by Robert Charles Wilson
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Robert Charles Wilson is known for writing novels in which enormous events change the way our world works, whether it is the introduction of time-controlling monuments in Chronoliths or the link between Blind Lake and UMa47/E. In Spin, Wilson's word changing event is the blotting out of the stars and moon by a strange artifact known as the Spin.
Wilson's story follows the Lawton twins, Jason and Diane, and is told by their childhood friend, Tyler Dupree. Only adolescents when the Spin made the stars go out, each of the three is affected in a different way. Jason, already marked as a genius and his wealthy father's heir, turns to science in his quest to understand the Spin. Diane, overshadowed by her twin brother, looks to religion in an effort to make heads or tales of the new reality. Tyler, who has the least to lose, becomes a physician, working for Jason.
The Spin appears, at first, to be merely a mcguffin, a device to set Wilson's more relationship based story into motion. However, it does play an enormous role in the novel as Jason (and others) determine its characteristics and use them to further their goals. Wilson is careful to reveal these things slowly and in a way which isn't always immediately apparent to the reader. Spin is set in two different continuums. In first is mostly in chronological order, from the night the stars went out through the Lawtons and Dupree's adulthood. The second continuum follows immediately from that timeline, but is broken up throughout the novel. It reveals the future of the world, the Spin, and the characters.
Told from Tyler's point of view, there is a clear pro-science, anti-religious bent to the novel. However, rather than presenting a broad attack on religion, Wilson narrows his attack to focus on millennialist cults which focus on the end of the world and use current events to interpret the Bible. Much of this attack comes not just from the anti-science tack so many of those cults take, but from the fact that Diane, who was Tyler's first love, has become involved in one such cult and, to Tyler's mind, taken from him by it and her husband, Simon.
In the end, Wilson does provide an explanation, although not a full one, for the Spin, and introduces yet another mysterious artifact, the Arch (actually, the Arch is introduced fairly early on). His world is completely transformed by both of these things and he looks at not only the way it changes the attitudes of individuals, but also how it changes the way different generations perceive the world.
Wilson's novel has all the trappings of a hard science fiction, but is more focused on the human relationships and the effects of scientific progress on the human psyche. Wilson does a good job handling the Lawtons and Tyler, fleshing all of them out, even when they appear distant. Their relationships build on what has previously happened to them as do their reactions to the Spin.
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