise is based on a great main plot.
In my continuing mission to encounter modern science fiction authors to rival the classical masters of the genre, I happened across this book while browsing Amazon's recommendation. Although first published in 2005, it reads like a novel from a good 25 years earlier. This is a good thing; there is no showing-off of the author's understanding of particle physics, cosmology or esoteric mathematics (a frequent failing these days) , just a good old fashioned first person account, with flashbacks, of a momentous event in the evolution of humanity's view of their place in the universe. It is also not peppered with a profusion of shallow characters with unpronounceable names; the events in the book are seen through the eyes of the narrator as they impact upon the lives of just three main protagonists. There are, of course, secondary characters but the focus of the novel never strays far from the main narrative so that we end up with believable characters acting in a plausible manner with whom the reader can empathise.
The story is told skilfully at a consistent pace in a very readable style making for an enjoyable, comfortable read. It's not an edge-of-the-seat page-turning rollercoaster of a novel; more of a favourite armchair in front of the fire on a winter's night sort-of a novel. There is enough science-fiction to warrant its place in the genre but not so much that it intrudes on the narrative. All-in-all, an excellently balanced & well written story and I shall definitely read more of Wilson's work - probably `Axis' although I fancy `The Chronoliths' and `Blind Lake' too... So much choice, so little time to spend reading...
on May 22, 2014
In the near future, three teenagers—twins Diane and Jason, and their friend and our narrator Tyler—are out stargazing when the sky suddenly goes completely black, the moon and stars having strangely disappeared. Similar observations are made around the world, night after night. Investigations reveal that Earth has been enclosed in a mysterious envelope—a so-called Spin membrane—that isolates the planet from the rest of the universe. For every second that passes on Earth, moreover, nearly four years pass outside the Spin membrane. At this point, the Earth should be flooded with four years of solar radiation every second—an obviously lethal dose—but the Spin membrane seems to be actively filtering the Earth's radiation dose, with the disappearance of the stars a mere side effect of the filter. Even this protection is not enough, however: over the next thirty-odd years of our protagonists' lives, billions of years will pass outside the Spin, causing the Sun to expand and eventually consume the Earth.
Spanning the next few decades, the novel details the lives of the three protagonists. The looming apocalypse pushes Jason to devote his life to studying the Spin, trying to understand how it works, why it exists, who (if anyone) placed it around the Earth, and whether it can be overcome. As the head of Perihelion (the successor to NASA), he spearheads an effort to terraform Mars—taking advantage of the accelerated time outside the Spin—as a last-ditch effort to provide a new home for the human race. At the same time, he develops a rare form of multiple sclerosis, and hires Tyler as his personal physician. Diane, conversely, falls deep into religious fanaticism, joining apocalyptic semi-Christian cults that embrace or even seek to bring about the End Times. The resulting family tensions, along with Perihelion's roller coaster of successes and setbacks, provide the main plots of the novel.
Overall, Spin was interesting, but at times slow-paced. At its best, I found myself reading 50 or even 100 pages at a time; at its slowest, maybe three at a time before losing interest. As well, it was a bit too apocalyptic for my tastes; I would have preferred Spin to focus almost exclusively on the science being done at Perihelion: terraforming, advanced biotechnology, von Neumann replicators, and of course the technology of the Spin envelope itself. That said, the author did use the apocalyptic nature of Spin to provide a strong criticism of the religious fanaticism of Diane's character, and by extrapolation, similar-minded political figures in our own world. By the same token, Wilson advocates taking a rationalist and even skepticist approach to facing existential risks such as the Spin and the forced migration of humanity to new worlds. All told, I think I can give Spin four stars, but I don't think I'll read its sequels Axis and Vortex, as they don't contain any of Spin's characters, and most if not all of my questions were answered by the end of Spin.
Of my limited experience with sci-fi, Robert Charles Wilson's novel "Spin" stands out as a complete work. It has an interesting plot, well-developed charcters, plausible scientific concepts, a good pace, and interesting themes. How would the world react to being essentially isolated from the rest of the universe, blanketed by an unknown curtain which causes our planet to "age" slower than the rest of space? With the knowledge that mankind is hurtling ever faster towards extinction, with the sun set to burn out in a matter of decades, rather than millennia, how would Earth contend with this? Spin examines these issues from a personal level to a global level, from a scientific standpoint to a religious one. They are very minor shortfalls indeed which caused me to rate it 4 instead of 5 stars, but this is too academic a difference to prevent anyone from enjoying a solid novel, which will be classified as sci-fi but encompasses so many other elements. It merits every bit of praise it has had lavished upon it.
on February 16, 2013
This is one of the most compelling, addictive, and beautifully written books I've read in ages. Wilson's characters are complex and interesting. The science behind the plot is deep and well thought out. And the way in which the story unravels, the "cliff-hangers" at the end of each chapter, are enough to keep you up long into the night. Wilson is a master of unwinding his story slowly, and tantalizingly, so that you are ravenous for more. His prose is evocative, clear, and emotional. I finished the book in four days, and would have finished it faster if I could have managed it.
One of the best sci-fi books I've ever read. I'm excited to read the rest of the trilogy, but even purely as a stand-alone this is a book that will inspire, amaze, and move you.
on June 23, 2012
Je n'ai jamais lu que des bouquins scientifiques et très technique, des volumes de mécanique comme livre de chevet. Les SF m'ont toujours paru borné, incrédible, ou d'un futurisme déjà dépassé avant l'an 2000. Je n'adhère pas plus aux Star-Trek ou Star-Wars de ce monde. Je donne 5 étoiles à Spin car il m'a accroché, en toute subjectivité, par son aspect humble sans être blasé, et par la trame d'amour qui ne prends pas plus de place que dans la vrai vie. On n'avance pas dans les pages pour comprendre un texte décousue ou une intrigue artificielle mais bien par attachement au trio. Entre 2 livres sur l'espace-temps et les multivers, ce roman trouve sa place pour décompresser un peu.
on June 9, 2009
I don't believe I've ever been sucked into a SF book like this one. It was virtually impossible to put the book down. I've always been a fan of the ticking-time-bomb writing device, and this is like no other. A 50 year ticking time bomb, who would believe that such a thing could create such urgency? And yet there is a very real sense of urgency and impending doom in this novel and a desperation to find out what the heck is going on. It's bleak, mesmerizing and terrifying, and a very very good read. Well worth every penny.
on December 22, 2015
Some great sci-fi buried in an enormous amount of soap opera. Wish it had been drastically edited. I ended up fast forwarding through great chunks of it.