The Chronoliths Hardcover – Aug 11 2001
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
It starts with an intriguing SF concept: what if a giant pillar appeared in Bangkok, marking the victory of a future warlord? What would be its impact on society? How could such an event come about and why must people in the future send mementos to the past?
On this premise, "The Chronoliths" fully deliver in intrigue, surprise twists and clever, thoughtful SF. But what makes this novel a masterpiece in my eye is how every bit of clever SF is actually wrapped in very human events.
The protagonist of "The Chronoliths" is a normal guy living in a fantastic time. He suffers marital difficulties, insecure, lacks confidence. That is not to say he wallows in self-pity, far from it; but his choices, whenever they are made, are rooted in believeable, poignant humanity.
Robert Charles Wilson is such a great author, in my opinion, because even though he writes about grand concepts, he never loses sight of his characters. Too often SF authors are so lost in their grand SF plots that they end up propping cardboard cutout characters against their fantastic stories. Wilson not only outdoes them in the scale of his ideas, but his concepts resonate so much more that we see them happening through very human eyes.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you like it, know that Wilson's style is consistent, and that other novels of his (I recommend "Blind Lake" and "Darwinia") are filled with the same sense of wonder and deep humanity.
Most recent customer reviews
Having thoroughly enjoyed `Spin', I was keen to read more of Wilson's work. However, perhaps my expectations were too high. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Willy Eckerslike
Absolutely fascinating read beginning to end. So many twists and turns and interesting plays on time and space and evolving relations.Published 17 months ago by Jonathon Lynn Graham
This novel was amazingly well written, the best I've read this summer. The story is intriguing and keeps you coming back. I'm partial to first person novels. Read morePublished 24 months ago by JF
..., I mean: please - The Chronoliths? The vague, futurey/fantasy-inspired cover art?
Despite appearances, however, this is a mature, heartbreaking, but ultimately... Read more
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2007 by B. Salomons
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 morePublished on May 13 2004
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 morePublished on March 18 2004 by V. A McCoy
If you like nice tight simple stories with everything laid out for you to follow then this book is not for you. Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2004 by Mathew A. Shember