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The Chronoliths
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Book Club Discussions > THE CHRONOLITHS: General Discussion (*spoilers*)

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message 1: by John, Moderator in Memory (last edited Nov 13, 2011 09:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
Our group read for November 15 - December 15 is The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson.

The Chronoliths is a 2001 science fiction novel by Robert Charles Wilson. It was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel and tied for the 2002 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

About the Author
Robert Charles Wilson was born in California and grew up in Canada. He is the author of many acclaimed SF novels, including A Hidden Place, The Divide, Gypsies, Bios, Darwinia, and The Chronoliths. His work has won the John W. Campbell Award, the Aurora Award, and two Philip K. Dick Awards. He lives near Toronto.


message 2: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments I liked Spin so much that whenever I saw another of his books in a thrift store or library sale I nabbed it. Not so impressive, to my taste, were Blind Lake and Darwinia. But I'm really looking forward to this one!


message 3: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments (The poll says we're to read this Dec/Jan, though - and your first post says Nov/Dec... are we bouncing around travelling through Time ourselves?)


message 4: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
Oops, my bad. This group read is schedlued for Nov. 15 through Dec. 15. Thanks for pointing that out Cheryl.


message 5: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
The poll description has been corrected to eliminate further confusion. Sorry about that.


message 6: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments Ok, I better get offline and get reading then!


Tyler Volz (starbreaker) | 10 comments I'm gonna start reading this in a couple of days.


Aloha After I'm done with books I'm currently reading, I was going to start on the Connie Willis time travel series. But it'd be nice to read a time travel book others are reading for discussion purposes. I'm still debating whether to start on the Wilis series first or this.


message 9: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
We would love to have you read with us and join the discussion, Aloha.


Aloha Okay, John. I will. I'm sampling SciFi authors now since it's a new reading passion, and I have not read a Robert Charles Wilson.


message 11: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments I'm done with Chronoliths - and I enjoyed it very much. I hope we can discuss it soon. :)


message 12: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
I'm hoping to get caught up over the Thanksgiving weekend. I will then try to come up with some questions to help get us started on what I think will be a great discussion.


Tyler Volz (starbreaker) | 10 comments You won't be disappointed by going with either Willis or Wilson. Both fantastic authors.


Aloha Thanks. Willis won several awards, so I'm thinking her writing must be terrific. Then again, I couldn't get into Mieville.


message 15: by Amy, Queen of Time (last edited Nov 23, 2011 08:12AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
I'm about a 1/4 of the way through, and it's not compelling me to read it like most Wilson books have. I assume it picks up later on?

What do you guys think about the protagonist? His ex-wife and father seem to think of him as a lazy good-for-nothing type of guy. Yet, what I'm reading about him doesn't add up to that. She divorces him for being out of pocket during a family emergency he knew nothing about while he was being detained for being too near the Chronoliths. That seems extreme. I would hope my husband wouldn't divorce me for not being able to be reached one day when my phone ran out of battery charge. I think I would have been divorced long ago if that were the case. It's not as if the protagonist is floating through life without having income either. He has a job, a car, and is able to afford half of the surgery for his daughter. That's not shabby. I'm just having difficulty connecting the image others have of this guy with actuality.


message 16: by John, Moderator in Memory (last edited Nov 23, 2011 08:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
I agree, Amy. Everyone seems to have a negative opinion of the guy, but he seems to be fairly decent. I do think there was more behind the divorce than simply missing his daughter's emergency. I think the wife didn't like their lifestyle or living in a foreign country. Still, it's not like he was an abuser or a cheater. As someone who has been through a divorce, I can relate. I hope she will come to regret her decision and maybe give him another chance.


message 17: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments A misunderstood hero is a popular device, and that's what he seems to me.

Interesting though what we think of as 'picking up.' I'm not big on action, but for those of us who are, I would think the beginning with the appearance of the first monolith and the shenanigans our hero(es) had to go through to get a look, would qualify as exciting. And yet just presenting adventure isn't enough - it has to be well-written enough to be compelling.

In any case, I think maybe you will be better off if you put it down for a day or two until you're in a better mood for it.


message 18: by Amy, Queen of Time (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
I thought it strange that the protagonist made special mention that he was picking up his daughter in a "secondhand car". It's so odd to me that he sees that as even being worth mention. Maybe his ex-wife is from a very wealthy family and she's married "beneath her". Another thing mentioned is that she always has worried that he'd leave her. Perhaps she decided to leave him before he leaves her and confirms her fears. Still, it doesn't add up to me. There seems to be some missing information.

The first chronolith showing up is interesting enough. It's just not as compelling a read as many of Wilson's other books are. I think that perhaps it's because we start out knowing too much about the future of the book in the beginning: that there are multiple chronoliths that will appear and where they supposedly came from. So it reading feels like hurtling toward a known future where the author is just filling in the blanks in between. A book is more compelling for me when the future is unknown and each new unfolding is unexpected.


message 19: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
The first part of the book was a little slow for me as well. The explanation of the chronoliths and how and when they appeared wasn't super exciting. Yet, I understand that it is necessary for the story. The second part of the story is turning out to be much more exciting.


message 20: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
Quick question. What is the proper pronunciation of "Kuin?" Is it "koon" or "quinn." Perhaps someone has another option.


message 21: by Amy, Queen of Time (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
I've been saying "kyu-in" ... rhymes with ruin.


message 22: by John, Moderator in Memory (last edited Nov 27, 2011 07:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
Oh, that makes sense. Thanks.


message 23: by John, Moderator in Memory (last edited Nov 29, 2011 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
Okay, here are some discussion questions to help prompt some discussion among our group. Please feel free to discuss other topics that may not be addressed in these questions. I will post a spoiler warning to the title of this discussion thread to allow us to talk freely about the book and the interesting paradox that is presented.

1. Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?

2. Did you feel that the ending fulfilled your expectations? Were you disappointed?

3. Which came first the chicken (Kuin) or the egg (Chronoliths)? In other words, do you think the Chronoliths changed history or were they a result of that change?


message 24: by Amy, Queen of Time (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
And another question:
4. Do the pilgrims to the Chronoliths bear any resemblance to the group of people involved in the USA's current Occupy and/or Tea Party movements?


message 25: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments 4. I get the sense that Wilson is emphasizing that part of human nature that makes us want to belong to a group, to feel the comraderie of a common mission. There are certainly members of both real life groups that are more into the group, than into the details of the mission, in that sense.


message 26: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments 2. Well, I kinda wanted everything to be explained. As of now, I have no idea how to answer 3. because of the ending. Gotta find my copy - in the meantime I hope someone else posts a clue...


Aloha I finished it last week, but didn't find it very interesting. The idea is intriguing, but the way it was handled wasn't that interesting to me. I'm trying to form in my mind why it didn't held my interest. Boy, I keep repeating "no interest" a lot. LOL


Sarebear | 2 comments I really enjoyed this book; it made you have to work just a little bit to work out the implications near the end; I liked that, sometimes some books beat you over the head with things that are too obvious.


message 29: by John, Moderator in Memory (last edited Dec 07, 2011 07:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
I read many reviews of this book as I was trying to decide which book to vote for this month. Most of the negative reviews had to do with how disappointed the reader was to find out that there was no Kuin. I think they missed the point of the story, which is to discover where the idea of Kuin came from and the change brought about by the Chronoliths. I also loved the ending because the rest of the story sort of becomes obvious when you realize what lead up to the Chronoliths. What blows my mind is the question of which came first, the Chronoliths or the "Cult of Kuin?" Was there an actual Kuin who started this with perhaps just a single Chronolith but became absorbed into the cult which carried on his legacy and sent back additional Chronoliths in an effort to further the cause (the feedback effect)? I personally don't think either came first. I think the Chronoliths were a product of the Kuinist movement, which was a product of the Chronoliths--the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.


message 30: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
I have created a new poll where you can rate this book. I still encourage you to rate the book through the normal method, but this allows us to see what our group members thought of the book apart form the general public.

http://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/57...


message 31: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments I'm still puzzling a bit over the background setting. It seems that humanity hasn't made a lot of progress in the, what, 100+ years. We're still driving cars, we still have pretty much the same nations & alliances... 'course the economy is messed up and a lot of people are not doing well....

Can anyone elaborate, clarify, explain?


Sarebear | 2 comments Well this was written in what, 2001? And probably pre-9/11 as well. I noted a wierdness in that sense, that they hadn't had either that disaster nor obviously the indian ocean tsunami that so devastated Thailand.

Flat screen tv's were alot more expensive back then and newer technology; smart phones, if any, were probably not understood yet by most authors. I actually thought he did decently well extrapolating out from year 2000 technology (it's surprising how far some stuff has come since then, the ipod was only intro'd in what, 1999?)


message 33: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments And see that's the thing - I look at how fast technology changes, and to me it seems like he's describing stuff that could easily be happening by, say 2030 or so. Why did he set it so far in the future?


Tyler Volz (starbreaker) | 10 comments Poorly plotted, uninteresting and underdeveloped characters, unneccessary violence towards women, and an unsatisfying ending. An interesting premise is squandered. The first 50 pages are great, but Wilson quickly has no idea where he's going.


message 35: by Adam (new) - added it

Adam | 43 comments John wrote: "I read many reviews of this book as I was trying to decide which book to vote for this month. Most of the negative reviews had to do with how disappointed the reader was to find out that there was..."

I liked how the book played against my expectations. Even when I skimmed some of the reviews before reading the book, I was still hoping for the villain, for Kuin, to show up. And I can see how that would bother some people. But it's not about that. Like you said of it being a self-fulfilling prophecy, it's a question of causality, the old "which came first, the chicken or the egg" paradox that's interesting. Neither Kuin nor the Chronoliths would have happened without the other. Which came first is hard to say when dealing with time travel. To me, maybe the question of chronology becomes irrelevant. Cause and effect are so intertwined in this story, does it matter? [Thus I expose my philosophical laziness. Of COURSE the egg came first, of COURSE the tree makes a sound when it falls in the woods, sheesh!]

The world that Wilson depicts after the Chronoliths arrive was fascinating. Even through Scott Warden's narrow perspective, you got a sense that the world went to hell. I could only imagine the helplessness one would feel if one knew world domination was imminent (at the very least it would be a major drag on travel plans, what with a giant statue dropped in middle of a city and all). I felt the author painted a very Dystopian picture, a very gloom-and-doom world of reactionary governments, mass hysteria and cults all trying to deal with this perceived threat.

My initial expectations from the story was some eventual mega future war initiated by Kuin. But the real danger wasn't a mysterious figure bent on world domination. It was the actions (or reactions) of the characters themselves (in this case Scott Warden and those closest to him), that had the most significant consequences. Even as gloomy as this story was, I think it's still about having the power (or fighting to get that power) to change your fate. That the future isn't written.

As another reviewer mentioned, another great thing about the book is that the author didn't spell anything out for the reader. Is it safe to assume that the name Kuin was derived from Adam's middle name, "Quinn?" If I remember correctly he dismissed this as coincidence. Not me!


Overall, a very worthwhile read.


message 36: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments "My initial expectations from the story was some eventual mega future war initiated by Kuin. But the real danger wasn't a mysterious figure bent on world domination. It was the actions (or reactions) of the characters themselves (in this case Scott Warden and those closest to him), that had the most significant consequences."

Yes! Well put. Exactly.


message 37: by John, Moderator in Memory (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 834 comments Mod
I agree, Cheryl. A great job by Adam on analyzing this book. I agree with just about everything Adam said with the exception of the chicken/egg debate. Everyone knows that the chicken came first.


message 38: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 858 comments heh


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