For those who read Darwinia, the tone and tenor of Spin are similar: a mix of science and fantastic, with a focus on human nature’s reaction when faced with the inconceivable. Wilson is a master at it.
On a bright summer evening, three children on the cusp of teenhood witness the impossible: in the blink of an eye, all the stars wink out. Although the sun rises the next morning as usual, the next night the stars don’t. Soon, scientists discover that a filtering membrane has been wrapped around the Earth and slowed its spin: for every hour on Earth, a million years flit by in the rest of the universe. Thus, humans face extinction –the death of their own sun– within fifty years. The story is how this knowledge, this revelation, affects the three youngsters. Their lives are painted against the largest background of humanity and its varied reaction to the knowledge that it will die in less than a century. We follow them as they grow up to adulthood and towards a seemingly fateful end.
Wilson’s style is deceptively simple, so that he is able to weave a complex story on several fronts –scientific, fantastic, psychological, emotional– without seeming difficulty. The prose is elegant, incisive, yet never intrudes on the story, surprisingly intimate despite the grandeur of the theme. Because we see the plunge of Earth towards extinction through three people’s eyes, three very different, fallible people, the rest falls into place. The science and fantastic aspects of the story are merely tools to explore who we are, fundamentally, and what Earth means to humanity. This Hugo-nominated novel is well worth the read.