Robert Charles Wilson's latest novel has just hit paperback, and rapidly jumped the queue of the too-be-read bookcase. If you appreciated the strange mysteries of The Harvest, Mysterium and Darwinia, then The Chronoliths is going to be right up your street. In the early part of the mid 21st century strange artifacts are being thrown back through time - to commemorate victories by a mysterious "Kuin" 20 years and 3 months into the future. Often enormous, these artifacts cause great destruction as they materialise in the hearts of cities. Civilisation rocks in the resulting depression, and governements struggle to meet an unknown threat in their future.
The Chronoliths is the story of Scott Warden, an unambitious code herder slacking on the beach in Thailand, who becomes caught up in the mystery through his proximity to the first arrival. An estranged father, he finds his life torn apart when he is recruited onto a research team that is attempting to understand the physics of the artifacts. We follow him through nearly 20 years, as his daughter grows, and as he struggles to understand his relationship with his mentor, his father and his ex-wife. Like many others of Wilson's novels, this is one where a deep mystery only exists as a backdrop to the more complelling human story. Feeling himself trapped in the turbulence between future and past, this is more the story of a man coming to terms with family and his place in the world.
From the idylls of Thailand to the drama of the Wyoming climax, Wilson has a feel for place and the narrator's response to his surroundings that makes this book a compelling read. If it wasn't for the shortness of tube journeys, this would have been a one-sitting novel. Well worth adding to your bookcases.