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Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson
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's review
Aug 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, science-fiction
Read in August, 2011

And this trilogy goes out with a . . . let’s be a teensy bit generous and call it a muffled bang.

So one of the main reasons I loved Spin so much was it paralleled a people story with a cosmic story in this remarkable way. It gave us sweeping epochs of galactic time and the daily quotidiana of an incestuous bunch of people in the same breath, and didn’t lose the scale or the wonder of either. And it was really good at making the cosmic scale stuff so urgent, so interesting because it was so urgent and interesting and inexplicable to the people, and I got really invested in everything they did to try and figure out the fuck was happening to the human race.

This book explains what was happening. And it’s . . . I . . . hmm. It’s a really nihilist answer. “And now the stone had rolled away, revealing only the weakling prophet of a mindless god,” as one of the characters describes a similar moment, in a classically Wilsonian turn of phrase. Painfully so, for me, because the explanation rendered unto dust all the best parts of Spin the way they struggled individually and societally, how fucking smart they got when they had to, and how scared. That was hard.

Except Wilson knew that. And this is what leaves him a cut above the other guys writing stuff in the same ballpark as him. Stephen Baxter never would have brought this book back around in the moment of its deepest nihilism, and rested a quiet, gentle counter-argument on the tiny actions of one person, spreading to another, to another. And make it actually work for me. Make it move me over what happens to two or three people on one random summer night in Texas, while the main bulk of the story is taking place at the heat death of the universe (not a metaphor).

So yeah. It’s not a perfect book. The first half is really slow, and he throws around a lot of important words like “conscience” and “agency” in this slapdash way where I kept snapping at him to fucking define his terms! But he pulled it out in the end, yeah. Spin is still the best of the trilogy by a lot, but this is not disappointing.
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