Blake Bouza// COntributing Writer
Welcome back to The Settler’s book review. I am going to besorting what you should be reading from what you could be reading – because I care.
The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
In early 21st century Thailand, Scott is an ex-patriate slacker. Then, one day, he inadvertently witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar in the forested interior. And the inscription chiseled into it commemorates a military victory–sixteen years in the future.
Shortly afterward, 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, our own near future. Who is the warlord “Kuin” whose victories they note?
I wanted to love this book so much. The premise has one of the most interesting science fiction ideas I have ever heard of. An egotistical warlord sending monuments of himself back through time to commemorate his victories? Sign me up.
Unfortunately, the execution of this premise left a lot to be desired.
Seemingly more by random circumstance than by fate, Scott runs into his old college professor, Sue Chopra, after the first Chronolith touches down. Sue Chopra gets put in charge of finding a way to avoid this future fate, and Scott, a coder, gets invited to be on the team. The logic to having a cause-and-effect coder on the team seems reasonable, but Scott never really does anything.
Sue is probably my favorite character in the whole book, a gay scientist who basically believes she is the time period’s savior and may or may not be a megalomaniac because of it.
I wish we had seen the story told from her point-of-view.
What could have been a very interesting military/science novel was instead turned into an unrealistic family drama. Which can be a very effective vessel with which to tell a larger story – but none of it was believable.
Now that is not to say I did not enjoy some elements of the story. It was more the peripheral things about it I enjoyed, the social aspects the Chronoliths bring with it, specifically the generational psychology and the effect the Chronoliths have on the average person.
The book also depicts a believable future despite the speculative premise. Water shortages, new bills that are passed to combat the economic collapse in America after Asia is thrown into turmoil. Little things that are mentioned in passing that lend to the greater story.
So on the grander scale, it is an interesting story if a bit dry. It is not the best character story I have ever read, and it did not need to be – but it left a lot to be desired.
2 out of 5 stars.