The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
Each Friday, I intend to highlight a book I’ve recently enjoyed and want to share with you. I figure that a Friday is the best time to do this as you’ll have the whole weekend to really get into it.
A note on the links: they’re affiliate links in some cases, which means that if you click on them and then buy the book, I might get a small commission. In any case the price you pay does not vary, I don’t get to know who bought what, and none of your personal data is shared with me.
And none of the recommendations are paid for: these are all books which I personally have bought, enjoyed and want to share - no-one is asking me to do this.
I’m recommending a single, stand-alone book this time, not part of a longer ongoing series. It’s a very curious story, called The Chronoliths, by Robert Charles Wilson. As you might have guessed from the name (depending on your Latin knowledge) it’s about time and stones…
From the synopsis:
One day in Thailand, 21st-century slacker Scott Warden witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar. Its arrival collapses trees for a quarter mile around its base. It appears to be composed of an exotic form of matter. And the inscription chiseled into it commemorates a military victory…sixteen years hence…
That synopsis alone was enough to get me to buy it, but if you need some more information… These pillars appear suddenly, obliterating whatever is in the way - and each is inscribed with the name of the conqueror ‘Kuin’. As the Chronoliths spread across the world, each getting larger and causing more damage as they appear, people search for the man who will become the world-striding warlord. Before long people are investigating methods of predicting where a Chronolith will appear, and trying to prevent them, but it seems as if the very arrival of the stones is part of this warrior’s plan - destabilising countries, seeding fear in the population and even inspiring his future armies to self-mobilise before they find their leader. Many people rise up and call themselves Kuin, hoping to gather support and power.
Scott keeps getting drawn back into this struggle, and we get to see him making his way through the world as it changes. In fact his story is the central part of this book, the Sci-Fi tropes forming a compelling background, but not distracting from the human drama which is key to this narrative. His family and friends are the focus of his attention much more than the impending arrival of Kuin, in particular his daughter who is drawn into a cult which makes a pilgrimage to the expected location of the first Chronolith in North America - a predicted event which has already plunged the US into chaos with the fear of being conquered.
I found this book hard to put down, very well written and compelling. I wanted to know what happened next, who Kuin was and whether he could indeed be defeated or stopped. The deeper philosophical ramifications of time-travel (do we have free will? Is the future set?) are mentioned but never bog the story down, and the family relationships are the most important and well-rounded part of the story.
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