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The Chronoliths Mass Market Paperback – June 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; First Edition edition (June 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812545249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812545241
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,459,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Second, the ending was not very satisfying.
Robert Blanchette
The book raises a lot of interesting sociological and philosophical questions by using fictional "science," just like all great sci-fi does.
Richmond
Very well written with good character development.
Craig Robertson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence J. Hines on July 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I once read an interview with Peter F. Hamilton (author of the Night's Dawn Trilogy) where he stated that the trick to writing good science fiction was including enough detail to make the story plausible, but not enough that it evoked serious criticism from the reader. "The devil", the common wisdom goes, "is in the details."
In "The Chronoliths", Robert Charles Wilson demonstrates an understanding of that balance. Moreover, he has artfully wrapped it in a refreshing plot and sprinkled it with characters that seem to be underappreciated by other reviewers who have written here. The details surrounding the space-time concepts and exotic particle physics seem plausible enough for the near-future genre, but the crisp ideas that give this book strength lie not in the hard sciences, but in sociology. Wilson firmly grasps one of the most fundamental concepts in sociology - the concept of reification. As the chronoliths appear, marking sites where Kuin is victorious in battles 20 years into the future, the idea of reification emerges as the backdrop of the novel. Though Kuin is unknown, posses no army or resources, he comes to be recognized as the unstoppable conqueror in the minds of people who begin seeking to join him - it is the monuments that created Kuin. The central question becomes, "How is it that an idea that exists in the minds of people becomes external to them and coercive of them?"
Despite what some reviewers have submitted, I think Wilson demonstrates talent for character development; the problem is that he doesn't seem to favor these characters consistently. Scott is undeniably developed, anyone can relate to his inconsistencies, his loyalties, his fears and his needs.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What would you do if, very suddenly, an enormous blue glass obelisk appeared in the middle of your city, destroying much of it and killing thousands? And the inscription at its base indicated that it was a monument raised by a victorious warlord a couple of decades in the future? That's the armature around which Wilson has constructed this story of Scott Warden, skilled mid-level computer tech, and his ex-wife and daughter. There's also his sort-of buddy, Hitch Paley, and Sue Chopra, his sometime employer and perhaps the only person who can get a handle on what the monuments mean. Because they continue to appear over the years, apparently mirroring the conquests of Kuin, all across Asia and the Middle East and then Latin America. Who is Kuin -- or, rather, who will he be? Should the world prepare to try to fight him? Or just regard his ascendancy as inevitable and accommodate him? But there might not be much of a society left by the time of Kuin's arrival. The thing is, this is actually the story of the people involved, what they go through over the course of the pre-Kuin years, how they adapt to economic collapse and the spread of military & governmental secrecy and power born of desperation. It's a very powerful story and it's the first work by Wilson I've read, but it certainly won't be the last.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on August 15, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I haven't read any of Robert Charles Wilson's other books, so I don't know how typical this one is of his output. But it's a darned fine book. It's difficult to review it without including any spoilers, but I won't give away any details that you wouldn't learn in the first few pages.
Here's the deal: It's 2021, and software developer Scott Warden is hanging out in Thailand with his wife and daughter when a big giant monument just sort of _appears_ out of nowhere, causing massive damage and death. What's even odder is that an inscription on the monument (dubbed a "Chronolith" by journalists) makes clear that it commemorates some sort of military victory by somebody named "Kuin" -- twenty years and three months in the future.
The rest of the story, of course, I'm not going to tell you. But it's very cool.
It will probably take you eighty or a hundred pages to get your mind around Warden (at least it did me). He's not in general a very sympathetic character, but give him time to grow on you; he's as interestingly flawed as, say, Charlie Armstead in Spider and Jeanne Robinson's _Stardance_, and you'll find that there _are_ reasons he's the way he is.
You'll also like Sulamith (Sue) Chopra, an academic odd duck who is both an engaging character and a handy person to have around for another reason.
See, most of the actual _science_ in this book takes place offstage, and Wilson relies on a device that's at least as old as Dr. John H. Watson's chronicles of Sherlock Holmes: there really _is_ some science behind the events in the novel, but the narrator isn't the one who knows it, so he conveniently doesn't have to explain it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert Blanchette on May 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As many other reviewers have said, the concept of this book is very interesting. However, two things annoyed me about the book. First, there are numerous plot mistakes in the story. Stupid little things that probably won't annoy everyone but did annoy me. For example, characters don thermal protective suits in order to avoid freezing during an arrival. However, these suits don't seem to include gloves as people routinely touch freezing metal and leave skin behind. A minor oversight perhaps, but hard to believe that they would forget to include gloves. Small technical discrepencies like this abound and are distracting because they hurt the story's plausibility.
Second, the ending was not very satisfying. The end just doesn't have any real payoff. You don't cheer for the hero because he isn't very likeable. You don't really cheer for anyone. This book reminded me of Robert Silverberg's The Alien Years. Both books have a similar melancholy tone and unsatisfying endings.
I wanted to like this book but cannot heartily recommend it.
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