Classification: Effects of Time Travel Technologies on Society
Imagine: one day you are outside, lying on your back and watching the stars with your two best friends. Suddenly, something happens: the stars vanish, all at once. Just like that. This is how Spin begins.
In Spin we are introduced to Tyler Dupree, the protagonist, and his two closest friends, the twins Jason and Diane Lawton. Tyler, Jason and Diane were doing exactly what I described in the previous paragraph: watching the night sky when all the stars suddenly vanished. This event which has occurred everywhere has come to be called the “Spin”.
At first no one knew what happened. It seemed that the Spin is some sort of an artificial barrier created around the Earth, by someone with clearly an infinitely greater understanding of technology than humanity. For reasons of their own, the Hypotheticals (as people have started calling them), have chosen to erect this barrier.
The barrier’s goal is actually not to hide the stars: that’s merely a side effect. The goal is much subtler than that. Although the barrier is permeable, meaning, objects can pass through it, time goes much faster outside the barrier than in it. Much, much, much faster: for every year that passes on Earth, 100 million years pass outside. Think about it: every minute that passes on Earth is equivalent to centuries outside the barrier.
This is a truly scary situation Humanity has suddenly found itself in. Current predictions give the Solar System 4 additional billion years: in human terms, this is infinitely long: but with the Spin intact, this will happen in only 40 years. Meaning, most adult humans will live to experience this. And what then? Is that the goal of the Hypotheticals – to destroy humanity and Earth?
In Spin the way humanity is dealing with this event is examined from two different perspectives. The first is the practical one: obviously, many nations attempt to destroy the barrier, multiple times. But there are other ways of dealing with this issue. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but the fact that time goes MUCH faster outside the barrier is a huge advantage from some aspects. For example, what if one attempted to terraform mars with Earth microbes. If one does this correctly, this could work. Of course, it could take a couple of hundred thousand years… but that’s only a few days from Earth’s perspective. And if that worked.. what if a spaceship with settlers was sent to colonize Mars with the goal of inhabiting it, and eventually work on a way to neutralize Earth’s barrier from outside. A day in Earth would mean centuries have passed for them. Very interesting ideas, don’t you think? I won’t elaborate beyond that.
The second perspective is how humanity collectively deals with the fact that in just a couple of decades it will probably cease to exist. Is there a point in having kids, if their lives are going to be so short? Is there a point in investing in a pension fund, if you won’t live to that age? Maybe there’s no point in living at all? Spin does a superb job in dealing with these complex issues and questions. [Note that in The Chronoliths, another novel by the same author that I reviewed, similar issues are examined from a different perspective (and reason)]
Spin is an excellent novel on every conceivable measure. It has a fantastic and imaginative plot. It has deep and well developed characters. It feels completely realistic (in fact, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a movie made at some point). Finally, it it extremely well written: one frequent criticism of science fiction is that often the ideas they present are good, but as for the writing, well, that generally leaves much to be desired. Well – I think that Spin could win awards for writing as well. (It did win a Hugo, but surely that’s “only” because of the brilliant concepts and ideas it raises).
In summary: highly, highly recommended, Spin is immediately a classic. Every year there are 1 (sometime 2) book I consider my personal favorite book of the year. In 2006, Spin was that book. You can’t go wrong with Spin. If you pick one book to read this year, pick Spin.
If you’ve read this book, please vote below:
Tags: Aliens, Mystery, Temporal effect, Time Lag