Saturday, June 22, 2013


By Robert Charles Wilson

Tyler Dupree lives in a small house on the grounds of a mansion owned by E.D. Lawton, a mover and shaker in the world of aerospace.  Tyler's mom is Lawton's housekeeper and also serves as a kind of surrogate mother to Lawton's two kids, Jason and Diane since their mother is an alcoholic. The Jason and Diane are fraternal twins and about the same age as Tyler. The three are pretty good friends. Tyler has a serious crush on Diane, but she is not that responsive to his feelings. Both Jason and Diane are very intelligent and E.D. intends to bring Jason into the aerospace business.
One night when Tyler, Diane and Jason were outside playing, the stars vanished. A brief flare of starlight and then nothing but blackness. Data transmission that relied on satellites failed. Even the moon was gone. But the sun rose the next day like nothing had changed.
Before much longer, it was understood that the Earth was enclosed in a pocket of slow-time. Outside the black spin membrane, time passed normally. Inside it passed much, much slower. So slow, that outside the sun was aging rapidly, soon to go through its death throes, which would engulf the Earth in its expanding body, destroying all life. The Earth only had about fifty years of normal life left for its inhabitants.
So a plan was hatched, led by Jason Lawton, now an adult and working for his father, to seed Mars with life. Then, as conditions improved on Mars, relative to the slower time on Earth, humans would travel there, hopefully to survive and thrive. Amazingly the plan worked, the success made apparent by the arrival on Earth of a human being from Mars, Wun Ngo Wen. Martian civilization is hundreds of thousands of years old and highly advanced. Wun may have a solution to the crisis facing the people of Earth. But just as Wun arrives on Earth, another spin membrane appears, but now it is surrounding Mars.

This story is told in a series of flashbacks, interweaving the story of Diane and Tyler as they are trying to escape from their pursuers. Who exactly is chasing them and why isn't made clear until quite a bit later in the book. The enclosure of the Earth by the spin membrane sent Diane off on a spiritual quest that resulted in her marrying a religious fundamentalist. Jason becomes a brilliant scientist but becomes ill with a form of multiple sclerosis. Tyler goes off to medical school and becomes a doctor, ending up working at E.D. Lawton's aerospace firm and as personal physician to Jason and to the man from Mars, Wun. He never gets over his love for Diane and she refuses to leave her fanatic of a husband.
The story is frequently depressing, as society starts to break down and everyday life becomes more dangerous and precarious. None of the characters have happy lives, not even the man from Mars, who lost his wife and children in a terrible flood (back on Mars). Diane is married to a nut, Tyler can't shake his obsession with Diane, and Jason's MS doesn't respond well to treatment.  Plus, I felt the story was a little too long and a bit tedious. But I did really like the ending. So, given that, I rate it a fair read.

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