Robert Charles Wilson
Spin Cover

Profound, Human, Staggering


Spin is a very rare treat indeed: a SF novel, based on extravagant and mind-boggling SF concepts, which still manages to tell a very human story filled with emotions and character development.

For Wilson fans (and I count myself among them), there is nothing dramatically new in terms of themes and focus in Spin. Wilson, once again, manages to tell the story of one man on the grandiose canvas of humanity as it comes to grips with an insane, uncomprehensible event. Spin shares a lot of points with Wilson's earlier work, The Chronoliths, and if you've read that one, Spin will seem strangely familiar.

As much as I loved The Chronoliths and Darwinia, however, Spin strikes me as a superior novel on almost any point. The story strongly focuses on Tyler Dupree and his relationship with twins Jason and Diane, providing a rich human element filled with drama and tension, which I felt was stronger than in The Chronoliths. Wilson has an amazing gift of writing entirely believeable emotions and character development tied with unbelieveable SF events, and in Spin, he is at his strongest.

The SF event at the core of Spin is truly a mind-boggling one: what if, one night, all the stars and the moon disappeared from the sky? How would humanity adjust to such an implausible event? What would be the causes of this? Who could possibly do this and why? To say any more about it would risk spoiling truly exciting moments. Let me simply say that, throughout the first 100 pages, I actually gasped in shock at some of the revelations and mind-boggling concepts put forth by Wilson.

The SF events that take place throughout the course of Spin are, believe it or not, on par with Stephen Baxter's better outlandish ideas. What sets Wilson's work leagues ahead, however, is the way he somehow manages to juggle big concepts with a future history of humanity, and by rooting everything in a personal, emotional story of one man trying to make sense of the world.

There are some flaws with this novel: Wilson has a tendency to try and wrap up his stories very neatly, and to me, that takes away from the novel. (See Darwinia and Blind Lake for examples.) Also, I felt the chapters taking place in the "present" (as opposed to retellings by the main character) gave away many surprises of the story, and didn't add a lot of foreshadowing. After a while, I found myself wishing these chapters could be over as quickly as possible, although that is to the credit of the main story, and not so much a fault of these chapters.

Regardless, Spin is possibly Wilson's best novel to date (although I am a huge fan of The Chronoliths), and it proves once and for all that big SF concepts do not have to come packaged in shoddy writing and paper-thin protagonists. Here's hoping the Stephen Baxters of this world are listening.