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April 21, 2015

On sale today: Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities
Posted by Teresa at 08:25 AM * 27 comments

affinities.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Excerpt here. Brief interview with the author here. Author website here.

Our flap copy:

In our rapidly-changing world of social media, people are more and more able to sort themselves into social groups based on finer and finer criteria. In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities, this process is supercharged by new analytic technologies—genetic, brain-mapping, behavioral. To join one of the twenty-two Affinities is to change one’s life. It’s like family, and more than family. Your fellow members aren’t just like you, and they aren’t just people who are likely to like you. They’re also the people with whom you can best cooperate in all areas of life—creative, interpersonal, even financial.

At loose ends both professional and personal, young Adam Fisk takes the suite of tests to see if he qualifies for any of the Affinities, and finds that he’s a match for one of the largest, the one called Tau. It’s utopian—at first. Problems in all areas of his life begin to simply sort themselves out, as he becomes part of a global network of people dedicated to helping one another—to helping him.

But as the differing Affinities put their new powers to the test, they begin to rapidly chip away at the power of governments, of global corporations, of all the institutions of the old world. Then, with dreadful inevitability, the different Affinities begin to go to war—with one another.

Some reviews:

“Like social media groups on steroids, the 22 ‘Affinities’ in the world of Robert Charles Wilson’s novel provide individuals with communities stronger than family. This timely thriller will keep you turning its pages until the wee hours of the morning.”
Paste Magazine

“An intriguing and seriously innovative attempt to grapple with some of the issues raised by the 21st century’s obsession with social media.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A fascinating transformation on one of the oldest plot devices in SF: people who are widely hated for their inherent difference from the rest of humankind….Wilson’s trademark well-developed characters and understated but compelling prose are very much in evidence in this quietly believable tale of the near future.”
Publishers Weekly

Comments on On sale today: Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 10:13 AM:

I can't decide if that sounds thrilling or depressing, or both. Thoughts?

#2 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 10:15 AM:

I must say, based on the flap copy, that this seems like a very interesting sort of thing to write a novel about.

#3 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 12:33 PM:

I really liked this book a lot, and recommend it highly. He's got a potential award winner here: and I thought that before the Puppies hit the Hugos. Groups are already sorting themselves out on the Internet: this is just taking that one step further and looking at the ways it might play out, with Wilson's usual attention to characters and their individual reactions to events. It looks closely at a liminal period in social organization, when things are changing rapidly, and it doesn't come to any simple conclusions.

And since we're in one of those liminal periods in the SF world right now, it's going to resonate with a lot of Worldcon-goers. I hope the Puppy followers read it as well -- there's a certain amount of "be careful what you wish for" in it, which is useful to all humans dealing with complex systems.

#4 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 08:05 PM:

Going to have to look this book up, as I seem to have fallen into studying the future of social computing in all senses.

And apropos of that, has anyone here read "Building Successful Online Communities" by Robert E. Kraut and Paul Resnick? Any opinions about it? It's on sale at MIT press.

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 08:28 PM:

No, but I can highly recommend Bryan Alexander's THE NEW DIGITAL STORYTELLING, which is definitely about building communities through stories (and building stories through communities). Good anecdotes, and well written.

#6 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 09:09 PM:

The word "instabuy" gets thrown around a lot in various forums. But when "Robert Charles Wilson" appears on the cover, I'm there.

(I'll also second the Bryan Alexander book.)

#7 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2015, 09:52 PM:

Given that I just about grabbed people on the street to force them to read Julian Comstock, this one DEFINITELY goes on my list.

And damn, if only PNH & I could *really* use our evil whisper campaigning mind-control powerz to control the Hugo voting ...

#8 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 12:12 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 4 ...
And apropos of that, has anyone here read "Building Successful Online Communities" by Robert E. Kraut and Paul Resnick? Any opinions about it? It's on sale at MIT press.

Yes, but it didn't make enough of an impression (good or bad) for me to remember anything at all useful about it!

#9 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 02:21 AM:

xeger @ 8:

Thanks. Not what I'd call a resounding recommendation, so I think I'll see if I can find it in a library before spending money on it,

#10 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 07:47 AM:

Is it just me or does the basic premise sound rather similar to Cory Doctorow's "Eastern Standard Tribe"? (Albeit departing in a different direction for sure, given the shared editorial hand in play ...)

#11 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 09:03 AM:

New Robert Charles Wilson...on a subject of immediate interest...yeah, well, I know what some of my summer reading will be.

#12 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 10:17 AM:

@10: It does sound a little like Eastern Standard Tribe, and a bit like an element from Vonnegut's "Slapstick" (and an element from one of John Barnes's short stories, too - "Stochasm" maybe) - but most of all, it seems like a serious take on the YA trope seem in "Divergent"

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 12:01 PM:

This sounds like a very ambiguous utopia.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2015, 12:03 PM:

Andrew #12: I think you have hit it.

#15 ::: zanzjan ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2015, 04:31 PM:

Hmmm, I think that means I'm making a bookstore stop on the way home from work.

#16 ::: Colin Hinz ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2015, 06:28 PM:

Toronto-area folks, come to the book signing!

I'll be there, if my slightly frantic Saturday schedule permits.

#17 ::: charming.quark ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2015, 06:59 PM:

I read the sample chapter, and it put me in mind of 'Super Sad True Love Story.'

#18 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2015, 01:22 AM:

I actually wrote a review of this which didn't place elsewhere -- is there any interest in me publishing it here? Any objection, P/T? (They've already seen it, is why I ask.)

#19 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2015, 06:54 PM:

Just finished it. I think it's terrific, which is more or less what I've thought about the last ten or so RCW books (all the ones I've read but one — one of his earlier novels I liked somewhat less). I continue to think that Spin his his best book by a significant margin, but all the others are great too, and this is no exception. Highly recommended.

#20 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2015, 06:56 PM:

Hmm. Making Light seems to think that was my first comment here, when in fact I've made occasional ones for a decade or so by this point. Wonder why?

#21 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2015, 06:58 PM:

Have you changed email addresses? That's usually the reason.

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2015, 07:07 PM:

Stephen Frug: I think it's because you used NOSPAMPLEASE instead of your usual anti-spam infix. I've taken the liberty of changing it to your previous formula.

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2015, 07:08 PM:

And I'm glad you liked the book!

#24 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2015, 11:29 PM:

Got it. Thanks for fixing that!

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:26 PM:

I am now halfway through the book and enjoying it immensely. I am torn between loving every time I see a book recommended by you and Patrick, TNH, and hating the fact that it seriously damages my bank account. Especially as my employer pays well below the norm for both institutional type and region and lies about it.

One thing that strikes me, and I may have more to say when I'm done, is that this novel is very much in the mainstream of SF inasmuch as it extrapolates brilliantly from known science (sociology in this case).

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 02:26 PM:

I've read the whole book and am happy I did. It's a fascinating extrapolation and there's a part of me that would like to live in that world and another part that thinks it would be less human than the one we've got, messy as it is.

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2015, 12:12 AM:

Nice Tom Shippey review in today's WSJ.

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