Sunday, June 6, 2010

Recently Read: The Chronoliths

This might be something that I do only once or twice before becoming lazy again, but I want to start writing down my thoughts about stuff I read. Sometimes I remember liking a book but can't remember specific plot points or reasons I liked it. Numerical ratings are quick, but don't really remind me of a whole lot. This is book #21 of this year, for the record.

Robert Charles Wilson is one of those science fiction writers that's fond of introducing a single grandiose change into the world and then spending the rest of the novel exploring how it affects the lives of his characters. This time it's a series of enormous monoliths, apparently sent back in time to commemorate the military victory of a leader known only as "Kuin". The obvious question to ask is whether Kuin's takeover is inevitable or not, and whether these "Chronoliths" truly respresent Kuin's domination of the world or if they're just a bluff sent back in time to change the past and ensure Kuin's rise to power. The main character, Scott, has just undergone a rather messy divorce and is recruited to investigate the true nature of the Chronoliths. Wilson uses the Chronoliths to examine questions of determinism in the context of a life filled with mistakes and regrets. If the future is inevitable, can we be held responsible for the ways in which we've erred or even try to avoid mistakes at all? While the societal upheaval that follows is interesting and meticulously imagined, following Scott through the chaos is what keeps this book interesting. The focus here isn't the spectacle itself (something I've always disliked about Clarke, and to a lesser extent Asimov), but the ways in which it affects real people.

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