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Spin Mass Market Paperback – February 7, 2006
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The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk--a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world's artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they'd been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside--more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.
Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister cult leader who's forged a new religion out of the fears of the masses.
Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work, turning the planet green. Next they send humansâ¦and immediately get back an emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars. Then Earth's probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars. Jason, desperate, seeds near space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun--and report back on what they find.
Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.
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I'm debating on whether I should continue on with this series. The sequel seems to be a completely different story from the first and heads into a whole other direction. But... I did really enjoy Spin...!
You might have noticed that I didn't mention the characters as one of my motivators. That's because I didn't find them terribly compelling. Science fiction is well known for putting characters after the science and technology, and Spin unfortunately conforms to this stereotype. There's hardly a real human being among them, each being fairly one-dimensional and unemotional. Given the time span of the story, it's hard to believe that none of the characters ever strays from the slot they've been placed in. The celibate genius is the vessel through which we learn about the science and technology of the Spin. The emotionally lost sister embodies the everyman's fear of the Spin, seeking solace in faith. The power-broker father and alcoholic mother provide a justification for the emotionless, single-minded nature of the main characters, but make them no less unsatisfying. And the family friend provides the eyes through which we follow them all, hardly seeming to have a will or desire of his own, except for a weak romantic connection with the sister.
I had hoped that in the end, when the story-lines came together, there would be the passion of long-unrequited love, the excitement of new exploration and discovery, and some deeper sense of meaning given to all the events that had unfolded. Alas, these hopes were dashed when I got to the last page. I felt as if the book had been cut short, ending before it was meant to.
I almost rated this book 4 stars because of the way the story pulled me along. But as I write this review, I'm realizing it doesn't really deserve that. I'm knocking off a star and giving it only three, because while my scientific curiosity was satisfied, I had to invest a lot of time in characters I never really liked only to have them disappoint me in the end.
I can't tell you a whole lot without giving away some of the plot points that make this book so very cool. The story starts simple enough, with what sure feels like a beginner's writing exercise: Write about the time when the stars went out. Because that's where we begin, when 12-year-old Taylor and his best friends, the 13-year-old Lawton twins (heirs to a fortune of money and brilliance, unlike Taylor) witness the disappearance of the night sky into utter blackness. The novel chronicles all that the three go through as the world changes -- with Jason Lawton among the catalysts of that change.
That could be a fluffy story to capture your attention for a while and then let you move on, but Wilson kept throwing in twists that made me stop reading and _think_ -- the mark of the very best SF. (How *would* society react if we learned...?) I finished reading this book a week or two ago, but I find that my attention keeps returning to it, and I'm irritated that my husband hasn't read Spin yet because I want to talk to him about it. So yes, it's worth reading.
From a plot or storytelling point of view, though, it's... good. Not quite as Wow as the SF What-Iffing. I believed in the main characters, but I never quite fell in love with them; to some degree they become plot devices rather than people. And while it was probably necessary to get the plot moving, after a while the flashback story structure started to annoy me.
That's a quibble, though, because this is an excellent book that shows the power of a single SF What If. If you've been disappointed by tired tropes and wanted something new... this is the novel to choose.
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By Robert Charles Wilson
Where to “place” this book:
To call Spin by Wilson a “hard-science-fiction” would be accurate but not adequate.Read more