Written By Robert Charles Wilson
Obviously we love science fiction books here at CineGeek. We also like character driven stories, not just a bunch of techno-babble for a few hundred pages. With that in mind I cracked open Spin.
At first glance this book may seem thematically familiar. In fact there’s one plot device that’ll be extremely familiar to fans of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of books.
A young boy, Tyler, and his genius friend Jason and Jason’s sister Dianne are all hanging out together while Jason and Dianne’s parents are hosting a party in their huge house. Everything starts out typical enough until suddenly while they are outside, all the stars disappear from the sky.
Two artifacts have placed themselves in space at the North and South Poles. These artifacts are somehow responsible for a mysterious covering that engulfs the Earth. There is still a sun, but it’s a manufactured sun, simply there to keep Earth’s inhabitants alive. The tides still turn properly, so the moon’s still out there too. The new dome does in fact render satellites useless spurring a new business started by Jason’s father E.D. in which he puts cell phone repeaters and other devices that were once commonplace on satellites on blimp like high altitude crafts.
The new starless world causes chaos, and even after people settle into this new existence some of the changes that took place have stuck around, such as new religious groups dedicated to living life to the fullest before the world ends. Then sure enough E.D. and Jason’s company discovers that in fact unless something can be done the world will be destroyed.
This book features a very Michael Crichton-ish sort of approach minus his modern sociopolitical approach. Without that bit of modernization the book can feel a little out of time, which might be purposeful. The final act of the story is very Crichton influenced bringing in some nanotech techno babble.
Oddly this book handles character development better than the science fiction aspect with Tyler, Jason, and Dianne all being intriguing characters. The book follows the three of them in flashback from Tyler’s perspective as they grow up and go their separate ways and come back together at various points in their lives. It’s almost like the science fiction theme and events were tools used for dramatic impact on the development of the characters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I enjoyed these characters.
There are some good twists throughout the book but things often feel overly complex toward the end leading to a bit of an anti-climactic ending, at least for the science fiction aspect. The character finale was satisfying with the final moments feeling complete but open ended enough for this book to become the first in a series. This may be the book you can share with your wife or girlfriend because even with my complaints the science fiction is well balanced throughout the book with character development and relationships that are meaningful to the overall story.
Spin is a good read even if the end seems a little anticlimactic. I’d like to see additional books written because I liked the characters and I’d come back for a second book just to see what happens to the characters.