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February 16, 2006

Spin
Posted by Patrick at 03:19 PM *

I generally don’t put inside-baseball science-fiction-field stuff like this onto Making Light, and moreover I generally avoid making specific award recommendations, because I work with a lot of authors who have a lot of different strengths and who needs the invidious comparisons? However, in this case, I’m going to risk making an exception. I want to urge everyone who’s planning to nominate in this year’s Hugo Awards to consider a book I think is one of the finest science fiction novels of the last decade, Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin.

To quote the hardcover flap copy, which I feel entitled to do since I mostly wrote it:

One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.

The effect is worldwide. The “sun” is now a featureless disk—a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. And not only have the world’s artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, but their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they’d been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, space probes reveal a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside—more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.

Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister cult leader who’s forged a new religion out of the fears of the masses.

Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work, turning the planet green. Then they send humans…and immediately get back an emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars. Then Earth’s probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars. Jason, desperate, seeds near-space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun—and report back on what they find.

Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.

Publishers Weekly called it “an astonishingly successful melange of SF thriller, tender love story, father-son conflict, ecological parable, and apocalyptic fable.” The Washington Post said “The long-anticipated marriage between the hard sf novel and the literary novel, resulting in an offspring possessing the robust ideational vigor of the former with the graceful narrative subtleties of the latter, might finally have occurred in the form of Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin.” Denver�s Rocky Mountain News called it “the best science fiction novel so far this year.”

Since his debut with 1986’s A Hidden Place, Robert Charles Wilson has turned out a distinguished body of science fiction novels and stories, most of which turn on some kind of radical intrusion of the outrageously strange into the well-observed, realistically-portrayed lives of his (usually contemporary) characters. But Spin represents one of those stunning leaps upward that sometimes happen to writers in mid-career, comparable to what Vernor Vinge did when he published his extraordinary A Fire Upon the Deep, save that Wilson was leaping up from an even higher level.

A great deal of science fiction is about what the field’s insiders often call “sense of wonder,” a quality not entirely unrelated to the good old Romantic Sublime. Many of the genre’s classics are in essence carefully-tuned machines designed to attract readers whose primary conscious loyalty is to rationalism, and lead them by a series of plausible contrivances to a sudden crescendo of mystical awe. This is an important part of SF from Olaf Stapledon to William Gibson and beyond. Lifelong readers of the genre are pushovers for this trick, so much so that we routinely forgive a multitude of sins: scientistic handwaving, tenuous logic, and the constant sensation of the author�s elbow in our ribs. Pretty cool, huh? Robert Charles Wilson�s elbow is never in our ribs. Perhaps better than any of the classic SF masters, Wilson understands the power of the reaction shot, the fact that the Great Strangeness is ever so much more powerful, more transforming if we experience it through the eyes and reactions of characters we’ve been made to believe in and care about very much indeed. And he does it all in a plain middlebrow manner without flimflam or stylistic show.

Published last year in hardcover, Spin is now out in mass-market paperback. Whether or not you’re part of the science-fiction community and its various awards, pick up a copy and give it a try. It’s one of the great SF novels of this generation.

Comments on Spin:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:38 PM:

Full disclosure: Obviously Spin was published by my employer, Tor Books. In addition, it was ably edited by Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

#2 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:56 PM:

those darn huge alien artifacts, always messing up life on earth. Unless, of course, it's the huge atmosphere alien artifact on Mars in Total Recall, which was benevolent. But that was Mars, I suppose.

Seriously though, I just might have to pick up a copy. Sounds interesting.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:57 PM:

I loved A Hidden Place... As for Spin, I had read about it in Locus, and it sounded very interesting, but I thought I'd wait until the paperback was out. Thanks for the reminder.

By the way, could Making Light be nominated for the Hugo's fanzine award?

#4 ::: Gabe ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Geez, that sounds fantastic. I will have to email Dot about getting a copy for review.

#5 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:10 PM:

Unfortunately I keep mixing him up with Robert Anton Wilson. (Also, and with far less excuse: Walter Jon Williams with Lawrence Watt Evans. Worse, or perhaps better, still: Lerner & Loew with Leopold & Loeb.)

Fortunately, your description reminded me of Darwinia, which, of course, same guy! And it rocked! Also The Perseids and Other Stories!

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:22 PM:

I am now making bets with myself about what-is-really-going-on in Spin...

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:49 PM:

The Too-Many-Robert-Wilsons Problem has manifested itself in a variety of ways. The reference series Contemporary Authors once published an entire selection of review clips about the author of the Illuminatus! trilogy and Einstein On the Beach.

#8 ::: Chuk ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:50 PM:

Spin probably is his best, but anyone who hasn't read any of Wilson's other books has lots of treats coming. I only started with (I think) Darwinia, but The Chronoliths was the one that really clicked. He really does well developed realistic human characters, almost like something you'd see in lit-fic (except not quite so dreary, usually).

#9 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:51 PM:

"Lerner & Loew with Leopold & Loeb."

Rodgers and Hammerstein with Roy and Dale?

Sounds like a fascinating premise for a novel; I'm gonna go see if I have any of those Borders coupons left.

#10 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Awww, Patrick - it's the inside-baseball science-fiction-field bits that are the most fascinating to some of us (well...to me anyway). Of course ML is such heady stuff to begin with, that's saying something.

Take the lame NPRish long-time-listener, first-time-poster, intimidated-as-heck stuff as read.

#11 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 05:13 PM:

...There's an opportunity for an 'all the Robert Wilsons' anthology here...

#12 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 05:20 PM:

Well, that sounds like an endorsement.

That's not even the first recommendation I've heard for Spin.

So, ok, I'll put it on my list. Thanks for the tip.

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 05:25 PM:

If it's as good as Mysterium I'll buy it. It certainly sounds like a worthwhile read.

I have to say, Patrick, you write a mean blurb.

#14 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:12 PM:

I've been on the edge on going to Worldcon (It would be my first -- I really should have gone to ConJose which was closer) and this just gives me more reason. I'll go check out the paperback.

#15 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:17 PM:

Thanks for the tip off, Patrick. It goes onto my wishlist immediately. Darwinia was excellent, so anything that represents a big step up from there should be impressive.

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Jason seeds near-space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun and report back on what they find.

Well, there goes the neighborhood...

#17 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:35 PM:

Many of the genres classics are in essence carefully-tuned machines designed to attract readers whose primary conscious loyalty is to rationalism, and lead them by a series of plausible contrivances to a sudden crescendo of mystical awe.

I just want to sit and admire this sentence for a while. Bravo!

(In other news, Robert Rathbun Wilson's widow died this week, six years after her husband did.)

#18 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:56 PM:

And its, if you are inclined to shop there, apparently part of Amazon's 4 books for the price of 3 sale (Many many other SF paperbacks being part of the sale, too, it must be said)

#19 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:59 PM:

Ever since I happened across Harvest some years ago ("I liked the cover!"), Robert Charles Wilson has been one of my favorite SF writers. I've read not quite all of his works, but nearly all, and I can't believe I was so distracted as to not get around to buying and reading Spin yet.

He is just exactly my kind of SF writer, primarily because, as Patrick says, most of his works "turn on some kind of radical intrusion of the outrageously strange into the well-observed, realistically-portrayed lives of his (usually contemporary) characters."

Not that my recommendation means squat to anybody, but I did want to pipe up in favor of the man and his work. It's the least I could do for all the SF reading pleasure he has given me over the years.

#20 ::: Lawrence Watt Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:04 PM:

Avram confuses me with Walter Jon Williams? That's a new one. I think I'm flattered.

I did get to read my own obituary once, when someone got me confused with Karl Edward Wagner. That was very weird.


#21 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Not to take anything away from Spin, which really is great, but I thought The Chronoliths was just as good (or maybe a very small titch less good).

#22 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:08 PM:

Welly, well. I have as yet read none of Wilson's stuff, and I see that King County Library System has several copies of Spin on hand. And as I only got round to Fire Upon the Deep at the beginning of the year and had my socks rocked, I am now looking forward to a treat. Lucky me. Heck, at the very least, it's gotta be better than Jim Butcher and Chris Bunch.

#23 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:09 PM:

Ooops. We weren't doing the invidious comparisons.

#24 ::: Soli ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:54 PM:

Oh, yay! My horribly stuffy university has a copy, and request is in. And more amusing, listings for four different Robert Charles Wilsons.

#25 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 08:24 PM:

I'm not nominating or voting, but I'll move Spin to the top of the piles.

I like a lot of RCWilson's books, but I thought Darwinia was a cheat.

#26 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 09:23 PM:

Not as if it needs more recommendation than that, but FWIW, I am firmly behind everything Patrick says on this. Spin is the best novel -- not just counting SF -- I have read in the last year and it is easily Wilson's best book.

In general I think that RCW deserves far more attention than he gets: he's produced a number of excellent, nuanced novels that seem to have gone without trace (especially A Hidden Place, Gypsies, and A Bridge of Years), the only common element being that they all had truly hideous cover art. For stuff still in print, Darwinia and Blind Lake are both excellent as well.

To cross over to the topic on "What Not to Say to Your Favorite Authors When You Meet Them," I met RCW once at Worldcon. "Hi. I really enjoy your books," I said. "Oh!" he replied, eyes widening in surprise. "Thank you!" It's like no one had ever said it to him before, which was likely not true as his novel was up for a Hugo that year. Maybe it's just that Canadian modesty thing.

#27 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 09:25 PM:

Copy ordered, sir!

#28 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 09:27 PM:

Hmm. Perhaps I have found airplane fodder for next week.

#29 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 09:49 PM:

I am another accidental RCW fan. I picked up Darwinia because I liked the name, the cover-art & the back-cover blurb, then had to buy & read all of his others.

His books are low-key, but interesting. To grossly generalize, I think there's usually one central & usually fairly simple novel idea to each book, and the book explores it while telling you a story. There aren't any gimmicks or twist-in-the-tale endings (a statement sure to produce some counterexamples now). Like I say, low-key. He reminds me Joe Haldeman in that.

I liked Darwinia a lot, and The Chronoliths was also excellent. Ditto A Hidden Place. (I didn't think much of Bios, but that's the only one I haven't liked a lot.)

Anyway, Spin was great. I am the world's worst book reviewer so if I tell you it was the uhhhh emotional depth of the characters & the story more than any great novelty to the setting that made it interesting please try not to laugh at me. He does a lot with the fairly-familiar isolated Earth scenario.

#30 ::: Noel ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:44 PM:

What an odd feeling, just having made similar (if far inferior) comments about Spin elsewhere, to click over to Making Light and find this. And while I'm under no illusion as to the weight of some random lurker's recommendations, Spin really is the best pure SF novel of the past decade (in part, certainly, because it works on many more levels than just straight hard SF), Wilson's best work (which is saying a lot, in this reader's opinion), and far and away the best of the novels I read last year. It's a book that makes me want to say, "Well, you aren't really an SF fan, then," to aficionados who haven't read it, and, "This will change your mind," to anybody who believes the field can't produce worthwhile fiction.

#31 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:54 PM:

I mentioned on the Boskone thread, on the question of What Not To Say to Famous Authors, that I'd made an arse of myself on meeting certain famous authors.

Robert Charles Wilson was my first unfortunate victim, and it was with the immortal question, "Hey, aren't you the Robert Charles Wilson who wrote the Illuminati! books?"

He gently corrected me, and I imploded with mortification, and apologised.

It is *some* comfort that I'm not the only one ever to make this stupid mistake.

This Spin book, though, sounds tremendous. Phwoar!

#32 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:05 AM:

Upstream Serge asked if Making Light was eligible for Fanzine Hugo. I think that's an interesting question; Our Hosts know what it's like to edit a damn good fanzine; does running Making Light feel like doing, say, Telos?


Somewhere in here is the Terry Carr bit about 1980's xeroxed fanzines -- he thought they were every bit as real as those mimeographed on twiltone. What mattered, Terry said, was to use the cheapest way available to communicate the ideas. Well, here we are. We've found a nearly frictionfree way of communicating the ideas...

#33 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 06:30 AM:

At the moment blogs, and fanzines without a print form, aren't eligible for the fanzine Hugo. Though there has been at least one winner with a pretty rudimentary print form.

{FLAME ON} It is of course, the content that counts, not the formatting. And I know that I am shouting with the voice of somebody whose ancient and no-longer relevant handcraft is dying. Nevertheless, my personal view is that we shouldn't give out our field's top award, one that's explicitly for print fanzines, to fanzines that don't display some rudimentary understanding of how to use words, graphics and art together.

I won't link to the Hugo-winning fanzine I'm thinking of. It has a 'print form'. The PDF issue in front of me dumps the website text to a two column format, adds a title, headers and footers, and a headline style. It does nothing else. There is no art. The text finishes half-way down page 43. There are headers alone at the bottom of pages, and half-sentences alone at the top of pages. The margins are the same left and right and the footer is the same on left and right pages. This sort of standard of print fanzine was quite common when I first did fanzines, but has mostly been replaced by LiveJournal. It seems to me obvious that it was the quality of the website, rather than the print zine, that resulted in the award. {FLAME OFF}

Should we find a better way to update the Best Fanzine award to encompass blogs, so that fabulous blogs like Making Light, that do seem to me to be delivering the authentic fanzine experience online, could be eligible? Yes. How? I have no earthly idea. It seems clear to me that the print fanzine isn't where it's at any more; there are some excellent ones but I get fewer each year. But lots of Hugo-smoffing type people have been thinking about this, and I don't think any of the suggestions that have come up so far really work. "Best fanblog" perhaps?

Other awards: some blogs might be eligible for the Nova, but the restrictions on electronic forms are pretty tight (specifically, a requirement for discrete issues). Unlike the Hugos, there's no serious risk of the fanzine Nova ever going to something that doesn't "feel like a fanzine". I don't know whether the FAAN awards include blogs; like the Nova, they're voted on by a tight, well-informed community.

#34 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 07:59 AM:

Aloson, looking at the supposedly professional content that's out there on the web,eyes straining againt grey text on gray, recoiling from the putrescent colour-schemes of some sites, and knowing how little attention gets paid to even carefully argued explanations of why a site design is fundamentally broken (and the user not using ntrnt xplrr is an excuse which warrants disemvowelment on sight), I have to wonder whether the medium is yet of sufficient quality to warrant a Blog Hugo.

#35 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:30 AM:

I find myself noticing that, after featuring Tyler Dupree's experience of the Big Blackout in the first paragraph, the blurb says not a word about what *he* did afterward. I wonder if this is significant.

(I suppose the only possible response to that is "Read the book and find out, already...")

#36 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:53 AM:

Even when he swings and misses (to continue the baseball metaphor) RCW keeps your attention because he's always trying to put the ball in a new part of the field.

(I loved Harvesst and wish someone : ) would bring it back into print)

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:59 AM:

Should we find a better way to update the Best Fanzine award to encompass blogs, so that fabulous blogs like Making Light, that do seem to me to be delivering the authentic fanzine experience online, could be eligible?

Yes, Alison, there is a way. Let's all converge to LAcon, dressed like mobsters and gun molls. Once we've found the Hugo Committee, we'll say that Ma Teresa wants us to take them for a ride.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 09:02 AM:

And, no, I'm not suggesting that I want to be the one to dress like a gun moll. For one thing, who ever heard of a bow-legged gun moll?

#39 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 11:56 AM:

I'm also a big fan of RCW's Harvest, John. Fortunately I still have a paperback copy. Have you tried to find it used on the Net? Amazon's got a few (paperback and hardback).

#40 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 12:03 PM:

Dave Bell seems to think that the existence of lousy-looking websites means that no website is Hugo-worthy, but I don't see that as a difference from print fanzines. The word "crudzine" was invented for a reason.

#41 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 12:09 PM:

That sounds like a book both my husband and I could get into, I'll have to lay hands on a copy.

I would never dare mix up Mr. Watt-Evans with anybody. The aforementioned husband would throw tomatoes at me.

#42 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 12:57 PM:

Rob, I do still have it, lovingly stowed away in my SF bookcase. It would be great if it was available on shelves to reach new readers. My experience with Borders and B&N is that they tend only to carry whatever RCW's latest is.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Alex Cohen writes that A Hidden Place and Wilson's other early books had truly hideous covers... Wasn't the cover by Jim Burns? It was a different style than that of the usual book art, but a style that suited the story's tone.

#44 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 01:59 PM:

Mirabile dictu, the Hawai'i State Library System has multiple copies of Spin, Darwinia and The Chronoliths. None of them happen to be at my local branch, but they're all on my list awaiting interlibrary transfers.

#45 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:22 PM:

Well, Spin is now on the New Book shelf at the local library, so I'll have to investigate. Darwinia certainly had some interesting ideas. I was a little disappointed by The Harvest,

[ROT13 "SPOILER"]

qhr gb gur ynpx bs nzovthvgl. Bar fvqr jnf fb pyrneyl gur "evtug" bar. Vg jnfa'g cbffvoyr gb ernyyl flzcnguvmr jvgu gur bgure fvqr'f cbvag bs ivrj, jvgu bar boivbhf rkprcgvba.

Oh, and Jesus gets killed in Passion of the Christ. (Hat tip to Penny Arcade.)

#46 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:39 PM:

This sounds like an excellent book that I must read very very soon.

But there's this little jabbering voice at the back of my head going, "Dude! It's just like what happened to the planet Krikkit in Life, the Universe, and Everything! Only in reverse! And done in a serious novel instead of a primarily funny one!"

...is it just me?

#47 ::: Mark Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:23 PM:

Thanks for the reminder. I have the SFBC edition at home, and I'll move it up to the top of the pile so it gets read before the nominating deadline. If it's truly a major leap above The Chronoliths, which I liked a whole lot, that's impressive.

2005 seems to have been a strong year. I just finished Charles Stross' Accelerando, which I loved, and I still have Gaiman's Anansi Boys and Martin's A Feast For Crows waiting for me.

#48 ::: Little Mr Square Eyes ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 06:28 PM:

"...is it just me?"

Not at all - FWIW it made me also think of Adams (but I will admit to being something of a genre ignoramus - the last sci-fi book I really enjoyed was Timescape by Gregory Benford). Will make a point of tracking down Spin.

#49 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 07:48 PM:

Serge: Gun-molls are bow-legged in winter, because an ice-pick carried in the stocking-top is chilly.

#50 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:48 PM:

Many of the genres classics are in essence carefully-tuned machines designed to attract readers whose primary conscious loyalty is to rationalism, and lead them by a series of plausible contrivances to a sudden crescendo of mystical awe.

Bill Higgins beat me to it as far as singling out that sentence, but I was going to say:

I wish I'd said that.

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 10:37 AM:

Got my copy of Spin. I'm starting it as soon as I'm done with John Hemry's last JAG-in-space novel, Against All Enemies. (Yeah, it is the last one, not the latest... I'm bummed and not just because it's one of the few military-SF novels that doesn't make me angry.)

#52 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 11:23 AM:

Gee, somebody at Locus reviewed it, but I haven't seen/reviewed any of his stuff since Darwinia back in '98 (shameless hint, hint). These days the boys seem to get most of the SF -- though I have seen some books with Barrier situations.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 11:56 AM:

How does a book wind up with this or that reviewer at Locus, Faren? Does it involve arm-wrestling in some cases?

#54 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:37 PM:

Great-- I know what to read next! (I liked Wilson's The Chronoliths, but it seemed like the work of an author with great potential rather than one who had arrived at the height of his powers.)

#55 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:48 PM:

...I think that when I saw the hardcover of Spin on the shelves, the initial set-up reminded me enough of Greg Egan's Quarantine and Robert Reed's Beneath the Gated Sky that it didn't grab me as particularly novel. (In fact, Reed is the author who I keep confusing with Robert Charles Wilson, for some reason.)

But it's the execution that matters in these things, and I like Wilson, so I'll be sure to give it a look. I wonder why stories that start with "one day, the stars went out" are so popular; either it's a basic archetype, or these guys all want to know what happened after the end of "The Nine Billion Names of God", or maybe both...

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:51 PM:

I have seen some books with Barrier situations.

How many of those are there around, Faren? There's Farmer's Walls of Terra, over 30 years ago. More recently, Robert Metzger's Picoverse dealt with humans creating artificial copies of our Universe, some no bigger than the solar system, and the smaller the pocket universe and the faster time flows inside it. Anything else?

#57 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:58 PM:

I agree wholeheartedly. Just read SPIN last week, and it is a an amazing book -- a rich human story, true sense of wonder, and an incredible panorama of scientific extrapolation. And, the ending is not a copout either.

It's got my vote.

#58 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Serge: Do check out Greg Egan's Quarantine, then, if you haven't read it. It's a very unusual take on the "why" of it, and the plot gets deep into quantum mechanics. Egan never seems afraid to challenge the reader with difficult scientific and philosophical ideas, though IMHO his general writing and characterization ability was weaker in his earlier novels (but has improved.)

#59 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Serge, I finished re-reading Egan's Diaspora last night for today's book group, which I am not at because I have what is probably stomach flu. I sent them an email about the book, though, because I bet most of them complain it's too hard and I thought I could guess the parts that needed explaining.

Next month: Dangerous Visions

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Thanks, Clifton, Marilee... Say, didn't Peter Hamilton do a Barrier story? Yeah, Pandora's Star, I think it was called.

#61 ::: Molly ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 10:45 PM:

For the longest time I wouldn't read Robert Charles Wilson. I wasn't boycotting his work, and had possibly even picked up a book or two, but never got the energy to read it. I has the (mis)perception that his books were perhaps well-plotted in an action-y kind of way, and having some intriguing science-fictional ideas/concepts, but probably rather thin on the character/human level. I have no idea where I got this idea, though-- was it based on the cover art? Or some kind of mix up with another author?

Because as soon as I started the Chronoliths I was hooked. And I wasn't enjoying the books in spite of the character development or lack thereof (something that's true of any number of sf books that I like but don't love). Rather, it was precisely because of the richness of characters-- and still mixed in with suspense and big big ideas. Indeed, after having read his other books now, including the sublime _Spin_, I've come to the conclusion that Wilson may be one of the best-- if not the very best-- at writing truly rich characters in our beloved genre (and beyond it).

(As much as I loved Spin, though, The Chronoliths remains my favorite; however, this may be because it was my first)

#62 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 02:13 AM:

"Many of the genres classics are in essence carefully-tuned machines designed to attract readers whose primary conscious loyalty is to rationalism, and lead them by a series of plausible contrivances to a sudden crescendo of mystical awe."

It is indeed an admirable sentence, and makes me wonder if one can compare some SF to some of the intensely rational sorts of Buddhist ideas.

My sense of RCW has long been of compassionate mystical writing; when I read him I am reminded of Sturgeon and Pangborn. Unfortunately, this may be why his genuine virtues are to some extent lost on me. Or perhaps I am just out of sympathy with midwestern US culture.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 07:56 AM:

I see that today's update of Locus's site displays the cover for Spin.

#64 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 06:48 PM:

Serge: Pandora's Star has a sequel, Judas Unchained, and my review will be in the March Locus. I got those morsels of genuine SF because the publisher sent them directly to me (the first volume in its pb reprint). My perception is that for reviewing, the guys get most of the science fiction -- unless it has "weird"/fantastical elements that put it in my supposed province. I used to get a broader spectrum, but then I also used to work in-house rather than have them send me stuff.
I do get a lot of very interesting reading in those packages, but now and then it's good to branch out.

#65 ::: Fuzzy Gerdes ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 07:18 PM:

Recommendation noted, and I had a re-discovered Borders gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I picked it up this weekend and read it.

Awesome-ville. I love the way that events of such magnitude are followed along from "ground level" (as it were). And I couldn't stop recommending it to people even as I was in the middle of it.

#66 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 07:28 PM:

A rec from Patrick, a rec from Michael (yes, Mike, some of us do care), and a review I read a while back (maybe in S&SF?) that I found interesting...I guess I need to add another book to the "to be read as soon as possible" pile, which is, of course, about to topple over off of the nightstand onto the carpet by my bed...

#67 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 01:47 AM:

Took my copy of Spin with me this weekend and finished it in two days. Can't remember the last time that happened. It's really good. Like, wow.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 08:42 AM:

So, that's how it works wih the Locus reviews, Faren? No arm-wrestling? Oh well... Anyway, besides the Egan & Hamilton & Metzger books, have there been other Barrier books out these days? Is this one of those coincidences of the collective authorial lizard brain?

#69 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 10:13 AM:

The earliest "Barrier book" that comes to mind is Brian N. Ball's 1965 Sundog, in which Enigmatic Alien Observers have inadvertently arranged themselves (or their sensors) to form a barrier that blocks human attempts at interstellar exploration. Then there was David Brin's short "The Crystal Spheres"....

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Thanks, Dave. And one could say that the movie Highlander 2 was also a Barrier story, but it really was a worthless piece of crap.

#71 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 11:22 AM:

Blew through Spin last night in record time. Reminded me a small bit of A Mote in God's Eye. not sure why.

But one quibble. (and minor spoiler warning)

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I didn't get the sense that Simon, Diane's first husband, was the cult leader. He seemed to be more of a follower. Guess I'll have to go back and look it up.

#72 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Reminded me a small bit of A Mote in God's Eye.

I guess, like in Banks' Against a Dark Background, the barrier is normal space. Though in Mote's case, there is an exit through hyperspace....

#73 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 02:27 PM:

I made an effort to plug Spin at a couple of panels at Boskone this week, and I just posted a comment over at Calpundit Monthly plugging it, so I might as well add to the praise for it here.

I wrote a book log entry about it back when the hardcover first came out, and I was still regularly updating the book log, and as I said there, I think it deserves to win every award the SF field can throw at it. The giant, cosmic, sense-of-wonder stuff is every bit as good as anything you'll find in the field, and the interpersonal relationships and human interactions are every bit as real and emotionally affecting as anything you'll find on the mainstream shelves. That's a rare combination.

It's a fantastic book, head and shoulders and most of the torso above anything else I read last year.

#74 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 02:59 PM:

But one quibble. (and minor spoiler warning)

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I didn't get the sense that Simon, Diane's first husband, was the cult leader. He seemed to be more of a follower. Guess I'll have to go back and look it up.

He wasn't. The jacket copy was, um, inaccurate. Not like that's ever happened before.

#75 ::: Vaughn ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 03:30 PM:

I remember my favorite combo writer Upton Sinclair Lewis, Half of him ran for governor of California and the other half won a Nobel Prize.

#76 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 06:16 PM:

I remember my favorite combo writer Upton Sinclair Lewis

I got that wrong on a history test once. Fortunately, I was sitting right there when the teacher was grading it, and he gave me a chance to correct myself.

--Mary Aileen

#77 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 08:46 PM:

I can absolutely see why you'd be wary of advertising something like this here, and my voice mayn't count (as I've posted maybe a grand total of four posts here in the last year or so), but hell, if it's got a premise as awesome as this, never hesitate to advertise! I just ordered it through my local amazon website (that would be amazon.de; they DO ship English books too, although I'm going to have to wait "one to three weeks") and I can't wait to read this. Few summaries make me say, "wow, I wished I had thought of that", but this one... yeah. Damn.

Also, I'm one of those lit-fic readers, but I heartily agree with what Chuk implies: that too many seem to confuse realism with being dreary and depressive. Deep characters are good, but deep needn't mean they were rejected by their mother when they had a homosexual relationship with their father at the age of thirteen (and then moved to San Francisco where they acquired a good number of depressing and disgusting diseases). Plus, I really like it when STUFF HAPPENS, and it sounds like a lot of stuff's going to happen in here.

In closing, do satellites really age in space? I hope Mr Wilson researched that ;P (I would suspect that aging for things made from metal would mean mostly erosion/rust) (but I'm also sure I'll find out in one to three weeks)

#78 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 06:20 AM:

Daniel: In closing, do satellites really age in space? I hope Mr Wilson researched that...

They age in space when something like a million years are passing by out there while only a few minutes have passed on Earth. "Space erosion" might not be as immediately apparent as the action of running water on soft dirt, but there's nevertheless a lot of wear & tear going on out there. (See: the tails of comets.) You're going to want to use your heavy duty aluminum foil if you want your space object to last anything like a Spinnishly length of time out there.

#79 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 08:14 AM:

Thanks Michael, I'll keep that in mind for the next time I have to send satellites beyond a magical time border! ;)

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 08:31 AM:

Remember how long after Challenger it took before shuttle flights resumed? I think they then went back to some satellite that contained materials put up there to test how well they'd do in space. They saw that space definitely is a harsh place. Makes one wonder about those generation-ship stories of yore and how they probably would have had to replace the whole hull a few times...

#81 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:11 AM:

do satellites really age in space?

yes, but if they can wait a little longer before they start collecting social security, their monthly benefit will be larger than if they start collecting early.

Actually, electronics in space are constantly exposed to radiation and pretty much crap out after a while (I'm not sure what the mean time between crap-outs is, but I think the useful life of satelites can be measured in years counted on the fingers of both hands).

Radiation shielding is heavy, so electronics are often lofted naked, but designed with redundancy so that when one circuit fails, another circuit can take over. This still increases the weight, a single diode with an atmosphere of radiation shielding must be replaced with four diodes and wiring to interconnect them when in orbit. Also, transistors are generally designed to be physically larger than your cutting edge integrated circuits so that when a bit of radiation hits it, it has a better chance of holding its data and not getting fried. which means your integrated circuits in space are much, much slower and at least 10 years older as far as cutting edge technology goes.

I was a rocket scientist in a previous life, but was buried deep in the lab, so I wasn't privvy to all the reasons behind certain decisions.

But the piece I know is that electronics will slowly die in space over the span of a decade or so. Radiation will eventually fry the circuits.

As for what the outside will look like, I dunno, I don't know what the mechanical engineers had to deal with.

As a completely unrelated side note, I was watching something on TV about a former oil rig that was converted into a rocket launching platform. A commercial company sails this behemoth down to the equator to get a little extra "oomph" from the earth's spin, and launch satelites from the middle of the pacific ocean. Apparently, it is enough of an advantage that they've set some records for heaviest payload put into orbit. This isn't science fiction. THey've actually launched at least a dozen satelites.

They also said that the launch failure rate industry-wide is something insane like 1 in 4 launches goes kablewey.

At a billion dollars per launch, thats an expensive kerblewey.

#82 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:16 AM:

crap, it's called Sea Launch, and they have a freakin web site. Call now operators standing by.

#83 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:19 AM:

they also mention a satelite they're launching that has a service life of 15 years... Well, I can still count them on my fingers anyway. the rest of you may have to include some toes.

#84 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 01:31 PM:

In a previous life, I worked at Space Systems/Loral, doing ground control software for various spacecraft, e.g. Intelsat 7, GOES I-M, N-Star a & b.

The thing that wears out sooner with most orbital spacecraft is the fuel they need to keep their gyroscopes running and the command and telemetry radios pointed at the ground station. They're built with a fixed life-span, sent up with enough fuel to live that long, and lifted out of their allocated orbits when they reach the end of their lives to make room for their replacements.

I was told that a lot of them are sent on final trajectories that eventually land them in the lunar L4 and L5 points. I don't know how long it takes for them to get there.

#85 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 01:44 PM:

final trajectories that eventually land them in the lunar L4 and L5 points.

Also known as Earth's Garbage Dump. Real estate prices here are cheap, but you don't want to be downwind on a hot summer day....

#86 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Thanks for the recommendation. Picked it up, blew through it with stops only because "OMG I don't want to read any more if it means I'm getting closer to the end."

Really excellent. A novel with people, sensawonda, Big Ideas, and grammatical sentences.

Referencing earlier comments, it reminded me more of the Benford man vs. machine universe, but I do remember Mote giving me that same toe-curling sense of deep time (the age of the Moties) and Big Ideas.

Thanks for publishing this book!

#87 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 08:14 PM:

I'm talking to rocket scientists/rocket software developers. How cool is that? ;P

I keep underestimating the effect radiation has. Still, something that woodyatt said seems to raise another Spin question: if most satellites are designed to leave the Earth's orbit at the end of their lives and drift toward the moon, why would the satellites fall from the sky? But I'll stop discussing a book I haven't read now ;P One to three weeks minus 2 days.

Why can't I live in a country where I can walk into a bookstore and pick up an English language book that doesn't say "Irving" or "Brown" on it? (okay, to be fair, one of our larger chains here actually had Gaiman's Anansi Boys in their shelves)

#88 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 09:25 PM:

Meanwhile, irradiated or not, Voyagers 1 & 2 keep on truckin'.

Those are amazing little spacecraft.

#89 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 09:27 PM:

A little more about the Voyagers:

Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock and entered the heliosheath in December 2004, at 94 AU. It is expected that Voyager 1 will reach the heliopause in about 2015.

Voyager 2 could cross the termination shock between 2008 and 2010 and reach the heliopause about 10 years later.
#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 10:49 PM:

The Voyager probes... Goodness, that reminds me of our tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in early 1985. Not a guided tour. A backstage tour, with someone who worked there. That was neat, especially coming to the building where they have a room that recreates the vacuum of space: the room was open, and, sitting there was Galileo.

Back to the Voyagers... There was a scene near the end of Stephen Baxter's Titan. It is far in the future, so far that our sun has become a red giant. And we are shown a Voyager probe still drifing Out There, but it's been reduced to a flimsy origami.

#91 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:30 PM:

Makes one wonder about those generation-ship stories of yore and how they probably would have had to replace the whole hull a few times...

I suspect that generation ships would have it much easier than local satellites; we keep finding more \stuff/ out in what was once called "interstellar space", but it's still pretty empty compared to the area inside the asteroid belt.

#92 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:55 PM:

Daniel - Given that Germany is a big place and I've only been to a small bit of it, I can point out that Dussmann in Berlin has a reasonably good selection of English language books. I don't know how useful that would be to you, though.

When I was in Germany, I was surprised to see big piles of The Corrections (which I had brought with me from the US) in both English and German in the stores.

#93 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 01:40 AM:

Also Daniel; knowing Germany's laws about denying 'the Holocaust' as it's called these days, I'm assuming those piles of "Irving" books aren't examples of the works of David Irving.

However, I'm heroically (ok, wimpishly) resisting the purchase of new (or 2nd-hand) books. For some while now I've been trying to cram all my dear-departed parents' decades of household accumulation, and the contents of the family home of my late husband, and my own (mumblety)-years of accumulated books'n'stuff all into one habitable space of some sort. For a while back there I draped some surplus soft material & bedclothes over a neat(ish) pile of gomi to use as a bed-replacement because getting to any of the proper bedsteads wasn't practical.

Book-avoidance isn't just for space & inventory reasons, tho'. It can be tempting in the extreme to retire into the world of a good book and ignore difficult reality. Sometime before 2010, I shyly hope for 'a room of my own' which isn't purely inside my mind.

#94 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 04:56 AM:

Ah, yes, Titan. That came out while I was at university, dealing with the simultaneous problems of a) producing a Beckett play, b) an behaviour research project c) finals and d) acute appendicitis. I saw this shiny new book in Blackwell's and thought "Aha! A new Stephen Baxter! I'll treat myself, because I feel a bit overwrought and need cheering up."

Hah.

#95 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 06:26 AM:

Now, ajay, who is foolish enough to start a Baxter book when in need of cheering up?

Actually, his books usually ARE optimistic. They show that, no matter what, even if the Universe ends, Life Endures. If one takes the long view. In the short view though, not so good.

#96 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 06:30 AM:

True, CHip, there IS less crap floating around in interstellar space than within the Belt. As for that satellite visited by the shuttle after flights resumed, I think it had a very thin skin, and I presume that a generation ship would be thick-skinned. One thing though, space is Hell on paint jobs.

#97 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 06:33 AM:

I'm guessing that Wilson's "Big Blackout" is supposed to cause what spacecraft operators would call an upset event, i.e. a total loss of avionics control and telemetry. That would prevent them from being lifted out of their orbits to make room for their replacements, and many of themparticularly, the ones in low-earth orbits would decay into the atmosphere, like SkyLab did.

#98 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Linkmeister,

irradiated or not, Voyagers 1 & 2 keep on truckin'

Impressive. I did a little poking around and couldn't find any technical data about the electronics and/or shielding in Voyager. It launched in 1977, which means construction must have began a couple years earlier. the 8080 processor was released in 1974. Reading the voyager site, I can't tell if it's running with an actual integrated processor or if it is a state machine with individual gates and flops.

One advantage of the older, older technology is that it is big compared to the deep sub micron stuff being built today. And a big transistor is able to handle a lot more radiation.

Apparently they have a tape drive on board voyager, which would be pretty robust against radiation as well.

The link you provided says they shielded some of the components from radiation. I don't think anything I ever worked on ever got shielding that I know of.

Apparently they have enough electrical power from their nuclear power plants to operate some instruments until 2020. thats nearly a 44+ year (musket ball) mission, which is quite impressive.

Makes me think about doing my own Salvage 1 operation. Anyone have an old cement mixer truck? Oh, never mind.

#99 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 09:05 AM:

re: replacing the hull every few years.

read some sci-fi story where they solved that problem by using a block of ice as a shield against particles as the ship flew through space. Then they'd just replace the ice every once in a while. I guess they figured water would be easier to find than, say, sheet metal aluminum.

Most of the old plans for space stations had the stations built from a processing plant on the moon, and the outside layer of the space station was aggregated moon rock, which was intended to help shield the crew from radiation and protect the hull from micrometeorites and what not.

Of course, in a generation ship, it won't matter that you've got the equivalent of a small moon wrapped around the outside of your ship. You've got a completely self sustaining biospere and all the time in the world. So if the extra weight prevents you from accelerating as fast as you'd like, who cares, its the not about the destination, its about the journey, right?

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 09:33 AM:

Greg, I think that the ice-covered hull was in a Mike Moscoe military-SF novel from a few years back.

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 09:34 AM:

it's about the journey... Suuuure. Are we there yet?

#102 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Epacris - I'd bet tht the "Irving" that Daniel is referring to would be John Irving, who rotated the bulk of his characters through Vienna.

One of my German texts had a really good audio companion that included interviews with people in Vienna about what they thought was representative of their city, and one woman summoned up John Irving, right in between the Stefansdom and the Riesenrad. I've even got a couple of German translations of his books.

I don't know who this Brown person would be, though. Daniel, a clue please?

#103 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 10:44 AM:

Serge, I don't remember it as a military sf story, but I could be wrong. What I do remember is some odd bits and pieces:

Earth launched some old-school generation ships first. A bunch of them. Then, someone figured out a warp drive or hyperdrive or some such thing, so they sent out some more ships that arrived to the same destinations that the generation ships were going. But they arrived before the generation ships.

This generation ship comes into orbit around a planet to fix its ice-shield. When the ship launched, the planet was uninhabited, but when they get their, they find that a hyperdrive ship had already gotten there and turned the planet into something habitable.

The generation ship pulls some sheets of ice out of the ocean using a space elevator approach, a long cable dropped down from the ship in orbit to the surface of the planet. Unfortunately, some guy from the planet is standing on the ice when the reel the cable in. They do it so quickly that the guy is knocked over and pulled into orbit with the ice and killed.

I think a bunch of the crew of the generation ship is in hibernation. The crew that is awake has a bru-ha-ha about whether they should stay on this planet, with it's lush, green vegetation, open skies, and fresh air, or whether they should continue on to their original destination, another 50 years or so down the pipe, stuffed into a tin can of a ship with recycled air and steel walls painted blue for a sky. They decide to stay.

The planet has a political system that I would call "interesting". The president is chosen at random and the person selected is basically "drafted". Same with all other government positions. The captain of the generation ship decides he wants to be president, and somehow manages to pull it off.

Meanwhile, there's a side story going on about some guy who's putting science equipment into the ocean, but all the sensors in one area keep getting mangled and destroyed. The book ends with the captain of the ship still president of the planet in an unprecedented second term, and some sort of lobster-type creatures coming out of the ocean to attack the humans.

There wasn't any shooting in the entire novel that I can remember. No clue what the title was or who wrote it. Something I read years ago.

We could play a game of "Name that book", but I'd have no way to know if the person was right or not.

#104 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 11:10 AM:

Hmm... You and I are thinking of another Moscoe novel, Greg. The one I had in mind is The Price of Peace ("In the wake of the war between the Society of Humanity and the Unity Party, military ship captain Inez Umboto and Lieutenant Terrance "Trouble" Tordon patrol the universe. But in the no-man's-land of Rim Space, pirates roam freely. And Umboto and Tordon will soon learn that enforcing the peace can be just as expensive as fighting the war...")

In it, the military cover their starships with a layer of ice as shielding againt beam weapons and regular ballistic crap.

#105 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 12:37 PM:

You wouldn't need to cover the entire ship in ice, of course: you'd just build the ship as narrow as possible (pencil-shaped) and cover the front with ice. After all, the stuff you hit is only a problem because you hit it so hard: out in interstellar space the stuff itself won't have that much velocity, so you'll barely notice a side impact. The front impacts, though - big problem.
And, of course, you can use heavy ice and then you've got the fuel for your fusion reactor right there, doing triple duty as fuel, micrometeoroid shield and heat sink if you need one.
(If you're fighting in space, then, yes, shielding all round, obviously.)

#106 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 12:38 PM:

Oh, and you can't have gravity, really, because the ship's too narrow for an axial spin, and end over end rather loses the point of having ice on the front in the first place. But hey.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 12:45 PM:

Ships covered in ice and waging war among the stars... Somebody must have already written such a story and called it A Snowball's Chance in Hell. Sounds like David Drake.

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Back to the original topic, I'm reading Spin and ejoying it. I still haven't reached the part where we find that it was all a dream!!! But seriously, folks, my bet is that it's going to turn out to be like episode Wolf 359 of 'The Outer Limits'...

#109 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 01:17 PM:

I still haven't picked up "Spin", but my money is on it being some alien race who is out to teach us a lesson about wasting the planet's resources. You know, the ol' "force them to see the finite capacity of their planet, and then they'll appreciate how fragile life is" story...

I can't decide whether I'd bet that they'll rewind time to 2050 once we learn the lesson or not, or if they'll leave us with a dead sun and a "you've learned your lesson, now figure out how to survive" closing.

You gotta figure, if they've got the electrical power to slow down time for an entire planet, then they could do some pretty crazy things.

#110 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Also Daniel; knowing Germany's laws about denying 'the Holocaust' as it's called these days, I'm assuming those piles of "Irving" books aren't examples of the works of David Irving.

Nope, that Irving's now safely locked up in Vienna. I've had personal contact with some holocaust deniers. It's mindbending, really, how people can convince themselves of stuff like that. My grandma (who's Polish) once told me a story; it was after a lot of poking from my side asking her to tell me what it was like, back then. That was the only time I can recall she talked about the time. The story boiled down to Polish partisans forcing the people of her village at gunpoint to give them food and shelter, and the nazis (that would be the other half of my genetic inheritance) deciding to kill everyone in that village for sheltering partisans. My grandma told me how she watched HER grandma freeze to death while her whole family was hiding in the swamps outside the village. Granted, it's not actually a holocaust story, but it's not far from there to, well, killing people because they happen to believe in JHWH 1.0 instead of the Christian JHWH 2.0. But that wasn't our topic ;)

I don't know who this Brown person would be, though. Daniel, a clue please?

Daniel IS indeed a good clue, but I'm not really proud to share my name with someone who earns millions by being a bad writer. Well, I guess he's a good writer, in a way: something he's doing is working. I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is. Anyhoo, that's the English language books we typically see on the shelves here. We have a decent selection of translated English writers, of course, and as much as I admit that translating novels *is* (or can be) an art form as well, I'd much rather read the originals whenever I can. I like this (somewhat simple ;P) language of yours.

Larry, Dussmann looks like a pretty specialized (and cool!) kind of place. However, I'm about as far from Berlin as you can get in Germany, and even though my city (Saarbrcken) is the capital of a federal state (the Saarland), it's pretty much rural. But we do have the internet here, and as much as I'd like to "support local bookstores" (a romantic idea I can very much relate to), I'm not given much of a choice.

And I just got a mail from amazon saying that my copy of Spin has been shipped! Weeks seem to be considerably shorter in the Amazon. Let's hope they shielded their satellites properly ;P

#111 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 02:04 PM:

I was a rocket scientist in a previous life, but was buried deep in the lab,

Ah, the Hero's journey through the Underworld. Were you buried with a shifting spanner and a flask of WFNA as grave goods, which were useful in emerging from the Stygian stygery, or did John D. Clark, in the guise of the Abbe Faria, appear to guide you to the fabulous Tsiolkovsky fortune?

There's not a novel in this, fortunately, but it might be worth a short story. In fact, the paragraph above is more than sufficient.

#112 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 03:47 PM:

We were buried deep in the lab, Khazad-dm, but we dug too deep and roused the beast sleeping therin, a pointy haired manager, at which point we all high tailed it out of there.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 04:34 PM:

we dug too deep and roused the beast sleeping therein... and it was downhill from there.

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 04:50 PM:

actually, when we dug, it was always downhill. but what made it a whole lot easier is when we gave the shovel to the pointy haired manager and told him there was a meeting taking place 100 feet down.

#115 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 05:03 PM:

You could also have advised him to take a box of carriage returns and line feeds with him to that meeting.

#116 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 05:41 PM:

Re Greg London's YASID request at 1044 on 23 Feb 06, that's Arthur C Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth, or something very close to it.

JBWoodford

#117 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 07:53 PM:

JBWoodford, I had to look it up to double-check the plot, but yep, that was the one. You win a brand new box of carriage returns and line feeds fresh from the factory. Congratulations. Enjoy.

Hm, maybe I have read more sci-fi than I generally attribute myself to have read....

#118 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 12:25 AM:

Greg London: "I still haven't picked up Spin, but my money is on it being some alien race who is out to teach us a lesson about wasting the planet's resources."

Do you play poker, too? I'd like to invite you into our game. No, really, none of us are very good.

#119 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 12:50 AM:

Akshooly just dropped by the U-Dub bookstore, picked up a copy and read the first couple of chapters over a bratwurst and a beer.

So far so good.

How's that for a four word mini-review.

#120 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 04:22 AM:

Ah, the Hero's journey through the Underworld. Were you buried with a shifting spanner and a flask of WFNA as grave goods, which were useful in emerging from the Stygian stygery, or did John D. Clark, in the guise of the Abbe Faria, appear to guide you to the fabulous Tsiolkovsky fortune?

Appropriately, the first thing that a previous traveller did when he emerged from the Underworld was to look up at the stars: ...E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle. And the next thing he did was to head for them.
I'm sure one could find WFNA in one of the Circles, if one looked hard enough; probably that devoted to engineers who give in to management's orders to cut corners.

Hit a ship covered with ice with a maser tuned at the right frequency, mind you, and the beam goes straight through and either heats the hull (if metal) or boils the occupants. Liquid water absorbs microwaves very well at frequencies at which ice is microwave-transparent, which is why microwave ovens take so long to defrost stuff. (an Interesting Fact which I cribbed from David Langford's account of Professor Kurti's Reverse Baked Alaska.)

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 06:07 AM:

Poker, Patrick? So, if it's not Greg's suggestion, and if it's not Wolf 359, my theory is that it's that Twilight Zone episode where a man and woman wake up in a strange town from which they can't get out because they were captured by some giant alien who gave them to his giant 3-year-old daughter to play with in her elaborate doll house...

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 09:09 AM:

Something bugs me about the setup of Spin. I'm not a scientist, just someone who uses his brain for a living (most of the time anyway) and still I think there's a problem that I'll have to handle with a pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain response. But I'll post here and see what the Real Brains can say.

By page 46, the main character learns that, since the October Event, Time has been much slower on Earth than in the rest of the universe. Wayyyyy much slower. Like, 5 years have passed on Earth, and 500,000,000 years out there. This means that during the course of one Earth year, our planet has been going around the sun 100,000,000 times.

How come there are still seasons on Earth?

#123 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 10:07 AM:

How come there are still seasons on Earth?

While the answer to that question is never made explicit, once you Fully Understand The Situation you will see how it could be happening.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 10:35 AM:

By what page, DaveL? The thing is that none of the characters have yet asked themselves that question.

Well, I'm reading and enjoying. I got a big laugh out of a scene where an insurance company's CEO is heard on the radio, complaining about how the expected fate of the Earth is encouraging immorality and deficit spending. And messing up actuary tables.

"If the world doesn't come to an end in the next thirty or forty years," he said, "we may be facing disaster."

#125 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 11:46 AM:

It has arrived, and I've started reading. Having to go to work when you just began a promising book is no fair ;) Very much liked the blackout scene. Simple and efficient narrative, and on top of that dialogues that *remind* me of things I said or thought when I was that age. This subtle and uncertain attraction he builds between the narrator and the female twin with so few lines of dialogue--highly promising.

Of course, I would have loved more detail instead of just implying how hard a hit on the internet this whole blackout was. But then again, I'm a geek ;P While to me detailed descriptions of connectivity situations might have been thrilling, most people would be bored to death.

#126 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Ok, ok, already. Quit shovin'.

I've taken the day off from work so that I can find the time to read Spin. I had to jump it a few score titles up the queue, as well.

There -- are you happy now?

Sheesh.

#127 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 09:04 PM:

Hey! My library sent me a card to say my request for Spin and The Chronoliths has been fulfilled and I can pick the books up, but it was closed today. No spoilers, dammit!

#128 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 09:47 PM:

No spoilers, dammit!

Heh-heh. The giant ape climbs the Empire State Building and gets killed...by Lady Sharrow, who has mistaken it for her cousin.

#129 ::: La Gringa ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 12:31 AM:

Just picked up a copy, sir!

#130 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 03:01 AM:

Serge writes:
By page 46, the main character learns that, since the October Event, Time has been much slower on Earth than in the rest of the universe. Wayyyyy much slower. Like, 5 years have passed on Earth, and 500,000,000 years out there. This means that during the course of one Earth year, our planet has been going around the sun 100,000,000 times.

How come there are still seasons on Earth?

and:
The thing is that none of the characters have yet asked themselves that question.

I apologize if this offends, but: Wrong. The revelation about the magnitude of the time differential comes on page 44. On page 43 -- the same scene, the previous page -- a character says this:
"They gave us fake sunlight because the real thing would be deadly. Just enough of it, and appropriately distributed, to mimic the seasons, to make it possible to raise crops and drive the weather."

#131 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 03:56 AM:

There was a copy of Spin in my Potlatch freebie bag. Also Down the Badger Hole, a Corpse Bride flip book, a Poetry on Buses 2005 book, the usual Archie McPhee catalog, chopsticks from Mashiko, a couple of magnets and a pair of binoculars.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 06:47 AM:

Thanks, David... I had missed the comment about how the Barrier also simulates the seasonal variations even though in reality Earth wouldn't be experiencing seasons anymore. Hmm... Does the Barrier also simulate the Moon's old tidal variations? It'd have to for us to experience it at the pace we're used to. I know. Nit, nit, nit...

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 06:54 AM:

No spoilers, Linkmeister? I'm glad you didn't see my earlier post that this all turns out to be a dream. And Auntie Em will be there... And of course you know about Rosebud...

That being said, I really hate spoilers too. I have made some suggestions (not all of them as jokes) about what is really going, but I don't really know and I'll probably be so far off the mark that I'll be even more beet-red than I am when doing situps at the gym.

#134 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 07:39 AM:

Serge: Yes, later in that same paragraph tides are mentioned also.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 07:44 AM:

You're right, David. How embarassing. My only consolation is that I thought of asking myself those questions. I guess my 50-year-old brain on way-too-much-coffee isn't totally shot.

#136 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 01:36 PM:

I'm halfway through and really loving it. Surreal moment that I'd like to share here: I'd stayed up late last night to read, of course, and when my father woke me up this morning I was pretty groggy from not having slept enough. He asked me to come outside and help him cause he "couldn't find the satellites". What? I asked if I'd heard him right. I had. Turns out he was just installing a digital satellite dish and needed help aligning it. Very surreal moment though ;)

#137 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Or, if you're going to go into spoiler-land, at least use rot-13.

Hmm - if someone engages in unacceptable personal vitriol in rot-13, would they get disem-nrvbh-ed?

#138 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Okay, I bought it. First SF book since -- I don't know. Something by Octavia Butler, I think. (These days I'm mostly reading theology and, very occasionally, a fantasy or mystery novel.)

#139 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 08:35 PM:

Typing now from the hospitality suite at Potlatch. I walked in, yesterday afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised to find a free copy of Spin in the registration packet. Immediately suspected Patrick's hand in this. Thanks. I'll start reading it as soon as I finish working my way through last week's Giant Lizards from Another Star.
((Amy Thomson walks by, now, and instructs me to say "hi" to Teresa.))

#140 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 10:19 PM:

"was pleasantly surprised to find a free copy of Spin in the registration packet. Immediately suspected Patrick's hand in this." Ya think?

#141 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 12:36 AM:

Giant Lizards From Another Star? Truly? Cool. Sorry I couldn't make it to Potlatch this year. Say hello to folks for me, Lenny.

#143 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 01:44 AM:

Started Spin last night, finished it this morning. I liked it a lot, but unlike the Washington Post I felt that the "literary novel" half of the marriage didn't quite pull its weight. The characters are well-developed and credible, but Wilson achieves that with too much tell and not enough show for my taste, and he has a habit of summarizing conversations that should be written in dialog, which made me think of those Fifties movies that couldn't afford sync sound. I also think that he didn't give the narrator a distinctive enough voice to justify writing the book in first person.

These aren't serious problems, though, and the SFnal aspects are first-rate; once they kicked into gear about halfway through I put off everything else until I finished it.

#144 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 02:51 AM:

One thing - I bought the paperback, and one of the things I really like is an "About the Author" page. Now, I have no idea whether or not the hardcover had one - but I kinda like 'em.

Which is odd, because I'm mostly not interested in knowing too much about the people who make the music I like, but I do like the two-paragraph bios in books.

Currently on page 95 and enjoying the book. I'm really sleepy so I'll probably turn in in the next fifteen minutes or so. No all-nighter yet. Which is good, because I can't afford one right now.

#145 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 10:28 AM:

Wilson is one of my all-time fave writers. He really knows how to nail the nexus of good characters, big ideas, and tight plotting.


-l.

#146 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 01:04 PM:

I just had a very Outer Limits vision of what's behind the Spin.

Even though I mean it humorously, I've seen odder things happen so:

Gur Fcva vf ernyyl na nqinaprq sbbq cerfreingvba flfgrz, qrfvtarq gb xrrc gurz gnfgl uhznaf serfu sbe yngre pbafhzcgvba. Sevtvqnverf va fcnpr!

And, yes, I'm feeling just a bit ashamed of even suggesting it given the high praise everyone is heaping on this book.

#147 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 06:24 PM:

Larry Brennan: You're...not right exactly, but perhaps closer to the truth than you think.

#148 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2006, 07:40 PM:

I have now picked up Spin, The Chronoliths and Darwinia from my local library. Which should I begin with?

#149 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2006, 08:13 PM:

I re-skimmed Spin again the other day because of this, and remembered my favourite thing about it, which I'd forgotten before:

POSSIBLE SPOILER!

It's not the twist on isolation so much as the twist on gateways to other worlds. The thought of being able to emigrate to an untouched world through a portal and thence further out, eventually to meet other species, that's the part I loved. It's like a surprise birthday party after you've been locked out of the house all day; you don't know what's going on, but when they let you back in everything is so much better than you could have imagined.

Of course, I hate surprise birthday parties. But still.

#150 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2006, 08:22 PM:

Jacob - ROT-13 possible spoilers, please! Those of us only 100 pages or so into the book thank you.

#151 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Giant Lizards from Another Star is the Ken MacLeod collection from NESFA Press, published in conjunction with his GoH appearance at Boskone earlier this month. It's a pile of fun. The table-of-contents titles (shown at the link above) hint at a high Fun Quotient all by themselves; Ken MacLeod has the best tables of contents of any SF writer currently working.

(The title comes from this essay by Kosovo war critic David Ramsay Steele, who wrote of NATO's occupying troops that "These are not the garrisoned troops of the old movies, sitting around in the local taverns and flirting with almond-eyed, bare-shouldered Mediterranean maidens in flouncey folk-embroidered skirts. The troops would be constantly killed in reprisals if they mingled with the locals. These brave soldiers will be maintained in self-contained biospheres, like giant lizards from another star, which given the moral status of their behavior, they might as well be.")

In other, welcome news, Sfsite.com has posted their own list of the ten best SF novels of the year, on which the #1 slot is a tie between Ian R. MacLeod's The House of Storms and Spin.

#152 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Patrick. I want to thank you for recommending Spin. It is one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in the past few years, beautifully narrated and with an ending that is remarkably upbeat and uplifting without being maudlin or bombastic.

#153 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 01:14 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: ...with an ending that is remarkably upbeat and uplifting...

Hmm. Does this qualify as a spoiler? I guess only for obsessives like me who don't even like to be told that the book actually ends at some point! And that there's even a final page!.

I guess I should probably stay out of here until I've finished the book, lest someone mention that the final punctuation mark is either a full-stop or a dot-dot-dot...

#154 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Michael Weholt: I would say it doesn't. I haven't told you what the ending is, after all. I've only given you my assessment of it (which you and others may dispute). However, since you seem to want a spoiler: the butler did it.

#155 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: However, since you seem to want a spoiler: the butler did it.

There's a butler?? I didn't even know there was a butler!

Well, the whole thing is ruined now. I don't even know why I should go on reading.

#156 ::: Janice ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 02:42 PM:

Rather late to be chiming in, but I second all of Patrick's comments. I am particularly impressed at what a leap Spin is from Wilson's previous work. My SF book group had a conference call with the author after reading it, and he indicated there would be a sequel of sorts; please let us know when that's no longer vaporware, Patrick.

#157 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 04:14 PM:

Michael: not only does the butler do it, but they also hit an iceberg.

#158 ::: Donald Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Nothing to say about Spin. I'll read it sometime soon. I just stopped by to say I picked up Vernor Vinge's novel "A Fire Upon the Deep" because of Patrick's recommendation and read it the same day--I loved it. It was one of those books I wish had been three times longer. I just checked out the sequel online (which turns out to be a prequel)--I'll read that too, but was disappointed that it doesn't pick up after where the previous novel ended. Oh well.

Just skimmed through the preceding posts. What were the disemvowellings about? It didn't seem like angry things were being shouted and I thought I saw one or two spoilers that went through with vowels intact, so that's two theories shot down.

#159 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 10:15 PM:

Michael Weholt: What can I say?

#160 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2006, 11:11 PM:

Donald Johnson - Nothing got disemvowelled - it got coded in Rot-13, which prevents most people from being able to read it without rotating it back to the original. This way you can post a spoiler and it's easy for those of us who haven't finished the book (raises hand!) to not read it.

#161 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2006, 01:37 AM:

Daniel Johnson: Assuming you mean A Deepness in the Sky I felt the same way about it when I first opened it and realized it wasn't a sequel - until I started actually reading it. It is its own gem; by the end it has built up the same incredible level of tension and suspense that A Fire Upon the Deep did, by making you really care what happens to the characters. Give it a chance.

#162 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2006, 10:40 AM:

To echo Linkmeister upthread, I recently picked up copies of Bios, Darwinia, The Chronoliths, and Spin. Have finished the first three (all very good reads; the order in which one takes 'em doesn't matter), and am now into the latter, which is proving to be just as enjoyable as the others.

Intriguingly, the prose, themes, and predicaments in each book at times reminded me of J. G. Ballard's work. Might he have had some influence on Robert Charles Wilson?

#163 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Finished Spin last night. The plotting was astonishingly good. Of course there were things I could have stopped to quibble over, except that I couldn't stop. The characterization was good but not great. (Could say much more on this, but I don't have the time right now.) The use of science was good. The Spin effect essentially is magic, but it can be covered by an invocation of Clarke's Law. The more mundane science was well thought out, plausible and appropriate. Overall, it's an excellent book. The Spin effect really was too big for it to have any direct emotional meaning to me, but that was more than made up for by the human drama of the people dealing with it.

#164 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Been away for a while. Wilson is a Cultural Treasure for the SF community -- someone who makes old tropes new again, and generates new tropes that will infest the field for a long time. SPIN is not my favorite of his (I think DARWINIA has that honor); it's still a fine book, with the same sense of Real Science as BLIND LAKE had. I've been recommending it to a lot of people, and we're selling it fairly briskly at Other Change.

#165 ::: Bill Burns ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2006, 01:14 PM:

Not that it's a major plot element (and I'm enjoying the book so far), but if the opening of Spin is set on a more-or-less contemporary Earth, circa 2005, the Internet and worldwide phone service would *not* have collapsed when the satellites went away. "Losing satellites ... rendered the long-distance telephone system unreliable ... it gutted the World Wide Web ..." "News stories traveled like whispers, squeezed through transatlantic fiber-optic cables rather than ricocheted through orbital space ..."

Fiber-optic cables have *far* higher capacity than any satellite, and now carry 99% or more of telephone and Internet traffic. SF readers will know why; the time lag ("latency") for signals carried by satellites in geosynchronous orbit is about 1/2 second, round-trip, which makes phone conversations hard to maintain and cripples otherwise fast internet connections. Fiber has essentially no latency, and is used wherever it can be laid, with satellites used mainly as a backup to cable or for areas where a ground station can be installed cheaper than fiber, this being mostly in developing nations. Satellites' main advantage (and use) is for one-to-many distribution, such as network TV program relays, and for direct TV reception in the home, competing with cable TV.

Here's an article on the subject (from 2001), which notes that even then over 80% of traffic was carried on fiber:
http://www.iw.com/magazine.php?inc=030101/03.01.01internettech2.html

#166 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 01:28 AM:

I leapt into Spin; the other two will have to wait their turn. I appreciate the attempts to avoid spoilers by all above.

This membrane thingie is one heck of a premise, I'll say that.

#167 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Speaking of telecommunication disruptions, would anyone care to comment on this solar storm prediction?

#168 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2006, 12:22 PM:

Ok, I finished Spin last night and enjoyed it. I kinda wish it had about five more chapters for further explication of its larger idea, but I'm a process person. I wish the "why" was explained, but maybe that was the point. As Janice suggested on 3/1, perhaps there will be a sequel to go into that.

#169 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2006, 07:07 PM:

I too bought Spin because of this thread. It was great, but I couldn't help feeling that while the subject matter was deep and tightly focused, lacking bullcrap, the wild ideas were crammed into a story two sizes too small. Just a first reading, though.

Then, my spoiler idea, rot-13:

Gur Nepu (evat, ernyyl) ng gur raq frrzf yvxr n ung gvc gb Evatjbeyq. Pbhagyrff ornqf ba gur fgevat sbe uhznaf gb rkcyber.

#170 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2006, 01:20 PM:

I finished Darwinia last night, and concluded that Mr. Wilson likes the inexplicable. (Is that a language case, like nominative, dative, instrumental?)

#171 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 01:19 PM:

I'll confess I didn't get around to any nominating this year (nor do I think I ever have) but thank you thank you thank you for praising Spin well enough for me to buy it. It will be hard for me to break down my Hugo voting inhibitions, but there's a good chance for this gem.

Not to mention that its mention of "Infant Innocence" led me to Google, and seeing "by Ogden Nash" led me to this halcyon heirloom from the Making Light archives, which I somehow missed when it came out. Reading it whole is a grand example of what makes ML so good--from the penalties for willful ignorance, to Covenant roleplaying, to punctuation in disequilibrium, to the generic question of romance and horror, and more. [Must... restrain... ellipsis... ....] At the end, I have to wonder if the question of PR=TJP has ever been settled by anything as definitive as finding them in the same room or telephone booth.

#172 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 02:27 PM:

I finished Spin several days ago. Wow. Yeah, some nitpicks including Bill Burns' observation above but a really enjoyable book nonetheless.

Now to start reading his earlier books. Right after I finish off Charlie Stross's earlier books.

Thanks to TNH & PNH for creating this community that's helped me rediscover the joys of SF. I'm even thinking of maybe attending a con. Is there a good index of them somewhere? And any notable ones in Seattle or the Pacific Northwest?

#173 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:36 AM:

Damn what a book.

I'm dragging like shit today, because I hit the point of no return yesterday evening and was up to 2:00. And I want more! I wonder if Jack Vance could write the sequel.

At least the sleep deprivation anesthetizes me from feeling like I've been eaten by the bear.

Thanks again for the recco.

#174 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:50 AM:

Larry Brennan: I just had a very Outer Limits vision of what's behind the Spin.

V'z cerggl fher "Gb Freir Zna" vf Gjvyvtug Mbar, abg Bhgre Yvzvgf.

Oh, and the humor of the book was fantastic. I laughed out loud at least three times, which is a lot for me. Even the Erq Urvsre stuff was comitragic.

#175 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 07:56 PM:

Dan - You're right. My memory just ain't what it used to be.

#176 ::: Geoff Green ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:24 AM:

Greg & Serge:

The story you're discussing (or at least were discussing three months ago, when you wrote those comments), involving ships with ice shields and the government where the president is chosen at random, is probably The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke -- Wikpedia summary here.

As for Spin, I just finished it, and I thought it was OK, but not one of the best SF stories I've ever read. The characters struck false notes with me, I suppose; they just didn't seem well-drawn.

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