Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Robert Charles Wilson, Spin

by Jerry Wright

Author: Robert Charles Wilson
Publisher: Tor
Mass Paper: 454 pages
Price: $7.99
Robert Sawyer wants this book to win the 2006 Hugo. And it just might. And it's funny, some people say it is the best novel they've read this year, with great characterizations and super-science, others say the characters are one-dimensional and lifeless... It's like they are reading two different novels.

Spin is rather a strange amalgam. In some ways, I'm reminded of Asimov, where for the most part the battles and super-science happen off stage. The main protagonist, Tyler Dupree, is not in the center of the action, but is off to the edges of it, however, his childhood friend Jason Lawton is right in the middle, on the techno side, whereas his first and deepest love (all unrequited) Jason's twin sister Diane, runs deep into the heart of the opposing side.

Okay, so what is happening? The book takes place in two time frames. One, just a few years in our future, sees Tyler, Jason and Diane as twelve-year-olds, out at night and watching as the stars go out. The other frame? Millions of years in the future. And Tyler is the story-teller in both frames.

You see, something or someone has put a bubble of accelerated space-time around the Earth, and for every second that goes by on our planet, 3.17 years flash by in the outside universe. Jason struggles to find out why, and assumes: Aliens! Diane becomes a cultist who knows that it is the hand of God.

Tyler, a somewhat passive character, starts his story in a segment entitled "4 x 10^9 A.D." But he is telling us about his past, his life against the background of the world reaction to the disappearance of the stars. Or, rather, Tyler talks about his life, but the center of the story is the life of Jason Lawton, who is driven to discover answer to the scientific puzzle called the "Spin", and of Diane Lawton, who gets lost emotionally and spiritually as she tries to cope religiously with what is happening to the world. Jason gives Tyler gradual revelations and explanations of new phenomena, all the time fighting the controlling shadow of his father. Tyler struggles with his crush on Diane and tries to come to terms with her religious beliefs because of course Diane knows the world is in the "End Times". Spin certainly has a mighty science-fictional idea, well conceived and thought out, but a story lives or dies on the relationships of people.

Sometimes I loved this book, and sometimes I wanted to throw it against the wall. I think my major irritation was the passivity of Dr. Tyler Dupree. One wants to give him a kick in the butt and send him off in the right direction. The bones of the story are truly wonderful, and the relationships ring true. And sometimes that is just frustrating.

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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