Sometimes the entirety of the universe makes me stop and say, “Holy crap. I’m a mite.”
Not all the time. It takes something special, like the new high-res images from Mars (ohmygodanotherplanet!!!!). Or that poem by Stephen Crane:
A man said to the universe
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”
This photo of a galaxy cluster from the Hubble gets those mitey feelings going, too:
And now, Spin.
This book broke my mind.
Imagine the Earth being plopped into a galactic ziplock baggie. A baggie that preserves life and time on Earth as we know it, but outside that baggie, time is moving far faster: 100,000,000 years for every year on Earth. And in 30 or 40 human years, our sun – a red giant by then – will swallow up our planet. That’s the titular spin barrier.
Holy crap. I’m a mite.
Spin is the story of how three people deal with it. Jason attempts to save humanity by taking us into the cosmos. Diane, his sister, tries to save herself by turning to religious fanaticism. Tyler, their life long friend and the book’s narrator, just goes along to get along.
The downside is that these characters are ciphers. Jason is Science. Diane is Faith. Those two almost never talk about anything else. Jason and Diane spend most of the book cooped up in their respective gated compounds – Jason’s is a research facility in Florida while Diane’s is a religious cult in Arizona. Tyler is Humanity. He’s a doctor and the only one who even interacts with the world at large.
But their stories are not the main event in Spin. The main event is the science, and the characters are tools in service to the science fiction ideas the author wants to explore. Things like a new humanity on Mars, terraforming, and Von Neumann machines. Every time I turned a page, it was something new.
Like all good sci-fi, Spin is also a commentary on us as we are now. And it’s saying we’re impatient, we’re not interested enough in this ever more massive universe around us, and we don’t care enough about scientific progress. You and I may still be following Curiosity on Mars because neeerrrrrddddss, but there are more people in my real-time life that are completely oblivious that it even happened. Of those who are aware, many of them have a lousy attitude toward it.
And that’s the essence of Spin: the universe is speeding around us and we’re sitting on our little planet, wallowing in a sense of doom.
Cheese Rating Scale: Manchego. Rich and hearty and unbelievably good.