By Robert Charles Wilson; Read by Scott Brick
Audible Download – 17 Hours and 33 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Medicine / Time / Space / Physics /
This Hugo Award winning novel (2006) is a novel of two parts in my mind. The first, which involves the covering of the entire Earth with a complex membrane, is some of the most exciting hard science fiction I’ve read in a long time. Picture yourself lying on a lawn, looking up at the stars… and they go out. As awe-inspiring as a Clarke novel, Wilson tells us what the world’s scientists come up with as they try to answer the big questions. What is happening? Why is it happening? Is there a “who” behind it? An outline of this book could be written that would look like a knotted string, each knot being an important and sometimes jaw-dropping idea. “The Spin”, as the phenomenon is called by the characters, grips the Earth tightly and apparently permanently. Initial discoveries find that the membrane has created a time difference between life on Earth and life in the rest of the universe. A minute passes here while years pass out there. A few days of time here, and empires would rise and fall outside, if they existed. Do they?
The second part of this novel is the connecting material, or the rest of the string. I didn’t find this as interesting as the Big Idea stuff while I was listening. In retrospect, I do appreciate what Wilson illustrated with his characters, but the plot won’t be what I remember when I talk about this novel in the future. Frankly, about halfway through the novel, I wanted to skim the sections that focused on the characters, not because they were poorly written, but because I simply couldn’t wait for what was really interesting me about the novel – more info about “The Spin”. Of course, I can’t skim an audiobook, so I dealt with the suspense and just kept listening. (Note to self: Add “lack of ability to skim” to the list of plusses for audiobooks. If I had read this book in print I would have skimmed – this way I got the whole novel.)
The story is about three main characters. Jason and Diane Lawton are the twin children of an entrepreneur. Tyler Dupree, the first person narrator, is a close friend. The three, as children, witness the beginning of “The Spin” together, lying on a lawn at a party attended by their parents. The event alters their lives, and the lives of all humans, but time marches on, the kids grow up, and, though each one lets “The Spin” define their lives, they each deal with the new reality in a completely different way. It is there that my appreciation for this aspect of the novel lies; how different we all are, and how different our reactions to the very same event. Some turn to religion, some turn to science, some to their business, and some to help their fellow man.
I’m not a person who dislikes a good character driven story. If I’m reading a piece of fiction that’s not genre, I’m likely to be reading something from the general fiction section of the bookstore, as opposed to mysteries or military thrillers. But still, I found it difficult to focus on parts of this novel, probably because I was listening to a story largely about people reacting to “The Spin”, rather than a story about the people that were actively trying to figure it out. Though one of the three main characters is indeed a scientist that is deeply involved, I wasn’t hearing a story about those scientists and exactly what they were doing. In other words, a lot of really interesting stuff is happening off stage while the novel was focused elsewhere.
Scott Brick narrates, always a plus from my perspective, and is a great match with this book. He does very well with science “ooo wow” moments, and there are plenty here. A quibble for the accuracy department: a mispronounced word that unfortunately is used often during a portion of the book. “Oort cloud”.
All in all – another fine audiobook from Macmillan Audio – it is available exclusively as a download from Audible and iTunes.
Posted by Scott D. Danielson