Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson

When they were young teens together three friends witnessed an event that transformed the world. While outside under a night sky the moon and stars suddenly disappeared. This book follows the lives of Tyler Dupree and his friends, fraternal twins Diane and Jason Lawton, through their lives under what has come to be called The Spin.

As the story develops it’s learned that the earth has been surrounded by a shroud, apparently put there by an unknown alien race known only as The Hypotheticals as they’ve never been seen.

The motive for placing this shield is unknown. Is it for protection? A prison? All that’s known at first is that all satellites have come crashing to earth, interrupting GPS and communications, and that the sun is visible but filtered through this screen. The mere presence of The Spin begins to alter the politics and cultures on earth. New religions arise. Some are licentious cults, others new forms of Dispensationalism.

It’s also eventually discovered that time under the shield moves more slowly than the universe on the other side —¬†over three years for every second on earth. Out of this develops a plan spearheaded by Diane and Jason’s father. Mars could be remotely terraformed and seeded with life, evolving¬†at a speed so high compared to earth that within a few years those on earth could move there. In fact, it does lead to contact with evolved humans, a traveller named Wun Ngo Wen, who brings new science and medicine to the earth.

Wilson writes beautifully. And it may be that I just finished a book from Margaret Atwood but Canadian science fiction writers seem to have unique sensibilities. There seems to be a deeper social consciousness (or, if you prefer, liberalism from the land of free health care) regarding economics and the environment. And, like Atwood, Wilson makes religious figures fully human, not just a caricature. One of the religions that develops is the New Kingdom movement. A member named Simon gets close to Diane. Simon is portrayed as a true seeker in a faith that begins to turn inward, keeping Diane and Tyler out of touch for a time. Wilson is keen enough to know the difference between dispensationalism and fundamentalism, brings in the prophecy of the red calf, and sometimes has a biblical lyricism in his prose. The science in the book is excellent and well thought out, but he doesn’t short change or minimize other characters which can be rare in the genre.

Because the book travels back and forth from the childhood of the three main characters, events leading to the end of the book, and details that link the two together it’s hard to summarize the plot. I can only say that the narrative flow is excellent and all makes sense at the end.

I grabbed this book because I decided to try to catch up on past Hugo and Nebula award winners recently. This book by Robert Charles Wilson was published in 2005 and won the Hugo for best novel in 2006. This book is first of a trilogy. The other books are Axis (already on my Kindle) and Vortex. I’ll review the rest of the trilogy soon and hope that by going through some older award winning books you and I can fill some gaps in our reading.