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Sci-Fi Review – Vortex

VORTEX by Robert Charles Wilson

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

VORTEX by Robert Charles Wilson is the third in his Spin trilogy. The first, SPIN, told the story of how Earth became enclosed in a mysterious bubble, in which life continued as if normal while in reality, time was passing by outside by hundreds of years for every Earth hour. It was determined that some outside entity referred to as the Hypotheticals had done this for unknown purposes.   In the second, AXIS, the story shifted to another planet, accessible from Earth by means of a giant Arch created by the Hypotheticals. Humans on this other world had “infected” Isaac Dvali in the womb with Hypothetical nanotechnology, hoping to gain dialogue with them. Turk Findley, an itinerant man with a pilot’s license, was caught up the Hypothetical’s pass through the planet and he and Isaac disappeared.

We get two storylines in VORTEX. One is on Earth, set a bit before the timeline from AXIS, and concerns Orrin Mather. Orrin has a story he’s written, an odd one, and there are people who want to help him out and others who would like nothing more than to shut him up.  As it turns out, Orrin’s story is about Turk Findlay, and Isaac, and a woman we’ll know as Allison.

Switch to the future. Turk awakens, naked in the desert, but is soon rescued. Ten thousand years have passed and his rescuers are part of a community called Vox.  They think he has some special relationship with the Hypotheticals after being taken, but he has no memory of it. Isaac too has been found, but in bad shape.  The physical part of Vox is a huge complex of traveling islands, and its population is almost all networked together. There will be quite a lot about the various types of group minds which you may, or may not, care about.  But basically, Vox knows their prophecies have come true and they’re on their way to meet the Hypotheticals.  It isn’t going to turn out like they hope.

On Earth, Orrin’s friends are desperate to get Orrin to safety and figure out what he’s trying to communicate. The situation starts to sound really familiar to us, and yes, it is almost – not quite, but almost  – exactly what we think. And why is it “almost”? You may well ask. Keep reading.

There are such cool big ideas in this trilogy. The Hypotheticals, the longevity drug, Vox, more.  It will all come together in the end in a rather mind-blowing way, but – you will not be surprised by this if you’ve been paying attention – there is no godlike force directing it all (thank you, Wilson). I wouldn’t call it a happy ending, I guess, but not sad either.  Despite the huge scope and the astonishing time that’s elapsed, this is still a character-driven tale; the story of individuals in an unimaginably large-scale happening. But truthfully I found it hard to really care about most of them. In my opinion this last book has more suspense and action than the previous two, and I was able to relate to Turk and the others more easily.  I also think Wilson had a hard time figuring out exactly how to conclude it, but the end of the universe shuts things down nicely.

In conclusion: it was a good series. I doubt I’ll lie awake thinking about it, but if you like big SF, definitely worth reading.




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