Robert Charles Wilson – Spin

Title: Spin
Robert Charles Wilson
Year: 2005

Being awarded the Hugo Award for best novel of 2005, I was excited to start reading Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin. Science fiction is a genre that moves and develops just as anything else human, and therefore, modern science fiction differs much from what I am used to, having read mostly old stuff from the sixties and seventies. Spin sets out magnificently with a simple premise: one night, all the heavenly bodies visible from the surface of the Earth disappears. All stars wink out simultaneously, the moon vanishes and all artificial satellites come crashing down.

Gradually, it becomes apparent that the world is put into the Spin, as it is called, a sort of membrane which shields the earth from space and time. Only a modulated sun penetrates the Spin, and inside the barrier, time is almost standing still. This enables the author to incorporate fairly original ideas into the framework of the novel, which constitutes at least half of the snails I am awarding it.

What is happening? Why is it happening? Who is responsible? These are all questions posed by the novels three main characters throughout the entirety of the novel. They are three teenagers who happen to be outdoors under the stars the night the earth is put into the Spin. They are all profoundly affected by the momentous incident, but in divergent ways. Tyler, the most important of the characters and the narrator, is mostly a spectator, being more affected by other people’s responses than by any genuine conviction of his own. The other two main characters, the twins Diane and Jason, represent two widely different approaches to the unknown and frightening phenomenon of the Spin. Diane resorts to religious notions of salvation and Armageddon, whereas Jason’s approach is purely scientific as he dedicates his life to a scrutiny of the Spin.

As the novel proceeds, my high spirits inexorably falters, only to flare up briefly at the very end of the novel. Robert Charles Wilson does an excellent job in exploring the consequences of his Spin incident, and he does it in a way which is connected with deeply human emotions not in any way limited to such supernatural events as the focus of this novel. Also, Tyler’s relationship to the twins, his love for Diane and his admiration for Jason, are complicated and feel genuine. It is carefully narrated and brings about real feeling for the characters. In other words, I get to know them and care what happens to them.

The drawback is that the novel is way too long. There are chinks of light in the otherwise fairly slow narration, but they are few and far between. This is really a pity, because otherwise Wilson seems to be a competent writer, able to sustain thrill and wonder, only that is sadly impossible when so little happens on the 500 pages of the novel. The question I asked my self over and over as I read Spin, was: Is the ending worth waiting for? It had better be, because otherwise this is a waste of time.

Fortunately, the end is worth waiting for, which makes the book more that just worthwhile. However, I feel I cannot give it more than three and a half snails for reasons already mentioned. On the other hand, I have no difficulties understanding why many consider it the best science fiction novel published in 2005, but being sensitive to excessively long novels, I am not among their numbers.

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