Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Chronoliths

Rate this book
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--twenty 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. 

The Chronoliths is a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel and the winner of the 2002 John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

315 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published August 1, 2001

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Robert Charles Wilson

93 books1,551 followers
I've been writing science fiction professionally since my first novel A Hidden Place was published in 1986. My books include Darwinia, Blind Lake, and the Hugo Award-winning Spin. My newest novel is The Affinities (April 2015).

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
971 (18%)
4 stars
2,203 (41%)
3 stars
1,681 (31%)
2 stars
391 (7%)
1 star
77 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 381 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,109 followers
June 10, 2019
In a lot of ways, this is an excellent novel full of well-conceived characters driven by a slowly disintegrating society. Add suddenly appearing strange event/objects, the Chronoliths, and watch our near-future implode.

This is not an action-fueled novel. It is family-driven, obliquely and curiously propelled by the inclusion of old colleagues and the slow social collapse of our world. Think Spin, but not with the stars disappearing. Just add big monoliths that suddenly warp space-time, appearing in the middle of jungles or places all over the world, have them commemorate some near-future battle, and see how YOU would do with such knowledge. :)

The most important (read best) part of this novel is the worldbuilding. The social interactions, the sideways decline. And the main characters. They managed to make me care. :) Quite interesting. The details are especially fine. :)
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews556 followers
April 24, 2021
I've been meaning to reread The Chronoliths for some time now, and this year I have found the perfect excuse (not that I needed one), but I sort of like it when 'planets align': 2021 is the year when the first chronolith appeared in Chumphon.

It surprised me how fresh I still had it in mind, when most of the details seem to fade in time. Not this time though; the only new thing is that I saw the chronoliths a bit different this time around.

It doesn't even matter who is or what is the meaning of Kuin; what matters is that RCW manages to set the reader's wheels in motion, to make him think outside the book.

The chronoliths could be also an allegory of the herd mentality and persuasion of the masses, or ideology, or maybe megalomania. There are lots of examples in our past and present of such leaders and their blind followers.

Either way, what I think it really matters is not the chronoliths themselves, but the story of Scott Warden, one of the best characters I have read about. He's a man trying to right his youth mistakes, whose love for his daughter overcomes everything else, and whose life is intermingled with the events around the chronoliths, and not for the best.

And at anytime I more than welcome RCW's writing; no matter how bleak or depressing the story setting is, his words always have a soothing effect on me.

PS: Jo Walton has a wonderful and to the point review on it:
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books348 followers
April 7, 2012
This is a fine mix of Big Idea SF with human drama on a much smaller scale. The Big Idea is a conqueror from the future named "Kuin" who is somehow able to send massive monuments to his victories back in time, where they stand invulnerable and ominous over the lands he is destined to conquer. The first ones are in Thailand, but over the next few years they appear all over Asia. Some materialize in relatively unpopulated areas, but some appear in the middle of cities, flattening them with shockwaves. Scientists determine (using hand-wavey physics) that these "chronoliths" are indeed from the future, which means Kuin really is going to conquer all of Asia in about twenty years. This sets off global turmoil. Some prepare to fight; others begin urging accommodation or outright capitulation. By the time Kuin's chronoliths are appearing outside of Asia, there are entire "Kuinist" militias and organizations, and of course innumerable warlords in the now-devastated Asian warring states claiming to be Kuin.

This is the backdrop of the story, which is really about Scott Warden and his family. Scott is a kind of mediocre husband and father slacking off in Thailand when the first chronolith appears there. Being one of the first witnesses to the first appearance of the chronoliths inescapably binds him to the events that follow over the next few decades. As he is told by Sulasmith Chopra, the scientist who studies the chronoliths and believes that Kuin can be stopped, "there are no coincidences." Scott goes through a divorce, his ex-wife marries a Kuin accommodationist, his daughter, as a teenager, hooks up with a young Kuinist ideologue who turns out to be a psychopath, which brings Scott together with the psychopath's mother. His drug-dealing friend from his time in Thailand reappears, as do all the other characters we meet over the course of the book.

It's Scott's interactions with his family and friends that are the heart and soul of this book. The characters are not all vivid or interesting, but they are distinct and they each have a purpose in the story, and Scott narrates a compelling story as he weathers a long, brutal economic downturn that turns even the U.S. into an impoverished country, works for Sulasmith Chopra trying to understand who Kuin is and what the chronoliths represent, travels to Mexico to save his daughter from Kuinists who have gone on a "haj" to see the manifestation of the first chronolith in North America, and finally, goes to meet his destiny in a climactic confrontation in Wyoming.

"Kuin" is basically a MacGuffin; ultimately, it doesn't really matter who he is or if he even exists. It's what he represents that drives all the world events. With the rules of time travel Wilson establishes in this book, cause and effect are looped together, so we are finally able to understand why all the small human dramas Scott was involved in add up to something of greater significance at the end. Wilson's take on time travel is intelligent and subtle, and by keeping Kuin a mysterious off-screen presence whose very existence remains in doubt, he makes the whole thing plausible without having to deal with paradoxes, parallel universes, and the like. Wilson has thought through all the implications, and if the end of the story seems like a bit of an anti-climax, it's also one that makes perfect sense.

Wilson's writing is straightforward but occasionally he waxes almost poetic. He's one of those writers who likes to show off his vocabulary, yet even the tech and time travel physics infodumps were brief and clear.

Although this wasn't the most wonderful book in recent memory or a true masterpiece, it's definitely a hidden gem of high quality, and I came very close to giving it 5 stars. Given the eloquent but clear writing, it's a science fiction novel that a non-sci-fi fan might well enjoy, since the time travel and near-future history is only background for the characters and the plot which drive the story. I give it 4.5 stars; it's very good, I just didn't quite find it unique or mindblowing or the characters memorable enough to make it awesome.
Profile Image for Josh.
121 reviews
March 27, 2012
In The Chronoliths, the world is rocked by the sudden arrival of massive obelisks, or "chronoliths," which appear to be a future conqueror's monuments to battles that have not yet occurred. As the chronoliths continue to appear, the world descends into economic and social chaos. Robert Charles Wilson is a brilliant writer and this is standard fare for him: a character story involving normal people caught up in major, world-altering preternatural events.

While The Chronoliths has an interesting premise, it is flat and intensely boring at times. Much of the action occurs elsewhere when the viewpoint character is not present. Wilson fails to use the chronoliths' potential. They are fascinating objects but they are reduced to a setting, a mere backdrop by which our hero, Scott Warden, looks retrospectively on his life. To make matters worse, Warden is unlikable and apathetic. We often get the sense that he isn't involved in the story but rather that he just happens to be standing there when the story occurs.

Wilson almost always surprises the reader with something completely unexpected at the end. Unfortunately, there are few surprises here. The chronoliths turn out to be disappointing and less interesting than expected. Overall, The Chronoliths was anti-climactic. Whereas most Wilson novels leave the reader feeling awed, I finished it thinking, "Is that it?" If you're a Wilson fan you may enjoy this one, but it is hardly Wilson's greatest achievement. If you haven't read Spin or Blind Lake, I suggest going there first.
Profile Image for Martin.
327 reviews143 followers
July 6, 2019
Scott Warden is a man haunted by the past-and soon to be haunted by the future.

Time travel - only it is backwards
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.

Invasion - from an unknown general - from a future time
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?

Everything is connected
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.

In this dystopian novel the world retreats from the future threat that is seemingly unstoppable. Different.


Profile Image for Denis.
Author 1 book21 followers
April 25, 2021
This is my second read of this one. It is an exceptionally good novel; has the beginnings of what is so great about his Spin novel which he published a few tears later. I would recommend this as a great start if you are interested in reading RCW’s work. Truly a talented author of the genre.
Profile Image for Glyn.
439 reviews14 followers
March 12, 2012
On the positive side, this book did have interesting ideas. It unfolded nicely over a span of several years, cataloging changes and effects -- showing economic downturn, how people's way of living changed. There were moments when I was engaged, and interested in what was going to happen next.

But I found these moments were few and far between. I couldn't stand the narrator -- the kind of guy who screws up his first marriage, and manages to shakily repair his relationship with his daughter, barring a few mishaps. Maybe that archetype just hit too close to home. Nothing very much seems to happen, in between the Chronoliths touching down. It appears to be building to a conflict that never really happens.

And the violence... Men get hurt, and tortured -- but of course it's always worse for the women. There's a semi-graphic rape scene, and whenever a woman gets into a bad situation, rape is always part of the violence. Realistic or not, I found that unsettling.

The book is worth checking out, for ideas of time travel/paradox/destiny -- but I found it dull. The ending -- and much of the book itself -- was unsatisfactory.
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews556 followers
November 12, 2017
Frankly, I don't think I'm able to say much about it because I don't think I understood it completely. No, I'm sure I didn't.

The premise is this: chronoliths are suddenly starting to appear all over Asia and expand in some other regions. They are monuments from an unknown material which praise the victory of one named Kuin in wars which will occur 20 years in the future. Nobody knows who is Kuin, but the world is thrown into chaos, because some of these giants appeared in the middle of cities, destroying them completely. Movements Anti- and Pro-Kuin are born and rebellions are taking place all over the world. And on this background, there is the story of Scott Warden, whose decisions alter the life course of his family and appears to be a catalyst somehow related to the chronoliths.

The whole story had for me a biblical touch: could be the story of David and Goliath, or it can be perceived as a harsh critic to what religion can trigger through a new so-called Messiah. Or maybe it's just an atypical sci-fi story, dealing with time-space manipulation in a dystopian setup.

"I tried to imagine martyrdom running backward like a broken clock. How sweet to abdicate divinity, to climb down from the cross, to travel from transfiguration to simple wisdom and arrive at last at innocence."

Either way, RCW writes extraordinary well and fluent. I felt the whole time the anguish Scott felt during the events in the Chronoliths Era. And I can't say he's a likeable character. He's just an ordinary flawed man caught up in a turmoil of events and he tries to do his best, which at times seems to be exactly the opposite.

"I'm old enough now to believe what I choose. To believe what I can bear to believe."

Bottom line is that this novel was a hell of a ride and I think I will reread it at some point in the future. And maybe I will find out a new meaning for Kuin.

"Kuin" became little more than a name for the vacuum at the heart of the whirlwind. The king is unborn; long live the king."
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews534 followers
December 28, 2008
In our near future, the chronoliths start arriving out of thin air across the world – enormous, destructive monuments to conquests that, according to the engravings, won’t occur for twenty more years. Scott writes his memoir, telling of his presence at the arrival of the first chronolith in Thailand and the set of extraordinary experiences that keep his life entwined with the mystery and the slim hope of averting global disaster. The chronoliths arrive from the future, and they bring with them a bending of reality, a shift of the rules of time and coincidence and destiny that has very intimate consequences for Scott and his family.

Dude! It’s a proto Spin! Seriously – we’ve got the fictionalized memoir style, the near future setting and focus on the global sociological response to disaster, the blend of abstract theory and intense character work. Not as good as Spin, as you might expect if we assume this really was Wilson’s warm-up book – the memoir style is unfocussed and a bit wobbly here, the drama yanked a bit too taut in places, some shiny theory of the temporal physics of coincidence used to justify some otherwise indefensible plot devices without actually illuminating those devices as it could have. I also saw the endgame coming quite far off.

But if you ask me, ‘not as good as Spin’ is still saying a whole lot. Wilson has a real flare for both sink-your-teeth-in science and for compelling, personal character work. Unusual for the genre, sad to say. He also deals with big sociological change in impressive, detailed ways. And I just like his books. They make sense to me; they work on a rhythm I’m naturally tuned to, intellectually and emotionally. The puzzles appeal to the philosopher in me, and the writing feels comfortable and right (not coincidentally, I think, Wilson and I have a congruent prose style).

Time has an arrow, Sue Chopra once told me. It flies in one direction. Combine fire and firewood, you get ashes. Combine fire and ashes, you don't get firewood.

Morality has an arrow, too. For example: Run a film of the Second World War backward and you invert its moral logic. The Allies sign a peace agreement with Japan and promptly bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nazis extract bullets from the heads of emaciated Jews and nurse them back to health.

The problem with tau turbulence, Sue said, is that it mingles these paradoxes into daily experience.

In the vicinity of a Chronolith, a saint might be a very dangerous man. A sinner is probably more useful.
Profile Image for prcardi.
538 reviews76 followers
July 8, 2018
Storyline: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 4/5

This is one of my favorite science fiction reads thus far this year. Others I've enjoyed about as much include The Mote in God's Eye and Anvil of Stars, though I think The Chronoliths was the best of the three. I would place it on a shelf with "idea" books - a category I very much enjoy. Other, similar books that it shares shelf space with include Philip Jose Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go, John Scalzi's Old Man's War, Vernor Vinge's The Peace War, and Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. What these all share in common is a provocative premise. Early in the book Robert Charles Wilson sets up a scenario that is so bold and imaginative that the reader can simply put the book down and ponder the implications for a while. Of course you want to get back to the book; you want to see what Wilson is going to do with the story. But what books like this do is to make a spectacular and history-changing scenario not only believable but to help put you, the reader, there experiencing the wonder and contemplating the significance.

None of the idea books are what I'd consider great books. That early puzzle or revelation is simply too awesome, and none of those works finish out the story with what is necessary to complement the beginning. Robert Charles Wilson has even done this before. His Darwinia and Spin are structurally similar and reside on the same shelf (the latter, perhaps, a little too similar). All those idea books are good books, though - I count most of them among my favorites, and I would readily recommend them. But the great moments they contain don't blind me to their flaws. For The Chronoliths, some of those weaknesses include the overuse of dramatic foreshadowing and some repeated pseudo-science hand waving. Wilson does have enough awareness of what he's created, however, to blame the narrator for the former and treat skeptically the latter. The Chronoliths does present some of the difficulties common to near future science fiction. It seems that science fiction authors, in particular, have trouble making our tomorrow interesting. They do a fine job with the big question, alien invasion, or technological invention, but when it comes to understanding the people and the society, the backdrop looks flat, and it proves difficult to bring the writing, characters, or real-life significance to the foreground. Wilson did better with it here than he did in Spin, and I was impressed with his aims even if not the execution. The story demanded a heaviness that Wilson never seemed to be able to fully supply. That might be related to its being a breezy read. Like the Spin series, this was an extremely easy read. I don't know what my words per minute were, but I'm sure this ranked among those that I flew through, devouring it in half the time an average sci fi book of equal length required. That's not necessarily a bad thing; I find John Scalzi's and Robert Sawyer's books the same way. I would have enjoyed it more, however, had it been a little more intellectually or literarily demanding.
Profile Image for Antonio TL.
244 reviews29 followers
May 6, 2021
La idea de la novela en si es de lo más intesante: En el año 2020 comienzan a aparecer enormes monolitos en varios lugares del mundo, cada uno de los cuales rinde homenaje a un futuro conquistador llamado Kuin. Nuestro protagonista se encuentra en el sitio de la aparición del primer monolito y, a partir de entonces se ve envuelto en la trama. No por coincidencia, aparentemente, sino por una tal "turbulencia tau" (nunca supe exactamente qué es eso y Wilson no lo explica muy bien). Durante los siguientes veinte años, es testigo del virtual colapso de la forma de vida del siglo XX.
Tras un buen arranque la historia según se va avanzando va quedando cada vez más plana hasta el punto de que los cronolitos (ya no son monolitos) resultan bastante decepcionantes y menos interesantes quedando relegados a un segundo plano hasta que vuelven a aparecer al final (bastante abierto además) de la novela. Nominada para el Premio Hugo 2002 a la Mejor Novela
Profile Image for Bryan Alexander.
Author 4 books292 followers
December 11, 2020
A book about mysterious monoliths popping up all over the Earth? In December 2020, how could I resist?

About one half of The Chronoliths concerns the title plot, which is a doozy. It begins right away with an uncanny event: a vast, strange monolith sudden appears in Thailand. It's inexplicable in its construction and appearance, but it also bears another puzzle. Text running along the thing proclaim it to commemorate a spectacular victory... taking place in the future. (Hence the name, chronolith)

Then another such object appears, elsewhere in southeast Asia. And that plot kicks off, as we spend the rest of the novel trying to understand what these things are, what they mean, how they got here, and how they change the world. This fascinated me and kept me reading later at night than I wanted to. That much of Chronoliths is a fine sf thriller.

The novel's other half studies several characters as they move in and out of the mystery over time. Our point of view character, Scotty, is a computer coder who saw the first chronolith right after it arrived. His wife and daughter are important characters alongside him, as well as an expat/wastrel/drug dealer and a brilliant scientist working on the mystery. On the one hand these characters serve to humanize the vast mystery. On the other... this is the novel's weak point. Scotty is a balanced character, yes, mixing flaws and strengths, but is mostly just unpleasant to spend time with. Scotty is annoying, dull, and usually seeks to disengage from the world. The other characters are potentially more interesting, but we don't really get to see much of them through Scott's eyes. Honestly, I'd much rather have had chapters from any other character that wasn't him.

Now, The Chronoliths dates from 2001, before the war on terror, so there's the interesting reading experiencing of reading an imagined future that is the reader's own past/present. Technologies are underplayed - no smartphones, not as much internet - and Islam only appears once. Instead, the book is more focused on Asia, which might turn out to be prescient for the 21st century after all.

Profile Image for Daniel Roy.
Author 4 books69 followers
May 3, 2011
At the time I read this book, it was, quite simply, one of the best SF books I had ever read. This book made Wilson my favorite SF author.

It starts with an intriguing SF concept: what if a giant pillar appeared in Bangkok, marking the victory of a future warlord? What would be its impact on society? How could such an event come about and why must people in the future send mementos to the past?

On this premise, The Chronoliths fully deliver in intrigue, surprise twists and clever, thoughtful SF. But what makes this novel a masterpiece in my eye is how every bit of clever SF is actually wrapped in very human events.

The protagonist of The Chronoliths is a normal guy living in a fantastic time. He suffers marital difficulties, insecure, lacks confidence. That is not to say he wallows in self-pity, far from it; but his choices, whenever they are made, are rooted in believeable, poignant humanity.

Robert Charles Wilson is such a great author, in my opinion, because even though he writes about grand concepts, he never loses sight of his characters. Too often SF authors are so lost in their grand SF plots that they end up propping cardboard cutout characters against their fantastic stories. Wilson not only outdoes them in the scale of his ideas, but his concepts resonate so much more that we see them happening through very human eyes.

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you like it, know that Wilson's style is consistent, and that other novels of his (I recommend Spin, in some ways superior to this one) are filled with the same sense of wonder and deep humanity.
Profile Image for Jamie Rich.
376 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2017
The Chronoliths (Mass Market Paperback) by Robert Charles Wilson

A quick read, but the ride goes on. What if you could change the future by inserting a menssage into the past? Yes, I know it's been done before. But the author does it so well, and leaves enough mystery to make this work very well. Our characters are complex, and the narrative is just disjointed enough to make you believe.
You truly do get that sense of impending doom as each monument arrives. And the reactions of the world's population seems to be caught up in that ebb and flow. I also enjoyed that our hero was essentially a layman, so he can talk about the concepts, without getting bogged down in the mathematical details.
A streamlined story, and a tale well told.
Profile Image for Rusty.
Author 10 books27 followers
August 15, 2019
Well, I’m settling into life here in my adopted country. Bermuda is an interesting place. Both culturally and ecologically. It’s a very small place, like, 21 square miles. And even though I didn’t think I’d ever have to explain it to anyone - it’s very isolated.

I didn’t think I’d have to explain it to anyone because, well, I dunno. I just assumed people knew where it was located (hint: It ain’t in the Caribbean).

Regardless, it is sub-tropical. And it’s isolated. This means that it was practically devoid of wildlife when people arrived and began colonizing. The early ship-wrecked folks that discovered the place plopped pigs down on the island to breed and live so future ship-wrecked folks would have something to eat when they inevitably were marooned here.

And they were. In droves. It was called all sorts of horrible sounding names by sailors, who mostly felt the place was haunted, or cursed, or filled with monsters, or whatever.

I’ll probably talk about all that in later reviews, I suppose, cause I think I’ll end up reviewing a non-fiction book or two about the island and its history before too awful long (I’m running so way far behind on reviews... I’m only getting worse).

Point of all that, is that there aren’t any predators here. No snakes, no raccoons, possums, deer, wolves, lions, scorpions, or any of that. Not really that many scary insects at all. Except for spiders. Although even with those, the only venomous ones are the same as we have in the states - Brown recluse and Black widows.

There are a few things to be aware of. Not to creep you out at all, but there are giant flying cockroaches, enormous slugs, and oversized poison spitting toads (I’ve been told stories of small dogs being killed by these toads because they’ll bark at them and get poison in their wide open, barking mouths).

There are also cute creatures, like lizards of varying sizes, singing frogs that are just barely larger than a fingernail, and all sorts of birds that I’ve never seen in the states before.

We moved into our new place and I’d been warned before hand that I’d need to be constantly vigilant in keeping out cockroaches and ants. So I started spraying immediately with the most potent poisons I could get my hands on.

I learned that the poison will kill the cockroaches. But not deter the ants. So we walk in every day and find dead cockroaches littering the floor and a stream of ants carrying off the body parts. Not what I had in mind.

Got to see a lizard in my bed this morning. Scurrying around the bed trying to find a way out (they can, it must be said, climb right through a closed window. Not very comforting to watch happen, which I did when it scurried right on out of the house when I scared it away trying to get it to take outside).

Discovered one of the those giant slugs eating the dog food in the kitchen a few days ago. Nothing could prepare me for the horror of that. I didn’t know they’d come in your house and do that. I asked locals about it and was told none of them had EVER seen or heard of that happening in their lifetimes being on the island. So... I’m not sure what to do with that.

Anyway, this novel. It starts with our hero living on an island. From there stuff happens and it’s all pretty good. I didn’t like this novel as much as I did Spin, which was pure genius (it has been a long time, I hope I still feel that way) but it was still pretty great. I’d recommend it.

I don’t remember what it was about. Maybe time travel. I’m just left with the slightly warm glow of joy at how good it was. So there.
Profile Image for Rubén Vilaplana.
199 reviews11 followers
August 26, 2021
Tiene muy buenas ideas, pero no acaba de plasmarlas del todo bien para que le quede una novela cojonuda. Todas son buenas, pero siempre te queda la sensación de que con esas ideas que tiene podría haber sacado una historia remarcable.

Recomendada para los amantes de la sf, pero si te quieres introducir que no sea esta.

4 reviews
August 7, 2009
Excellent read. This was my first book by Wilson, and it looks like he writes in the same vien as Robert Sawyer--what I call Social Sci-fi. Instead of focusing on science or technology itself, Wilson instead writes about the -impact- that tech and related events have on average people's lives. So not only does Wilson create fully-realized characters with depth (and plenty of flaws), he manages to breathe life into the world, society and situations they inhabit. I found the pacing of the novel to be spot on and had zero problems picturing what was going on.

And although I'm a sucker for time travel stories and figured I had "seen it all before", there was an interesting spin (pardon the pun) put on the concept here--by looking at events from the perspective of the era that was affected (the past/present), not from the time when events were initiated (the future), if that makes sense.

It's a shame that this is currently out of print. Took me a while to find a used copy, but this is a novel that would be well worth full price. Both yummy and satisfying. I look forward to reading Spin in the future.
Profile Image for Adrienne.
320 reviews
February 21, 2010
In 2021, a gigantic memorial appears out of nowhere in the middle of Thailand. The text on the memorial refers to a great battle fought there and a victorious general "Kuin" and gives a date: December 21, 2041 - 20 years in the future. How did the memorial get there? Who is this Kuin? Can he really send objects through time?

Robert Charles Wilson's The Chronoliths is a dystopian fiction with elements of time travel (heavily) thrown in. It's a fascinating premise, and the picture Wilson paints of the future is an interesting one, full of new, plausible technologies and terrible environmental disasters. Wilson's characters, particularly Scotty Warden, the protagonist, didn't catch my attention as much as the setting and premise did. Wilson handled the science of the book fairly well, but the characters, not so much. However, this story would probably make an excellent movie.
One note: the book was published in 2001. In the post-9/11 world, this story would probably be told differently. It was just obvious enough for me to look for the copyright date part-way through the third chapter.
Profile Image for Gene.
529 reviews
December 19, 2016
I really enjoyed this book. This is my third Robert Charles Wilson book after Spin (which I liked immensely) and Axis (which I was a bit disappointed by). I like how the author can completely disrupt the entire Earth's society and yet still present relatable characters. There was a bit of hand-waving about the mechanics of the chronoliths, especially regarding .
Overall, this made me eager to seek out other books by Wilson (even if I'm going to skip Vortex)
Profile Image for Mike.
128 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2019
I read this years ago and loved it. I thought it was a great self contained novel that just made internal sense. I've delayed re-reading it for years because I was afraid it wouldn't hold up. But I decided to pull it off the shelf this weekend and try it...

Yep. It's still great. Was I as emotionally attached as with other authors? Actually, yes, even if Wilson doesn't capture the emotional payoff they do. But that's within some great thoughts on playing with time and inevitability.

One of my favorites.
Profile Image for Paul.
109 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2014
Good writing. Good story idea and interesting concepts are toyed with. The only downsides are (1) the main character, Scott, is carefree and emotionless about everything which led me to not care for him, and (2) there is a lot of human minutiae which, while well written, does not add much to the story. I wish RCW had replaced this stuff with more information about the senders of the chronoliths. Still, I liked this book and I continue to think of RCW as one of the most talented SF writers.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,992 reviews899 followers
April 5, 2020
7/10 en 2009.

tre obras he leído de este autor y las tres con esta misma nota. Eso es que al menos uno disfruta leyéndolo (sin se la ostia tampoco).

Aquí leéis la sinopsis que ya cuenta bastante, casi demasiado y eso es la novela pero contado con bastante oficio. La idea de unos "piedros" que aparecen en diversas zonas y llegados del futuro no en que sea muy original pero el desarrollo convence.

Si queráis 4 estrellas (mis "7" nunca sé como traducirlos)
Profile Image for Martin Doychinov.
464 reviews28 followers
January 24, 2020
Подтикнат от използването на тази книга в заглавието и началото на една статия в новия брой на "Тера фантастика", я извадих от купчината за четене, където вероятно отлежава от години...
Първият хронолит - огромен, неунищожим обелиск, се появява и известява света за победата на някой си Куин след двайсетина години. В последствие, други такива се пръкват из разни точки в света, а група хора, предвождани от жена-физик, се опитват да ги спрат. Главният герой е неин бивш студент, озовал се в непосредствена близост до появяването на първия паметник.
Доста добър роман, персонажите са на ниво, като главният е лекинко недоразвит май. Сюжетът е интересен и оригинален, осъществяването - също. Не е "Една одисея в космоса..." на Кларк, но е предостатъчно добра!
Profile Image for Sublimacia.
199 reviews13 followers
February 11, 2022
Doslova zbytočná kniha. Na zemi sa objaví chronolit ... rozumej monument z budúcnosti. Socha oslavujúca víťazstvo nejakeho Kouna. Náš hlavný hrdina je toho svedkom. Ale nejak ho to moc nezaujíma lebo mu odíde rodina. Tak ide za nimi do USA. Nemá robotu. Nájde si robotu. Strih 5 rokov. Snaží sa byť otec. Príde o robotu. Nájde si novú. Strih 10 rokov. Aha ... Chronolit. Strih 4 roky, dcéra utečie s kultistami tak sa ju vyberie zachrániť.
Nájde ju a reku: "Prišiel som ťa zobrať domov."

Strih 5 rokov. Aha chronolit. Koniec knihy.

Mohla to byť primerná poviedka, ale takto je to podpriemerný román. Všetky podstatné informácie sa autor akoby bál prezradiť takže chodí kolo horúcej kaše, ale nie a nie sa vymačknuť.

Neodporúčam nikomu.
Profile Image for The Professor.
212 reviews19 followers
June 3, 2020
“The Kuin was—well, it beggars description”. The future is written. Deal with it. Future tyrant Kuin trolls the past by sending sky-high stone monuments to his many victories twenty years back in time and humanity reacts as calmly as you’d expect. That’s the macro backstory, and it’s certainly not neglected, but Wilson places equal emphasis on the micro human impact of such a boffo concept.

This is a novel about fate. Much of the noir fiction I read is also about fate although that tends to be the implacable or ironic sort. Here Wilson drills much more deeply into the many ways people – mainly protagonist Scott Warden– either accept various fates or try to evade them, successfully or otherwise, and it’s a exploration he sticks to right to the end of the novel. The Chronoliths (“an ugly portmanteau word coined by some tone-deaf journalist”; these names always are) are a material not abstract manifestation of the future, a terrifying suggestion that humanity’s destiny is written in stone but they are still basically scaled-up versions of all the tiny life decisions Scott has to make and face the consequences of. Scott gets involved with the scientific attempt to prevent the inevitable future under the stewardship of Sulamith Chopra (“Her pleasures were deep but monkish”) but he also tries to deal with other, smaller, supposedly-as-inevitable futures, such as his daughter Kait’s deafness – his work on the Chronoliths pays for restorative surgery, thereby altering her fate – while both Kait and Scott’s wife Ashlee deal with infertility (which closes some potential futures down) as a consequence of past decisions. The Chronoliths may sit at the centre of this novel but broiling around them like the “tau turbulence” Sue Chopra describes are the myriad fateful decisions everyone takes on a daily basis. Once you key into that and see what Wilson is doing the novel becomes quite compelling and at times rather moving. This is humanity’s battle to remain master of its fate, to remain the author of its own story just as the novel is Scott’s own memoir.

The giant Chronoliths themselves indiscriminately blast into existence wherever the hell they like, it seems, causing untold damage and towering up into the clouds to announce the supremacy of the nut job Kuin. Wilson published “The Chronoliths” in 2001 (“It was as if we were all waiting for the event that would define the new century, the thing or person or abstract cause that would strike us as indelibly new, a Twenty-first Century Thing”) and it is set in 2021; humanity has a ticking clock of 20 years to find out who has been sending the colossi back. Wilson doesn’t go overboard on the futurology – kids have GPS trackers, MagLev is a thing, you sign over your genome when you buy a gun and, get this, there’s the “Zairian pandemic” – but neither does he skimp on characters debating the provenance of and technology behind the Chronoliths (“They say nine-dimensional geometry is a language unto itself. I don’t happen to speak it”). I can see some readers taking against the novel when it skews away from the SF-ness towards Scott’s travails (the “Kait does a runner” episode – consequential though it is – immediately struck me as the sort of thing you’d fast forward through when watching “24”) but in the main I thought Wilson balanced the SF with the human story admirably. At times I was very pleasantly reminded of Arthur C. Clarke and particularly John Wyndham (the first person reportage and the Scott/Ashlee relationship being born out of the madness like Bill and Josella in “The Day Of The Triffids” and many others). As for the finale, well of course I’d been spit-balling various possible resolutions but I have to say Wilson makes exactly the right choice. It’s pitch perfect. It avoids rendering the novel as just another mystery box to be solved and it fields an outcome which humanity may not deserve but would most certainly desire. I found this to be a really impressive, serious, literary science fiction novel, strangely affecting, with a superb central concept written by a writer who doesn’t bottle out at the end. It’s also a damn good read. I fully intend there to be more Robert Charles Wilson in my future. “A city that had seen far too much history was about to see some more.”
Profile Image for Laura Dragon.
Author 4 books6 followers
July 30, 2015
As a people immersed in a unidirectional chronology, we have often dreamed of breaking that barrier and travelling at will throughout time. With those dreams have come the inevitable questions: What happens to us if we alter our own past? If you cause events to occur which prevent your own birth, do you cease to exist? If you do, how could you have travelled into your past to prevent your birth? Thus our linear conception of time is knotted up in an impossible circular logic which many sci-fi writers have avoided by giving their time-travelling heroes rules designed to prevent altering the past.

Robert Charles Wilson employs no such safety net in The Chronoliths but turns the usual question of the effects of non-linear temporal incursions on its head by asking not how does time travel into the past affect the "current" timeline but how does a temporal incursion from the future affect the present.

It's 2001 and Scott Warden is a slacker living on a beach in Thailand. Trained as a software engineer, he stayed on in Thailand after his contract ended, partying and sampling illicit drugs with other American expatriates, sending his life into a downward spiral of poverty, spurred on by apathy. A cycle which is broken by an event so preposterous and yet so real that it irrevocably alters not only Scott's life but that of the entire human race: A massive pillar composed of indeterminable material "arrives" in the middle of the forest of inland Chumphon. The "chronolith" as it comes to be called, bears an inscription in two current human languages, marking the conquest of the region by an entity named only as "Kuin" on December 21, 2021.

Could this strange pillar really be a monument from the future, sent back through time to foretell the mysterious Kuin's victory? If it is from the future, is its presence proof that the future which it predicts must come to pass or does knowledge of this possible future give the inhabitants of current time the ability to avoid it? Thus Wilson expertly weaves the questions of time travel into those much older but equally familiar questions of fate and destiny. As more and more chronoliths begin to apear, first throughout Asia but later spreading to the rest of the world, and a new branch of science is birthed to study this strange phenomenon, the characters of The Chronoliths are driven to try, as Oedipus did, to avoid their foretold destiny. Can they prevent the rise of Kuin, or are the pillars' successful incursions into the past the events which assure the validity of their own predictions?

The Chronoliths is a tense read from start to finish. Full of adventure, emotion, and life throughout. Wilson gives nothing away but keeps the reader turning page after page, intimately involved in this story which is narrated in the first person, told by Scott directly to the reader. ("Really, there are only two of us here. Me. And you. Whoever you are.") Ultimately, The Chronoliths is a novel of great heart which asks us to have courage in the face of disaster and hope in the face of despair; to stand with its hero and proclaim with him:

"Today we believed in the possibility of a future."
199 reviews2 followers
June 1, 2021
I think even people who do not consider themselves sci-fi fans would find this book approachable and worthwhile reading. It's simply a good story, starting with the basis of a slightly broken main character (and we'll find out why) living, with family troubles, in a suboptimal situation in a present that's not great and with a looming future that will be even worse. It's not a dystopia, but written at the turn of the millennium, the setting sure rings true to the darker themes going on in the world today. Is there light on the horizon?

Okay, yeah, there is a magical sky artifact (well, science-based sky artifact) by the end of the first chapter, but you can treat the sciencey stuff more as a driver of action than integral to the themes of the book. Said themes include cause and effect, feedback loops in societal behavior, family relationships under suboptimal circumstances, and trying to make up for shortcomings. The plot moves along at a pleasing pace; the book is 300 pages, and although not featuring a ton of events bang-bang-bang, things keep moving along as the story unfolds. Along the way, our protagonist stays central, stays relatable, stays active and engaging on his path toward "making good"--or really, just doing the best he can. The supporting cast is colorful and has a diverse set of motives and personalities, all of which make sense and play off each other well.

Simply put, Robert Charles Wilson is a fantastic writer. I've yet to be disappointed with one of his books; they are always thought-provoking, entertaining, and engrossing. As stated at the top, do not let genre deter you away from this author--these novels are for anyone.
Profile Image for Eric.
183 reviews9 followers
August 23, 2013
I almost wouldn't classify The Chronoliths as science fiction, even though it takes place in a not-so-distant future where gigantic monuments start appearing all over the world, apparently sent to the past by an enigmatic figure called Kuin.

Although these 'Chronoliths' are the driving force of the story, their existence and purpose is never fully explained. What the story is really about is what effect the Chronoliths have on the life of Scott, an (the) average guy.

Scott is worrying about finding a job, his divorce, his daughter, and a host of other mundane problems, and although the Chronolith's existence affects every aspect of his life this is simply the story of a man trying to get by.

I personally prefer science fiction over regular fiction because I read books to engage my brain, and not to have to think about the real world problems of an average guy. I do that enough when I stop reading.

I can't deny Wilson does a good job telling the story but it isn't very exciting. Wilson deliberately avoids in-depth explanations of the science behind the Chronoliths and never even touches the subject of temporal paradox, while a satisfying explanation is just what drove me to finish reading the book.

For people trying to get into science fiction, this might very well be the perfect book to start with. For someone like me, not so much.
299 reviews15 followers
February 23, 2016
This is a great read by a great writer. I haven't enjoyed an SF author playing with time and space this much since reading Stephen Baxter. Not only is the book a real thriller, it is full of people who seem real enough to be familiar to you. Beyond a mind-bending plot with some speculative nine-dimensional physics to pull you in, where in the future effects the past in order to bring about a certain future, it is also an amazingly accurate study of human beings and various cultures and their reactions to what appears to be the inevitable. Only knows for sure what the inevitable is, only that it will happen. Various groups coagulate, go to war, all in the name of Kuin, a mysterious being from the future. Or is he? No one knows. The descriptions of the appearances of the various "chronoliths" (time stones) are riveting and, literally and figuratively chilling.
If you like like really good speculative, edging towards "hard" SF and want a great story to go along with it, this book is the read for you. Mr. Wilson has been writing a long time. This is my first read of a book of his. It won't be the last. Recommended.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,507 reviews230 followers
February 11, 2011
Really creative sci-fi is rare these days, and The Chronoliths is one of those rare pleasures. "Software designer Scott Warden is living with his family in early twenty-first century Thailand after his latest contract has ended. He and his friend Hitch Paley are among the first to find an enormous monolith which appears out of nowhere in the jungle. On closer examination, it is found to be a monument made of a mysterious, indestructible substance. It bears an inscription commemorating a military victory by someone named "Kuin", presumably an Asian warlord -- twenty years in the future."

The book goes on to chronicle the very personal changes in Scott Warden's life, as he lives through the tumult caused by these mysterious monoliths, and the unknown person responsible for them, and becomes part of a project to defeat Kuin, whoever he is. Wilson plays with themes of destiny, futurism, loyalty, love and loss. An inventive and profound book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 381 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.