VORTEX by Robert Charles Wilson


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Wrapping up the trilogy (Axis, 2007, etc.), Wilson’s extravagantly peculiar yarn involving the Hypotheticals, a sort of galactic computer program composed of nanomachines that, for reasons imponderable, moved Earth four-billion years into the future.

Now, the Earth is choking on gases produced by burning the plentiful fossil fuels found on another world, part of a Ring of Worlds connected by hyperspace gateways set up by the Hypotheticals. In Houston, psychologist Sandra Cole ponders Orrin Mather, a seemingly inoffensive young vagrant swept up by social services. Police officer Jefferson Bose takes an interest for personal reasons, later explained, and because of the manuscript that Orrin carries and which the near-illiterate man clearly didn't write. The manuscript describes a time ten thousand years in their future, wherein a hive-like community called Vox steers a continent-sized artificial island through one of the gateways towards poisoned Earth. Two individuals in particular are caught up in this odyssey: a young woman who, as part of Vox, is called Treya, but has an implanted personality, Allison Pearl, culled from ten-thousand-year-old records in order that she be able to communicate with Turk Findley, a pilot and drifter hurled from Sandra's time into the future by the Hypotheticals. The problem with Vox, as Turk will learn, is that it's a "limbic democracy" whose emotional core and compulsory guiding spirit, Coryphaeus, is insane. The problem here is that neither the bewildered characters nor inevitably frustrated readers have an agency to grapple with—humans are less than ants to the Hypotheticals, who entirely lack volition—so there's really nothing to think about; you either accept the premise or you don't.

The disappointing upshot: a resounding so what?

Pub Date: July 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2342-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2011


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