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The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
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bookshelves: fiction, science-fiction

In our near future, the chronoliths start arriving out of thin air across the world – enormous, destructive monuments to conquests that, according to the engravings, won’t occur for twenty more years. Scott writes his memoir, telling of his presence at the arrival of the first chronolith in Thailand and the set of extraordinary experiences that keep his life entwined with the mystery and the slim hope of averting global disaster. The chronoliths arrive from the future, and they bring with them a bending of reality, a shift of the rules of time and coincidence and destiny that has very intimate consequences for Scott and his family.

Dude! It’s a proto Spin! Seriously – we’ve got the fictionalized memoir style, the near future setting and focus on the global sociological response to disaster, the blend of abstract theory and intense character work. Not as good as Spin, as you might expect if we assume this really was Wilson’s warm-up book – the memoir style is unfocussed and a bit wobbly here, the drama yanked a bit too taut in places, some shiny theory of the temporal physics of coincidence used to justify some otherwise indefensible plot devices without actually illuminating those devices as it could have. I also saw the endgame coming quite far off.

But if you ask me, ‘not as good as Spin’ is still saying a whole lot. Wilson has a real flare for both sink-your-teeth-in science and for compelling, personal character work. Unusual for the genre, sad to say. He also deals with big sociological change in impressive, detailed ways. And I just like his books. They make sense to me; they work on a rhythm I’m naturally tuned to, intellectually and emotionally. The puzzles appeal to the philosopher in me, and the writing feels comfortable and right (not coincidentally, I think, Wilson and I have a congruent prose style).

Time has an arrow, Sue Chopra once told me. It flies in one direction. Combine fire and firewood, you get ashes. Combine fire and ashes, you don't get firewood.

Morality has an arrow, too. For example: Run a film of the Second World War backward and you invert its moral logic. The Allies sign a peace agreement with Japan and promptly bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nazis extract bullets from the heads of emaciated Jews and nurse them back to health.

The problem with tau turbulence, Sue said, is that it mingles these paradoxes into daily experience.

In the vicinity of a Chronolith, a saint might be a very dangerous man. A sinner is probably more useful.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
December 28, 2008 – Shelved
January 2, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction
January 9, 2009 – Shelved as: science-fiction

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Lola171 I love that quote-- great choice!

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