Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Chronoliths

The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
Tom Doherty Associates, 2001
Hardcover, 301 pages
ISBN-13: 9780312873844
science fiction
Highly Recommended

From the Publisher
Scott Warden is a man haunted by the past—and soon to be haunted by the future.
In early 21st-century Thailand, Scott is a slacker in a beach community of expatriates, barely supporting his wife and daughter. One day he witnesses an impossible event: the appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar in the forested interior.
This is no ordinary artifact. Its arrival collapses trees for a quarter mile around its base, freezing ice out of the air and emitting a burst of ionizing radiation. It appears to be composed of an exotic form of matter. And the inscription chiseled into it commemorates a military victory...sixteen years in the future.
Not long after, another, larger pillar arrives in the center of Bangkok—obliterating the city and killing thousands.
Over the next several years, human society is transformed by these mysterious arrivals from, seemingly, its own near future. Who is the warlord whose victories they note? Scott wants only to rebuild his life. But some strange loop of causality keeps drawing him, to the central mystery and a strange final battle with the future.
My thoughts:

In The Chronoliths, Wilson tackles and interesting premise that certainly held my attention to the end. What would the world do if giant monoliths proclaiming victory in a battle fought some 20 years in the future suddenly started appearing? I felt that the world and the characters Wilson created seemed plausible. Considering that The Chronoliths was published before 9/11 and the current economic problems, I noted several times that Wilson seemed almost prescient - anticipating the future before us.

We often handle the big issues in our lives by dealing with the minute issues of day-to-day living. Wilson keeps the focus small, (I think) purposely following one man of seemingly little importance in the large scheme of events. The world the novel envisions could have been expanded and made more complex, but I think it worked quite well as written. It was interesting and quite realistic to read the way Wilson depicted society dealing with the monoliths.
Highly Recommended


It was Hitch Paley, rolling his beat-up Daimler motorbike across the packed sand of the beach behind the Haat Thai Dance Pavilion, who invited me to witness the end of an age. Mine, and the world's. opening

The monument. It was not, first of all, a statue; that is, it was not a representation of a human or animal figure. It was a four-sided pillar, planned to a smooth, conical apex. The material of which it was made suggested glass, but on a ridiculously, impossible scale. It was blue: the deep, inscrutable blue of a mountain lake, somehow peaceful and ominous at once. It was not transparent but carried the suggestion of translucency. From this side - the northern side - it was scabbed with patches of white: ice, I was astonished to realize, slowly subliminating in the humid daylight. pg. 16

"Down at the bottom of it... does that look like writing to you?" pg 17

We rode in that truck for almost eighteen hours and spent the next night in a Bangkok prison, in separate cells and without communication privileges. I learned later that an American threat-assessment team wanted to "debrief" (i.e., interrogate) us before we talked to the press... pg. 19

The irony is that I hated the monument almost before anyone else did. Before very long the silhouette of that cool blue stone would become a symbol recognized and hated (or, perversely, loved) by the vast majority of the human race. pg. 23

The inscription, carved an inch deep into the substance of the pillar and written in a kind of pidgin Mandarin and basic English, was a simple declarative statement commemorating a battle. In other words, the pillar was a victory monument. pg. 23

This was, as you will have guessed, the first of the city-busting Chronoliths... pg. 37

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