Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first read Axis, I didn’t write a review for it (as I wasn’t reviewing books at the time). When I started added some of my favorite books into Goodreads, I decided that it warranted a review; but it seems that I could only find two sentences to say about it: “Good, but not nearly as good as Spin. Which isn’t really surprising since Spin was just phenomenal.”.

Well. That doesn’t say very much, does it? Once I found out that the third book in this series, Vortex was out, I decided that I should re-read the first two before cracking open the third. And now that I’ve finished it, why not try to flesh out those two sentences a bit?

The problem is that those two sentences really do sort of sum it up. This is not a bad little book, though it’s a bit tedious in ways that Spin never was. But it’s a little tough to explain why it was tedious. I think it comes back to the way that Spin catalogs a few decades worth (or, a few billion years worth, depending on how you count) of an incomprehensibly large world-changing event as seen through the eyes of one of the smartest, most driven people alive (or, at least, his personal physician). Axis, on the other hand, tells the story of a few relatively normal people living through a reasonably large adventure.

Which is to say, I suppose, that the scale is completely different. I used the word “adventure” in my previous paragraph, and I think that’s accurate. In its heart, Axis is an adventure story: there are daring break-ins, earth quakes, collapsing buildings, explosions, government intrigue, and more. Sure, a Big science fiction plot is wrapped around it (the whole thing takes place on a “neighboring” planet and one of the main characters is a Martian, after all), but the sci-fi feels like window dressing for something just a little tawdrier.

Not that there’s anything wrong with an adventure story. I like adventure stories. But, as a follow-up to such a masterwork of the genre as Spin, it just feels wrong: almost boring, as if the explosions are just there as a distraction from the plot which has an extremely slow build to a somewhat anti-climatic ending.

As a stand-alone work, though, it’s pretty entertaining. So I still rate it at 3 stars. I liked it. It’s just not the book you should read immediately after finishing Spin. And that’s a shame since the series ordering practically begs you to do that (after finishing Spin, you want to keep reading).

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