Vortex Hardcover – Jul 5 2011
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“I'm not a big science fiction fan, but I'll read anything with a story and a low geek factor. Wilson is a hell of a storyteller, and the geek factor in his books is zero. Like Battlestar Galactica on TV, this is SF that doesn't know it's SF…. There's plenty of imagination here, as well as character and heart.” ―Stephen King on Spin
“An astonishingly successful mélange of SF thriller, growing-up saga, tender love story, father-son conflict, ecological parable, and apocalyptic fable in prose that sings the music of the spheres.” ―Publishers Weekly , starred review on Spin
“Spin is many things: psychological novel, technological thriller, apocalyptic picaresque, cosmological meditation. But it is, foremost, the first major SF novel of 2005, another triumph for Robert Charles Wilson in a long string of triumphs.” ―Locus
“Of all SF writers currently alive, Robert Charles Wilson may be the best at balancing cosmic drama with human drama.” ―Locus
About the Author
Born in California, ROBERT CHARLES WILSON grew up in Canada. He is the author of many acclaimed SF novels including Darwinia, Blind Lake, Julian Comstock, and the Hugo Award–winning Spin.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Vortex follows two threads- one a tale of Turk Findley in the far future, and one of new characters in the post-Spin years. The sheer number of characters keeps them all from being as fully developed as Spin's protagonists, and the stakes never felt quite as high as the ones in Spin or Axis.
While it was a good conclusion to the series, and its final chapters elude to Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century, I found it hard to relate to such disconnected characters dealing with events on a scale almost impossible to really comprehend. That said, Wilson manages to describe amazing cosmic changes with relative ease, which helps when the subject matter is as heavy as the aging of the universe, the death of planets, the insignificance of humans.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As always, Wilson is concerned with his characters, first and foremost. Like all of his novels, Vortex is populated by isolated, folksy people clinging to one-another amidst world-changing, fantastic events. Characterization is thinner here than most of his previous work, but unlike those other novels (and this is saying alot), Wilson is working towards something bigger here. His aim is nothing less than finding Hope and Forgiveness within Heat Death.
There are usually only two kinds of sci-fi by Mr. Wilson. The hopeful variety such as Blind Lake, The Chronoliths, Bridge of Years, Julian Comstock and Spin. Then there's the hopeless, bleak kind like Bios and Axis. Here, Wilson's created a blend of both and absolutely nails it. Vortex is his premier work, in my humble opinion. I love The Chronoliths and Bridge of Years and I think Spin is a classic sci-fi novel. But what Wilson accomplishes here is tantamount to giving a hardcore athiest a reason to be spiritual. The last 40 pages of Vortex are an immense accomplishment. Maybe he hasn't tied all of the plot pieces together between Spin, Axis and Vortex, but he **has** tied them together thematically.
I can only imagine that being Robert Charles Wilson means being isolated and in immense amounts of pain, and that he works this pain out by writing gut-wrenching, mind-blowing sci-fi that leaves his readers not only scientifically challenged, but spiritually comforted.
To get the full effect, start with Spin, get through Axis and read Vortex with an open-mind. The journey is worth it, and its not quite what you expect.
Wilson managed, yet again, to pique my interest in this story within the first few pages. He has a great way of introducing and developing characters to be believable, as well as people the reader comes to genuinely care about.
Overall I am more than satisfied with Vortex, although I wish it could have lasted just a little bit longer! Vortex is a story in and of itself, rooted in the world of Spin and Axis. Its focus is not on completing the story of either of the two previous books. Instead it focuses on human nature, and the characters all shared an underlying sense of isolation.
There were aspects of the story that took me by surprise, but it kept me on edge and made it difficult to put down. The last section of the book is the real kicker, and Wilson orchestrates it beautifully.
If you are a fan of Wilson's work, pick up Vortex, while it may not be quite what you expect, trust me when I say it won't disappoint. If you're knew to the world of the Spin, then I urge you start form the beginning and enjoy the journey.
Spin is one of the finest sci fi books I've read, Axis not so much, and Vortex falls in between the two.
A definite must-read for hard sci fi lovers. The ending is satisfying and wraps things up nicely, in a mind-blowing way a la Stephen Baxter. I personally find the world-view in Wilson's books a bit bleak and depressing, but if you are a fan then definitely check out this trilogy.
Some of the settings weren't too interesting to me, but the book keeps you reading by presenting interesting main characters, along with enough mystery and suspense and some other very interesting settings. If you don't appreciate a book like this, try writing one, and you'll realize what an accomplishment this is.
1) It's engaging and a quick read. Partially that's because it's broken into short chapters and has relatively large print...but it also held my attention pretty well.
2) The concept (and I don't think this is giving anything away) of a "message in a bottle" sent back in time is kind of interesting. It gives the book a more complex (I think some have said "more literary") structure than you'd expect, but I think that only really becomes apparent at the very end of the book.
3) I felt the characters were a little more defined this time than they had been in Axis--though it's been years since I read Axis, so maybe not
4) The "hard sci fi" aspects of the book were certainly more interesting and better developed than the ones we saw in Axis
5) Some of the ethical issues at stake in the book (what makes for a good society? how do we deal with guilt? what is a conscience and what are its limitations?) as well as the question of what defines "self"--these are interesting issues, interesting questions
1) Even though the characters were better sketched here than in Axis, I never felt like I connected with or identified with any of them. To me, at least, they were just sketches, and despite the "moral complexity" of their actions and thoughts, I don't think I ever felt like they were real people. This is totally different from how I felt about the characters in Spin.
2) RCW needs to put down the dictionary. I realize that by the end of the book we are dealing with 1) a god-like figure and 2) some very hard sci fi, but I felt like RCW's use of a combination of technobabble and obscure (beyond SAT) language was over-the-top and kind of annoying. I've read scientific papers and books about the death of the universe and theoretical physics and all that--and I don't mean stuff for a popular audience--but they are rarely as laden with obscure language as parts of this book. I think RCW is trying to make a point with his language, a point about our "god-like" character and his separation from human existence, but ultimately this "point" winds up making what could be some of the most interesting material in the book quite opaque, maybe even to the point of silliness.
3) All those ethical issues I mentioned above? I really think RCW could have explored them a little bit more, fleshed them out. There was definitely room for more meat here to provoke more thought. I think this is a major difference between Vortex and "real literature" (I've seen Vortex called "real literature" a few times). "Real literature" provides the meat and thereby subtly asks the questions and provides a context for their consideration; Vortex sketches out some very obvious questions without providing the meat. At least that's my opinion, take it for what you will.
4) I could be wrong about this...but most of the interesting "hard" sci fi at the end of the book--I think that's stuff directly out of Spin...
Maybe what I'm trying to say is that even though the book was a quick read, the material in it was kind of boring. I've found myself thinking about Spin and the interesting concepts in it from time to time since I first read it years ago--I don't think that's going to happen with Vortex.
Read Spin if you haven't.
The story itself takes place in two separate timelines. Ten thousand years in the future, on the other side of the Temporal Axis that Turk and Isaac went through, we discover the fate of Earth and Mars. The other story takes place a little bit in the past of the events of Axis. And what is the future of humanity like 10,000 years from now? Mixed. Earth itself is a dying world, cut off from a ring of roughly ten worlds connected by Arches. The main events take place in a dystopian future where one part of human civilization is coerced into connective emotional or rational democracies. This part is difficult to read since one can see how such a democracy can arise. And I hope that it never does. Similarly, the events that take place before Axis really only make sense as you read the book. To explain more would ruin certain surprises.
The two timelines in the story run parallel to each other until at a certain point you realize how they are connected. In that moment of connection is where the book really starts to get intellectually interesting. The possibilities it opens up are limitless.
If you're reading this review then you probably already read Spin and Axis. And ultimately, who doesn't want to finish a trilogy. So go ahead and read it. You will be rewarded and satisfied.