The Chronoliths was a book I may never have read were it not for the rise of the eBook. This novel caught my attention long ago, but couldn’t be found on local bookshelves, and had to be ordered, if I wanted to read it. So it got added to my wishlist, and eventually was released for Kindle. Naturally, I bought it. And I’m glad I did.
Robert Charles Wilson has quickly become one of my favorites, and The Chronoliths is yet another of his fantastic works. His books are subtle, and yet marvelously complex.
The synopsis for The Chronoliths:
Scott Warden is a man haunted by the past-and soon to be haunted by the future.
In early twenty-first-century Thailand, Scott is an expatriate slacker. Then, one day, he inadvertently witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar in the forested interior. 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.
Shortly afterwards, 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?
Scott wants only to rebuild his life. But some strange loop of causality keeps drawing him in, to the central mystery and a final battle with the future.
As always, Wilson does an amazing job of bringing the reader into a world that’s fully-realized, and incredibly detailed. It’s a world that’s bleak, gritty, and–unfortunately–entirely believable. It’s an America that certainly could exist, though thankfully does not–yet. The author reveals details off-handedly, as if it were already obvious to the reader; it’s really handled perfectly, with information doled out at just the right moment–sometimes revealing crucial tidbits the reader wasn’t even aware they were waiting to learn. The Chronoliths is an engrossing read from the very first page.
The characters are deeply flawed, and each have their role to play. From the unwilling viewpoint character, to the obligatory shady character, to the heroine with all the answers. Despite these flaws, they’re excellent characters, with complex roles to play.
Most intriguing about this book is that it seeps into the reader’s consciousness. One begins reading, and suddenly finds they can’t wait to find out what happens next. It’s a subtle but involving read.
By the end of the book, it’s clear that events have taken on a life of their own, and we’re just along for the ride. Still, it’s a pretty fantastic ride.
– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown