I should have guessed. The signs were all there. A strangely troubled 11-year-old girl who talks to an imaginary twin. A retired professor of religion who’s written a bestselling book about God’s connection to quantum physics. Yes, I should have known this book would end in a climax that is beyond belief. Against all odds, I was expecting an inventive first contact story. After all, author Robert Charles Wilson is an award-winning sci-fi novelist. But, no. I was sucked in to Wilson’s brilliant character development and plotting to make my way to the very end of this disappointing novel. And I should have learned my lesson from the conclusion of Wilson’s Spin Trilogy, which was similarly over the top.
Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson (2004) 400 pages ★★★★☆
Finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novel
So, for the record, Blind Lake is a secretive high-tech astronomical observatory located in rural Minnesota in the mid-21st century. Its work revolves around “the Eye,” an advanced quantum computer. The chips in this computer operate on the basis of “Bose-Einstein Condensate.” (Wilson throws around a lot of scientific technology.) Somehow, in a way that absolutely nobody understands, the Eye manages to follow an individual alien dubbed the Subject as he moves about his life. But the alien isn’t on Earth, or even in the solar system; he, she, it, or whatever lives (well, actually, lived) on a planet 51 light-years from Earth. And Wilson’s story involves the scientists, engineers, and administrators at Blind Lake who are studying the Subject and the civilization he lives in. Then, just before all hell breaks loose, a team of three magazine journalists arrive to write about the facility’s work.
A disappointing entry from an award-winning sci-fi novelist
From the outset, it’s clear that something awful is going to happen. And Wilson does a stellar job building suspense toward what will clearly be a shattering conclusion. Which makes the mystical resolution of this tale all the more disappointing.
For further reading
Previously I reviewed Robert Charles Wilson‘s award-winning Spin Trilogy:
- Spin (Spin Trilogy #1)—A Big History of the future in this popular visionary science fiction novel
- Axis (Spin Trilogy #2)—In this sci-fi novel, God is a networked intelligence scattered through the galaxy
- Vortex (Spin Trilogy #3)—The Spin Trilogy concludes with the heat death of the universe
For more good reading, check out:
- The five best First Contact novels
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.