Science fiction fans tend to be well aware that even the sun is not immortal. Stars burn out over time. It may take billions of years, but it happens. The universe is littered with the evidence. But it takes a supreme work of the imagination to build a science fiction novel around the notion that the sun is dying. Canadian-American author Robert Charles Wilson has managed that adroitly in his award-winning Spin Trilogy. The first novel in the trilogy, Spin, lays out that premise in a dramatic if not entirely believable way. It’s a fascinating Big History of the future.
Spin (Spin Trilogy #1) by Robert Charles Wilson (2005) 468 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Winner of the Hugo Award
One of the common conceits of the science fiction field is that some day, soon or later, the human race will achieve faster-than-light speed. This is the premise on which nearly all space operas are based. Wilson rejects this idea. The solution he proposes enables contact of a sort between sentient species of far-away worlds. It’s clever to a fault. It may even be worth exploring in scientific labs one of these days.
A Big History of the future
The action in Spin spans decades. Wait, that’s not quite true. It spans billions of years. Confusing? You bet. But Wilson pulls it off. Despite the vast scope of the canvas, the author focuses on the lives of a handful of principal characters: Tyler Dupree, the narrator; his childhood friends, the brilliant fraternal twins Jason and Diane Lawton; and their wealthy and powerful father, E. D. Lawton. Oh, and there’s a man from Mars, too.
The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between a time beginning in the present and stretching decades into the future, and 4 x 109 A. D. (That’s four billion years in the future, just in case you’re less than adept with big numbers.) It’s difficult to understand what’s going on until well into the novel—but that’s part of the fun. This book richly deserves the Hugo Award it won following its publication in 2005.
The lead sentence of the chapter introducing the principal characters reads, “I was twelve, and the twins were thirteen, the night the stars disappeared from the sky.” And later the author muses, “The world is full of surprises. We’re all born strangers to ourselves and each other, and we’re seldom formally introduced.” How can any science fiction fan resist writing like that?
About the author
Robert Charles Wilson has won a number of major science fiction awards, including the Hugo (for this novel), the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. As of this writing, he has written 20 sci-fi novels. Most of his books have been nominated for one award or another and sometimes several.
For further reading
For more good reading, check out:
- 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).
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
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