Axis (Spin), by Robert Charles Wilson
At the end of the first book of the Spin trilogy Spin, Tyler Dupree and Diane Lawton cross over from earth to a new planet using a vortex set up by an unseen species that humans call the Hypotheticals. At the start of that book the Hypotheticals surrounded earth with a barrier. Inside time moved slowly. Outside time ran several times faster. Was this for protection? Punishment? At the end of the book it’s unclear and in this book is only hinted at.
What has become clear is that the Hypotheticals, whatever their motives, have engineered this new planet specifically for the survival of humans.
There is a whole new set of characters in this book. Lise Adams is looking for her father who disappeared ten years earlier. She teams up with Turk Findlay, a sailor who has decided to travel with her. Meanwhile, a group on the planet headed by Dr. Avram Dvali have given a powerful Martian drug to a boy named Isaac. (Avram/Abram … Isaac. I see an allegory working itself out here.) This treatment, which turns him into a Martian “Fourth”, is gradually allowing Isaac to talk to understand the Hypotheticals. But the treatment is illegal and there’s a group called The Department of Genomic Security that’s hunting for him and other fourths. Meanwhile a passing comet scatters dust onto the planet which seems to be made up of tiny prototypes of creation.
The book drags here and there but Wilson keeps things moving by working back and forth between the two main storylines. There are quite a few interesting characters, but the character of Isaac was particularly compelling as his skills develop. The last book of the trilogy Vortex is already on my shelf.