Friday, July 11, 2008

Robert Charles Wilson's Novel-- Spin

Wilson's novel is a classic example of a book with a wonderful idea that is not used very much in the work. Briefly, Earth has been enveloped in a mysterious force field. It has a number of effects on the planet, but one of the most significant consequences is the effect on time. The Earth and the rest of the universe no longer keep the same time, relatively speaking of course. For every year that passes on earth, the universe outside ages at the rate of 100,000,000 years. The sun, whose demise was once billions of years in the future, will now self-destruct in about 40-50 years.

This discrepancy is used only twice, and both occupy only a small percentage of the book. Wilson spends most of his time detailing the trials and tribulations of the Lawton family, a dysfunctional family, at best.

The father is a Type A personality--angry, hostile, distant, and always busy. The mother, who was a cardiologist prior to her marriage to Lawton, a wealthy man, quit and spent the next 3 or 4 decades turning herself into an alcoholic. The son, a genius, doted on his father, almost to the point of hero worship, and then began to hate him as he matured. The daughter, in search of something, rejects the the love of the man she most cares for, and marries a religious cult leader.

I haven't read anything else by Wilson, so I don't know whether this is typical, but if it is, I won't be reading other works by him. I read Science Fiction for development of ideas or for extrapolation of trends, but I don't read it for a portrayal of dysfunctional families.

That being said, I suspect I'm in the minority because this novel won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006. The Hugo is the oldest and probably the most prestigious award in SF. Obviously there are many who disagree with me.

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