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by Robert Charles Wilson

Lights Out

A review by David Hannon

Spin, a novel from often underappreciated science-fiction writer Robert Charles Wilson is the tale of three friends -- three friends who just happened to be staring up at the evening sky when the lights go out.

What Tyler Dupree and his childhood comrades Jason and Diane Lawton witness is a dazzling blip in the atmosphere that in a split second changes the directions of their lives forever. Known worldwide as the Big Blackout the earth is instantly cut off from the cosmos and a strange black barrier, later know as the Spin, immediately encompasses its entirety, forever eclipsing the sun, moon, and stars.

The first real discovery about the nature of the Spin is that though the sun is completely blocked out, the barrier itself has the power to manufacture artificial light and weather, making life on earth proceed under its mysterious control. Chaos soon sets in and all the world powers surreptitiously employ their brightest minds to the task of trying to understand exactly what has happened, as quickly as possible. Through explorations they soon discover that time outside of the barrier is traveling at an enhanced clip, to the rate of one hundred million years to a single day on earth.

As the years go by and more is learned about the global phenomenon a plan is set in motion to send colonization teams to Mars, seeding it with terraforming machines in the hopes of making it a livable planet. If the teams do arrive safely it will take one day on earth for them to have spent one hundred million years cultivating a new world. Will they arrive? Will anyone ever understand the true nature of what's happening to their civilization?

Wilson's writing is as tight as a drum here. The plot dashes along relentlessly never giving you time to think about necessities like food or sleep. The complex relationships of the three friends as they navigate through the darkest of days, and the profound impact they have on the earth's destiny is what drives this apocalyptic tale. The images of fear and desperation Wilson creates herein are both spooky and spectacular.

Defying classification, Spin is a human drama, end of the world saga, and sci-fi spiritual all rolled into one. Winner of the 2006 Hugo Award it has received glowing praise from both critics and writers of the genre alike. Spin (the magazine) called Wilson "One of the best science fiction writers alive." How do you like that?

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