By Robert Charles Wilson
Canadian science fiction writer Robert Charles Wilson's output over three decades and almost 20 books, including A Hidden Place (1986), Darwinia (1998), and the Hugo Award-winning Spin (2005) and its follow-ups Axis (2007) and Vortex (2011), places him in the first rank of great science fiction writers. The Affinities explores the complex social connections that determine our lives.
THE STORY: Software based on the burgeoning field of social teleodynamics--think online matchmaking taken to its extreme, in every aspect of life--can slot test takers into one of 22 Affinities (40 percent of the public don't qualify for any Affinity). After undergoing a rigorous examination, Adam Fisk, an aspiring artist at loose ends who lands in Toronto from Upstate New York, tests as a Tau, one of the most popular and strongest Affinities. He's never been happier than in the "tranche," a tightknit group of a couple dozen companions within the larger Affinity, as well as with his newfound and hyper-compatible lover and dozens of fast friends who share the "tranche telepathy." Yet geopolitical instability and the inevitable ramping up of economic and political competition between Affinities take a deadly serious turn. When Adam is forced to make a life-changing decision, his Affinity lies in the balance.
Tor. 304 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780765332622
Fantasy Literature ****1/2
"The Affinities lacks aliens and interplanetary travel, but it's clearly a Robert Charles Wilson novel.... I was hooked from start to finish." RYAN SKARDAL
Wall Street Journal ****
"The most convincing and alluring part of the story is the way Adam Fisk, the hero, finds himself moving with great relief from family to affinity. His family is dysfunctional in an entirely credible way, with a bullying father, favored son, repressed stepmother, frightened stepbrother and Adam in the middle as the son who has let his father down." TOM SHIPPEY
Washington Post ****
"In this thought-provoking novel, Wilson deftly explores the drawbacks of groupthink and social networks that come to replace more inclusive, complex personal relationships. What's chilling is how close this futuristic plot mirrors our current reality." NANCY HIGHTOWER
"Frankly, this idea of affinity groups is not the most powerful of Wilson's conceits, but his novels have always straddled a line between compelling stories of character and complex family relationships on the one hand, and Big Reveals on the other. To the extent that The Affinities is successful--and I think it is--depends far more on the former than the latter" GARY K. WOLFE
"Wilson's prose is lovely as always, and the concept of the novel is fascinating, if imperfectly developed.... A minor Robert Charles Wilson novel, then, but still: a new Robert Charles Wilson novel is always cause for celebration" STEFAN RAETS
Robert Charles Wilson's relative lack of recognition in the United States might have something to do with his living in Canada. But readers just coming to Wilson's work are in for a treat. It's hardly a stretch to compare him to Golden Age giant Isaac Asimov (particularly Foundation) and the oft-overlooked but similarly talented Clifford Simak, both of whom brought a humanist approach to the examination of new technologies. Wilson's treatment of social networks and their user discontents in The Affinities is thought provoking and disturbingly plausible--a hallmark of the author, even when dealing with future tech--and the characters believable and rounded (aside, perhaps, from a patriarch who's too unlikable, if that's possible). All in all, a stand-alone winner for an old pro.
***** CLASSIC A timeless book to be read by all
**** EXCELLENT One of the best of its genre
*** GOOD Enjoyable, particularly for fans of the genre
** FAIR Some problems, approach with caution
* POOR Not worth your time