Robert Charles Wilson
Tor, 2005 (2005)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his story spans over four billion years in the universe, but not even a lifetime on Earth. How can that be? Read on. The book opens far, far in the future with an image of two people waiting for some sort of an ending, then fades fast back to the beginning of it all in the Big House.
here we meet fraternal twins Jason and Diane, the children of rich industrialist E.D. Lawton. The teens' friendship with their housekeeper's son Tyler stands the test of time. The three were in the garden '
the night the stars disappeared from the sky.
' It eventually becomes clear that Earth is enclosed in '
', a protective sphere that's shooting them forward in time - three years per second of Earth time. There's immediate havoc - satellites fall down, global communication is disrupted, and people panic. Many theories develop about whoever or whatever made this happen, '
s the infrastructure is slowly rebuilt, E.D. seizes the opportunity to grab wealth and power, grooming Jason as his heir. There are many subplots in this novel, one covering the growing conflict between Jason and E.D., another about the (mostly unconsummated) love that develops between Diane and Tyler. All three friends react differently to the global disaster. Jason follows (for a while) in his father's footsteps, Diane joins a hyper religious cult and marries a fellow cult member, while Tyler becomes a doctor and remains close to Jason.
fter the discovery that the membrane around Earth is permeable to manmade objects, E.D.'s company, Perihelion, launches a program to terraform and colonize Mars. An advanced civilization develops there over the millions of years that pass as weeks on Earth. We then follow the complex interactions between the descendants of two human societies that have developed along very different paths. As billions of years pass outside Earth's shell, the sun grows old. Is this the end for humankind?
is well-realized speculative fiction, in which Robert Charles Wilson has written credible human responses to the strange circumstances he set up. As one character says, '
The world is full of surprises ... We're all born strangers to ourselves and each other, and we're seldom formally introduced.
' Though the author tantalizes his readers for the first third of the book, which is a little hard to get into, the remainder more than makes up for it.
, which I highly recommend to you, fittingly ends with stars that are '
new and strange.
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