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Spin #3


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Vortex tells the story of Turk Findley, the protagonist introduced in Axis, who is transported ten thousand years into the future by the mysterious entities called "the Hypotheticals." In this future humanity exists on a chain of planets connected by Hypothetical gateways; but Earth itself is a dying world, effectively quarantined.

Turk and his young friend Isaac Dvali are taken up by a community of fanatics who use them to enable a passage to the dying Earth, where they believe a prophecy of human/Hypothetical contact will be fulfilled. The prophecy is only partly true, however, and Turk must unravel the truth about the nature and purpose of the Hypotheticals before they carry him on a journey through warped time to the end of the universe itself.

331 pages, Hardcover

First published July 5, 2011

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About the author

Robert Charles Wilson

94 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).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 412 reviews
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews552 followers
November 15, 2017
Last 10% of the book saved it for me. Totally. This is what I want in a sci-fi story: mind blowing concepts, depiction of the immensity of the universe, physics unbound, multidimensional space and time and so on.

Rest of the novel was a so-so reading. I liked the idea of Adam and Eva myth told in a different key. If the first book is told in first person and the second one in third person, here we have both. There are 2 storylines from different timelines, connected by a narrator and two points of view. It is an odd but somehow interesting combination, mostly because of the connection between the two, which doesn’t make sense until the end.

The whole idea is brilliant, but again, I didn’t care much for the main characters. Their story seemed too long on the expense of what interested me more: the Arch, the Hypotheticals’ reasons, the evolution/involution of Earth and the Ring Worlds and their civilizations. Good thing though it all came to me in the end.

I think this series would have been way better as a duology. Spin is great the way it is, but I would have merged Axis (just a few chapters with Isaac and Turk stories) to Vortex. I think it would have been a blast in this form.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I finally got to read it and RCW remains one of my favorite authors.
Profile Image for Melody Sams.
63 reviews30 followers
November 22, 2018
When I first started this book I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to its predecessors. I expected an unsatisfactory ending and too many unanswered questions and unfulfilled relationship resolutions. But man was I wrong. The ending to this amazing sci fi series absolutely blew my mind. It left me pondering about it for days on end. It’s entirely original and surprising, and most definitely satisfying. If you like a book that will make you rack your brain and wonder at the universe, this is for you.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews533 followers
August 6, 2011
And this trilogy goes out with a . . . let’s be a teensy bit generous and call it a muffled bang.

So one of the main reasons I loved Spin so much was it paralleled a people story with a cosmic story in this remarkable way. It gave us sweeping epochs of galactic time and the daily quotidiana of an incestuous bunch of people in the same breath, and didn’t lose the scale or the wonder of either. And it was really good at making the cosmic scale stuff so urgent, so interesting because it was so urgent and interesting and inexplicable to the people, and I got really invested in everything they did to try and figure out the fuck was happening to the human race.

This book explains what was happening. And it’s . . . I . . . hmm. It’s a really nihilist answer. “And now the stone had rolled away, revealing only the weakling prophet of a mindless god,” as one of the characters describes a similar moment, in a classically Wilsonian turn of phrase. Painfully so, for me, because the explanation rendered unto dust all the best parts of Spin the way they struggled individually and societally, how fucking smart they got when they had to, and how scared. That was hard.

Except Wilson knew that. And this is what leaves him a cut above the other guys writing stuff in the same ballpark as him. Stephen Baxter never would have brought this book back around in the moment of its deepest nihilism, and rested a quiet, gentle counter-argument on the tiny actions of one person, spreading to another, to another. And make it actually work for me. Make it move me over what happens to two or three people on one random summer night in Texas, while the main bulk of the story is taking place at the heat death of the universe (not a metaphor).

So yeah. It’s not a perfect book. The first half is really slow, and he throws around a lot of important words like “conscience” and “agency” in this slapdash way where I kept snapping at him to fucking define his terms! But he pulled it out in the end, yeah. Spin is still the best of the trilogy by a lot, but this is not disappointing.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books580 followers
May 10, 2023
“Vortex” is book three of Robert Charles Wilson’s “Spin” trilogy. Book one, titled “Spin,” won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2006. It was an epic tale filled with huge sci-fi ideas mixed with large dollops of human drama. Book two was named “Axis,” and carried on the large mysteries laid out in book one.

The beginning of “Vortex” is sizzling, hooking me quickly. Two storylines are intertwined. We follow a character named Turk from book two, who has been thrust ten thousand years into the future. Turk encounters human descendants in a futuristic mobile city named “Vox.” Meanwhile, back on near modern-day Earth, somehow a man named Orrin is writing the account of Turk in the distant future. Once the excitement of these two unlikely scenarios wears off and we settle into the story, the trilogy slows down again. Wilson delays the reveal of these mysteries until the final ten percent of the book. Of course, there is drama throughout, shadowy figures are attempting to falsely incarcerate Orrin, and Vox is not the paradise it originally appears to be. However, there is far too much explaining and frankly the characters and action weren't interesting enough to pull me through to the conclusion.

The ending is better and attempts to spin the trilogy off its axis and into a vortex of transcendent resolutions (see what I did there). It’s ambitious and grandiose, but in my opinion, falls short in living up to the expectations set in the excellent book “Spin." Three stars for this conclusion of the mind-stretching sci-soap-opera trilogy.
Profile Image for Alina.
768 reviews264 followers
February 19, 2021
* Spin: 5★ (superbe concept & interesting plot, ok characters)
* Axis: 3.5★ (the novelty faded and the plot was rather boring, ok characters)
* Vortex: 4★ (mind blowing at the end)

The characters are only ok in all three books, but the writing is exquisite and I highly enjoyed these books. Although, as my friend Claudia says, a duology would have been even better: book 1 plus o mix of 2+3.
Profile Image for Ric.
391 reviews39 followers
May 4, 2013

Asymptotic is the word that comes to mind with this book. It starts out gradually and builds momentum to a gush of revelations in the final chapter or two - the deus ex machina of the author's excellent Spin finally resolved.

Robert Charles Wilson rewards his readers with a picture story painted through small brush strokes that all contribute to the whole. The gestalt, to use a 60s term, of this book is built chapter by chapter in a manner that is patient and continuously-revealing. Plus, the romance(s) in the story-line are sweet like teenage summer crushes.

Basing mainly on the reviews here on Goodreads, I skipped the 2nd book in this series. Vortex is another slow-burning book that draws you in through the associated observations of its characters, an effective mechanism to build interest in the next big reveal. In the audiobook, there was some disorientation as to which of the two character pairs was on scene as both the past and the future characters were voiced so similarly. But overall, this is fine work that contrasts with flashier storm und drang fan favorites. I can't give it 5 stars as it doesn't quite reach the crest that Spin had prepared for it, but it gets close, or is asymptotic.

Profile Image for Kelly.
85 reviews
July 11, 2011
Woke up yesterday morning, sat up in bed and read this completely straight through (even listened to the Clint Mansell score for the Fountain for the last hour, which I remembered listening to on repeat when I first read Spin). Vortex is better than Axis but still not 10% the book Spin was. I think the problem is that Spin was fairly epic in its presentation and covered a long period of real time and a relatively short period of universe time. Both Axis and Vortex are much shorter novels in comparison, and cover relatively short, superficial periods of real time while trying to tell-don't-show incredibly long periods of universe time (especially the last couple pages of Vortex, oh my God). This makes me sad, because I loved Spin so much that in November of 2006 I would have thought I would be happy just to read any other little crumbs from that universe, but sometimes it really is better to resist the urge to write a sequel.
Profile Image for Andrew.
42 reviews
September 27, 2011
OK - well, I'm happy that I read the trilogy, but, to be honest the first book could have been three or four chapters longer and included everything that was really interesting from books two and three. The final chapter of Vortex was pretty cool - I love the ideas in there. It's really too bad that the entire book (or perhaps this entire book and Axis as well) didn't focus on this and expand on the ideas (and explore the Ring of Worlds also). I never felt that I had all that much invested in the characters in the latter two books. Still, nanobots - am I right?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,283 reviews640 followers
July 23, 2014
It is very hard to follow up on a masterpiece like Spin and Axis and Vortex try valiantly. While Axis continued the Spin timeline some decades later and a planet away and had a lot of great moments, it had one main flaw in that as a middle book it expanded the universe of the series but offered little resolution. Vortex splits into distinct narratives that are related by a "message in a bottle" device - though in this case the message goes time-reverse - with the full import of everything revealed in a very satisfactory ending.

The protagonists of Axis - Turk Findley and Isaac Dvali - who at the end of that novel are englobed by Hypothetical constructs, go through a 'Time Arch" and appear 10000 year later when a local cult like polity, the Vox founded precisely on the base of prophecies of future communion with the Hypotheticals when the resurrected (like Turk and Isaac appear) snatches them and starts a journey to fulfill its fate. Vox recreates a Spin time persona - Allison Pearl - grafted on top on one of their citizens Freya, trained for birth as liaison with the upcoming resurrected - and the future tale of Turk, Allison/Freya and later Isaac is the main thread of the novel with explanations and all in the end and while a fairly standard sfnal far-future adventure with some surprises, it worked very well and the ending was very emotional but appropriate. Here there is one more narrative twist with the author masterfully switching pov's in the end and that added a little extra too.

The other tale, back in the after Spin times, maybe a generation later, is superb since here we see RC Wilson at his best as both a storyteller and creator of unforgettable characters who are regular humans dealing with strange situations. This tale of psychiatrist Sandra Cole, policeman Bose and troubled youngster Orin Mather who 'wrote" a journal purposing to tell the future stories of Turk Findley and Allison Pearl in Vox, 10000 years ahead is awesome and a tour de force.

Will have a full FBC review soon

FBc Review as promised:

INTRODUCTION: Robert Charles Wilson is an US born Canadian writer of speculative fiction who has built over the years an amazing body of work, winning many sff awards, including the 2006 Hugo award for the extraordinary novel Spin.

I have actually followed Mr. Wilson's career across the years, but Spin was such an astounding book that it became an instant classic for me and put R.C. Wilson on the list of authors I read everything on publication. Since Vortex is the final book in a loose trilogy that started with Spin and had Axis as a middle book, I will talk a little about its setup and recurring characters.

The main conceit of the series is that at some point in the near future, mysterious aliens called Hypotheticals surround Earth with a temporal bubble that vastly accelerates its time flow with respect to the rest of the universe, so in several decades subjective on Earth, billions of years pass outside the bubble and the Sun for example is spent, so only the Hypotheticals' "magic" stands between humanity and extinction.

So upheavals galore on Earth - eg all satellites crash and all space based industry disappears overnight, but instead airships and mechanical devices instead of electronic ones take their place and a different industry is born to replace the lost one. But not all is gloom and doom since there are several bonuses - Mars is colonized and due to the time differential the civilization there advances millenniums while on Earth just weeks pass - of course the Hypotheticals shut off Mars with a similar barrier after a while but in between some cool Martian tech with far reaching implications reaches Earth, only of course to be subverted by the powers to be...

Later, a huge hyperspace portal appears in the Indian Ocean and offers access to a sequence of empty planets similar to Earth, of which the immediate neighbor called Equatoria is the setting for Axis.

But Spin is first and foremost a novel about three people and the complicated relationships between them and their friends, families and lovers and that made it a huge success more than the sfnal content which is cool but I have read before.

It is very hard to follow up on a masterpiece like Spin and Axis tried valiantly. While Axis continued the Spin timeline some decades later and a planet away and had a lot of great moments, it had one main flaw in that as a middle book it expanded the universe of the series but offered little resolution.

The other negative was the emotional disconnect since the characters from Spin are either dead or make cameo appearances, while the new characters introduced here, most notably Turk Findley and boy genius Isaac Dvali - or at least that's the intention of his parents/creators since quite unethically they engineered Isaac to try and communicate with the Hypotheticals - do not have the time to fully get our emotional involvement until the cliffhanger climax of the novel. Still I loved Axis and found it a great read due the author's superb narrative skills.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Vortex splits into distinct narratives that are related by a "message in a bottle" device - though in this case the message goes time-reverse - with the full import of everything revealed in a very satisfactory ending.

The protagonists of Axis - Turk Findley and Isaac Dvali - who at the end of that novel are englobed by Hypothetical constructs, go through a 'Time Arch" and appear 10,000 year later when a local cult like polity, the Vox, founded precisely on the base of prophecies of future communion with the Hypotheticals when the resurrected - like Turk and Isaac appear- snatches them and starts a journey to fulfill its fate. Vox recreates a Spin time persona - Allison Pearl - grafted on top on one of their citizens, Freya, trained for birth as liaison with the upcoming resurrected - and the future tale of Turk, Allison/Freya and later Isaac is the main thread of the novel with explanations and all in the end.

Like the sfnal content of Spin and in the spirit of some of RC Wilson recent short fiction I have reviewed here, this a fairly standard sfnal far-future adventure with some surprises and which worked very well with an ending that was very emotional but appropriate. There is also one more narrative twist with the author masterfully switching pov's in the end and that added a little extra too, but what gave Vortex "the extra" Axis missed, was the second story, a very human oriented one of a doctor, a policeman and a patient.

This other tale, back in the after Spin times, maybe a generation later, is superb since here we see RC Wilson at his best as both a storyteller and creator of unforgettable characters who are regular humans dealing with strange situations. This tale of psychiatrist Sandra Cole, policeman Bose and troubled youngster Orin Mather who has been writing a journal purposing to tell the future stories of Turk Findley and Allison Pearl in Vox, 10000 years ahead is awesome and a tour de force.

Vortex alternates between the two timelines and while I read Turk and Allison's adventures with interest, they were a little distant as befits something set in the far future and a strange land; but the immediacy of Sandra, Bose and Orrin's tale added the emotional ingredient that made Spin so memorable and made Vortex (A+/A++) a compelling read and a great series ending. Sf that combines far future sense of wonder with human interest and great characters does not come that often around and I strongly recommend not to miss it in Vortex!
Profile Image for -uht!.
127 reviews10 followers
September 5, 2016
When I read Spin, I thought that it was an awesome and compelling concept, but that Wilson wasn't a great writer. He's got a marvelous vocabulary and all the pieces of the story were there, but his pacing seemed off or something.

Axis took me forever to finish, because I didn't find the story very compelling and I had the same issues with the writing. It felt a bit flat and the characters didn't seem very well developed.

I feel that Vortex was his best written book. The futuristic notebook and dual timelines created a nice suspense and tension that actually benefited from some dramatic irony from the previous book. The book was more dialogue-driven and didn't contain as much random exposition, so the writing seemed tighter to me. Maybe not quite as conceptually strong as Spin, but the payoff at the end was great. I thought the deep analysis into the Hypotheticals was highly imaginative and explored the science in a fun way. Also, I thought his take on the "group mind" concept was fresh and interesting. (The limbic vs. other types of group-mind setups.)

This book, more than the others, made the series compare favorably to the Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 series. (3001 gets really theoretical and vast.)

Overall, it was a really satisfying way to end the series.
Profile Image for Steven Drachman.
Author 4 books27 followers
March 13, 2013
It occurred to me that Jess Walter and Robert Charles Wilson are pretty similar writers, in spite of writing in different genres, in the way they spin yarns that circle around in time without ever confusing the reader, and remain solidly commercial. Here, Wilson picks up a device that Walter used (annoyingly) in "Land of the Blind", having one of the characters write out a skillful narrative that the other characters then read (slowly) and talk about as a major means of moving the plot forward. It's basically an unconvincing device, because a guy writing out a bunch of stuff that happened to him - or stuff he's dreamed about - is probably not going to be able to write like Jess Walter or Robert Charles Wilson on a first draft. And so it takes too much unnecessary suspension of disbelief. But this book is otherwise so strong that I accepted this format, even if I wished he'd found a different way to tell the story. His "Spin" books are truly amazing; the Hypothethicals are such inspired creations, I cannot believe they don't actually exist. This sequel is not as good as "Spin", but really, what is as good as "Spin"?
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
July 17, 2011
I tried not to compare Vortex with the brilliant Spin. I really tried but I could not do it. Because it makes you think of Spin much more than Axis. Wilson combines a Spin like tale with an End of the Universe one. The first one its like a chapter from Spin and the second has no protagonists that you can care about. And after it gives you all the answers you realize that you don't care about them. Spin's questions engage you mind like no other and the answers only diminish its experience.

Instead of Axis and Vortex, a novella would have been much welcome.
Profile Image for Aaron.
87 reviews1 follower
March 6, 2017
It's hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that the same person who wrote "Spin", one of the most original and interesting sci-fi books I've read, also wrote "Vortex", which was half baked and unengaging.

Do yourself a favor. Read "Spin", and forget there are two more books in the series.
Profile Image for Daniel Roy.
Author 4 books69 followers
September 1, 2011
Robert Charles Wilson is my favorite SF author, so I found myself willing to give him a chance even though Vortex didn't engage me very much. In my opinion, Vortex is a "bad Wilson novel". Good thing a "bad Wilson novel" remains a well-written, thought-provoking read. (As I like to say, Wilson is like Stephen Baxter, except he can write.)

Vortex and its predecessor, Axis, seem to exist because of the success of Spin, and not because there were important stories left to tell in the Spin universe. The mysterious, awe-inspiring aspect of the Hypotheticals was hinted at well enough in Spin, and any subsequent explanation about the nature of the creators of the Spin only serve to strip away the aura of mystery they held at the end of the first novel of the trilogy.

By itself, Vortex suffers from a few structural weaknesses that make it a less compelling novel. The novel tells two parallel stories, one set in Houston some years after the Spin, the other 10,000 years in the future. Unfortunately, the way the two narratives interact is a disservice to both.

The "present-day" story is fairly banal. Perhaps as a way to enhance the fantastic elements of the future narrative, Wilson has included almost no SF 'feel' in his depiction of post-Spin Houston. Humanity in this time period is still struggling with climate change and the destruction of the environment from fossil fuels. If Wilson didn't mention the gigantic arch built by a mysterious alien force that leads to another world, you'd think this just took place in 2011 Earth, Martian pharmaceuticals aside.

The story set 10,000 in the future is interesting, but it is presented as a notebook written by a character in the "present-day" story. The result is a feeling that the story's narrator is unreliable, a feeling constantly reinforced by the "present-day" characters. Also, the writing in the first chapters is vague, the descriptions brief and sketchy. This caused my disconnection from the events taking place, although Wilson ends up giving the setting more breathing space and depth later on.

Like I said, these two narratives interfere with one another. The modern-day story is banal and fairly uneventful in comparison to the distant future and its tale of a possible Hypothetical communion; while the future storyline is perpetually cast as unreliable, making the reader hesitate to root for the characters should they end up not existing at all.

The collision of the two narratives is anticlimactic, and illuminates neither. But in the last pages of the novel, Wilson takes us on a grand tour of the Universe, which gives the novel some needed grandeur and closure. As much as "Vortex" limps on in most of the novel, Wilson ends it by lighting a fuse and making go out with a bang.

And that's why, ultimately, I'll always give Wilson a chance. His characters, while weak in Vortex as compared to, say, Spin or The Chronoliths, were still interesting and human. Combined with Wilson's grand ideas and his sharp writing, even a bad Wilson is better than most SF out there.
Profile Image for Dawn.
326 reviews103 followers
July 17, 2012
Well that was sort of a disappointment.. I liked it well enough, but it was nothing compared to Spin. It wasn't as good as Axis either, which was itself a step down from Spin. I really wish this series hadn't taken the road it did.. I feel like it could have been amazing, but it was downhill after the first and that's a shame.

To be honest, I don't even know what the heck happened in the end there. I mean I understood all of the events, but the pieces of the story aren't fitting together in my head. I won't get into details, I don't want this to be a spoiler review.. I just don't know what happened really.

But despite that.. I still liked it for some reason. It's barely getting three stars, but that's not so bad considering. I'm not sure what it is exactly that I like about these books. There isn't really any action at all, and they are pretty slowly paced.. Something about Wilson's writing style and characters just draws me in, so that even if I'm confused or not digging the story, I'm still glad to be reading it and wanting to read more.

To wrap it up.. I definitely recommend Spin to anyone who hasn't read it. Good shit right there. But Axis and Vortex? Eh. You're probably better of skipping them.
Profile Image for Babbs.
217 reviews70 followers
September 8, 2018
Taking place in the distant future from the conclusion of Axis, the second book in the Spin Saga, we continue the story with a disoriented Turk being rescued from a world he doesn't fully recognize. Lacking the magic that made Spin such a special book, and the continuity that allowed Axis to continue on with that momentum, even though it had obvious middle-book issues, Vortex was still an enjoyable but disconnected read. If you hate open endings for the sake of open endings then this book will give you some of the closure and answers you seek.

Civilizations in this world have changed from anything we can currently recognize, and people live in various "hive mind" settlements scattered through the stars and governed by various rules, depending on their foundation. The two most common examples being either empathy or reason, both of which are controlled by a central AI. Our adventure in this book is focused on what amounts to a religious cult seeking out the now desolate Earth to fulfill a proficiency. This should have been a more interesting adventure than it was, but finding more answers which were lacking in the previous books made finishing the book worth it.
Profile Image for Amy.
684 reviews144 followers
October 23, 2011
I don't often read book series. Usually, I find that the first book is great and the next 2 books are mediocre at best. I think that, for me, this series kept my attention because I haven't branched much into the harder sub-genres of science fiction. So, this was my first literary taste of terraforming, nanobots, collective biological networking (for lack of a better phrase), and star gates (to borrow the term from the series by the same name). I don't know if I found this series fascinating because of the author's creative ability to interlace these concepts or if it's simply because it's my first time encountering them on the written page.

The characters in this final book in the series did feel a little 2 dimensional to me. The words on the page rarely plumped up and surrounded me in the world they were trying to create. I never felt truly transported by this book as I did the first 2. However, I did find the progression of 10,000-years-in-the-future humanity to be intriguing and did enjoy the ending of the series.

I heard or read an article in the New Yorker (or was it a story on NPR .. or both?) recently about how astonished scientists were to discover what was once a stone age paint shop in a cave. They were amazed at the complex chemistry involved in the creation of the paints, glues, etc., that they found there. Just how much have our brains evolved over time? Strip away our "civilizing" technologies and conveniences, and how many modern men could easily turn to the savagery we think that we're so far above? Similarly, if we took stone aged chemist into our century and taught him our culture, would he be that much different from us? He would definitely have a more finely honed skill set than most of us do. Again and again, I find myself intrigued by the juxtaposition between civilization and savagery and what those words really mean. We think we're so evolved, but how different are our brains really from men of a few thousand years ago? Isn't it mainly just our cultural norms and way of life that has been changed by the inventions and thoughts of a handful of people?

I mention that because this series touches deeply on the idea of human cerebral evolvement. Thousands of years beyond today, the human brain does not appear to have evolved biologically. There are controversial and illegal cellular reconstructive treatments available that repair both brain and body. And there's a way to technologically network into a collective group over-soul. However, there does not appear to be a true evolving of the human brain without doing so through medicine and technology.

In Vortex, humanity's future is one in which people have agreed to a surgery that allows everyone to be cerebrally connected by a true social network. Everyone in the country shares emotion and logic for a truly democratic and empathetic nation. Once upon a time, I would have thought this idea to be wonderful. But I now think it sounds like a disaster. Imagine a government that's run by everyone. I cringe to think that this would include the people who used to make such hateful comments to Tulsa World articles (before only paid subscribers could comment). I'd also not like my thoughts melding with people with psychopathic tendencies. The idea of having everyone's thoughts and feelings networked just sounds like a nightmare rather than like nirvana. If this were the future of humanity, I'd want no part of it.

The series ends with the concept of a biological network being taken to its ultimate limit. But it seems like such an empty ending. It seems as if extreme social networking merely leads to extreme loneliness in the end. And so it goes.
Profile Image for prcardi.
538 reviews75 followers
August 9, 2016
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 2/5
World: 4/5

This was a mostly satisfactory conclusion to the Spin series.

What I didn't like: I have rarely confronted characters and narration that so thoroughly sapped the wonder and discovery from big encounters and grand revelations. Our characters get glimpses into eons of new and interesting information, and there is no emotional or physical reaction. Wilson doesn't describe how they feel, navigate their affectivity, or probe their inner monologues. The big, the unimaginable happens, and it hardly merits a note for anyone involved. As a reader, I had to abstract out of the book and appreciate the world as an external viewer rather than as a character and participant in the tale. Thus the world can still be enjoyed, but only at a step removed.

More of what I didn't like: Near future science fiction has its own obstacles. The one that challenged Wilson here was the need to make our near future interesting. Given that the events of Spin and Axis have occurred, you wouldn't think that was too difficult. But Wilson managed to fill the book with a deluge of the quotidian. There was no appreciation of it, no criticism of it, not even an awareness that he was doing it, I think. Wilson dutifully chronicles the adventures of our protagonists, typing out the obligatory descriptive scenes. Those descriptions were mostly devoid of content, style, or objective; they were filler. Make me proud of my (near future) society, make me ashamed, make me see it in a new light, or help me to understand the significance of it. For not having much to say about it, Wilson sure spent a lot of his wordcount on it.

What I did like: The plot. It brought the series to a close. The story ran the risk of being overly formulaic, repeating what had been done with Spin and Axis, but the slow, action-adventure was entertaining enough and the staggered storylines really did a great job breaking up the monotony.

What I really liked: One chapter. Approximately thirty pages. In Spin, that chapter was near the very beginning. In Axis, it came a little later. When it comes here, you'll know it. You'll sense the huge change in writing style and complete change in direction and tone. You'll remember that you are reading science fiction and not the latest crime thriller. You get dosed with wonder until you are sated. You'll see how everything else written in the story pales in comparison to that chapter. You'll remember that this is the reason you read science fiction. Without that chapter, the series was going to be listed with those that had a really neat part in the first book. Beyond that, it was not particularly memorable and unlikely to make it on a top 250 list. With that chapter...well it still doesn't make it on that top 250 list, but I did end the series thinking that I'd give Wilson another shot with another of his books.
4 reviews
November 3, 2011
This is more of trilogy review. And not very helpful.

I've enjoyed all of Robert Charles Wilson's books, but I loved Spin. Despite reading a lot, I almost never get so into a book I can't stop reading, which happened for Spin. After I finished it, I learned it had a sequel. It didn't feel like it needed one, really. Sure, I wanted to know what happened to Tyler and Diane after sailing through the arch, but the book felt complete.

So I read Axis. It was okay. I don't think Wilson writes bad books, but it wasn't amazing. We learn a little more about the Hypotheticals and meet a couple of interesting characters. I guess it's the epitome of middle volumes: it's just there to get you to the end.

So, Vortex. Vortex is a better book that Axis. It's not as good as Spin. It's also very clearly in this position, which makes the trilogy weirdly anticlimactic in that it never builds to anything like the end of Spin. But Vox and the future of Earth-based civilization is really interesting and Turk is a decent main character. The other narrative is also enjoyable and they're structured in a cool way. The answers in the end are satisfying, to me, but also not very unexpected.

Which is maybe a problem. Compared the magnitude of Spin's revelations, the answers here are not ground breaking.


It ends up feeling like a novella of revelations inside of two books. But Vortex, at least, is interesting enough on its own. If you like Spin, you should read Axis and Vortex. But you aren't missing out on a lot of answers if you don't.
Profile Image for Metaphorosis.
752 reviews55 followers
October 14, 2012
I've been a fan of Robert Charles Wilson for a couple of decades now, since 1992's A Hidden Place. I've enjoyed his generally understated, off-center and off-balance view of the world. So I picked up Spin soon after it came out. While I don't think Spin and its sequel Axis are his best work, they're good. Spin is better than Axis, so I felt some trepidation about Vortex. But once I get more than one book into a series, I tend to continue (unless, as with Robert Jordan, it's impossible to do so), so I bought it.

I'm happy to say that Vortex is better than the preceding two books. It picks up the stories of Turk Findley and Isaac Dvali, and winds in a few new and interesting characters. Across (as Wilson might say) a bridge of years, two intertwined stories unfold, one about a therapist, a policeman, and a troubled young man in post-Spin years, and another about Turk and a companion picked up by a 'limbic democracy' intent on meeting the Hypotheticals.

It's a good story, told in Wilson's standard detached tone, with interesting characters, and intriguing backstory. While some of the plot mechanism (a key Hypothetical device) is underexplained, I was amazed at Wilson's ability to pull all the mechanical threads together in a convincing and generally satisfying way. There's even an interesting epilogue that, if it doesn't quite fit the story, is still interesting to read.

All in all, a satisfying read, and a surprisingly effective end to the trilogy.
Profile Image for Sarah Heilman.
288 reviews19 followers
September 28, 2022
I still enjoyed this, but it lacked something that the first two books had. Even though we have a recurring character in Turk Findley, which one might think means I would care most about him, he was the most boring in my opinion and I had a hard time connecting with him. Allison/Treya also wasn’t super interesting, because while she had that struggle of identity, it wasn’t REALLY a struggle: one moment she was Treya, the next she was Allison and glad for it for the most part.

I normally don’t mind multiple perspectives/timelines, but with this one I just wasn’t really feeling it, maybe because I didn’t particularly care for Turk and Allison. I preferred Bose and Sandra’s POV and story more actually, even though I’m a huge fan of all things Hypothetical-related. I correctly surmised what the deal was with Orrin’s notebooks before the reveal happened, as it’s the only way to make that sort of plot work without creating paradoxes.

Isaac was underutilized and was only really there as a plot device at the end to make everything work, even though I did enjoy his final portions: there were some really mind-boggling concepts being imagined that were cool! And again, I really enjoyed all the bits where we saw or learned anything about the Hypotheticals.

And there were lots of interesting bits of future history presented to us that I enjoyed: learning all about what befell Earth and the human race up to this point, how Vox came about, what was learned about the Hypotheticals and the ring of worlds, and more.

The trilogy wrapped up as well as it could be I guess, and it did leave me with a sense of wonder, I just wasn’t as enthralled by this volume as I was the other two. Still a great series overall though!

My Youtube review: https://youtu.be/2F18_Asj90c
Profile Image for Maduck831.
459 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2013
Only giving this three stars out of deference to Spin and the series as a whole, otherwise I'd give this book two stars. The only thing I really appreciated about this book is that because of its "stand alone" nature (though can be paired with Axis) it doesn't ruin the genius of Spin. Not sure where to start, I almost feel like the author was required to write a trilogy and was just going through the paces with this book. The entire book just seemed lazy. The two stories were in my opinion essentially identical, with the only difference being changing the setting/character names. Also SPOILER ALERT the way Orrin escaped was just not plausible, I mean to allow Sandra (or whatever her name was) to come back to work then be left alone after the head guy had his suspicions just seemed impossible. The book finally got into some "grand themes" towards the end but it was too little too late, I really wished these would've been explored in more depth (i.e. nature of the hypotheticals, what it meant for Turk/Isaac to be "recreated" in the future), maybe nix the modern setting and just focus on the future world. There also seemed to be no character development, yes we get Turk's back story but really learn nothing more about Turk and/or Isaac. SPOILER ALERT ending also seemed a cop out, let's just hit the "reset" button and see what happens...Again, this book doesn't cheapen Spin but just doesn't reach the same scope/level (kind of building off a review I read of Axis on TOR.com). It's a relatively quick read so if your curious to finish the trilogy it can't hurt...
Profile Image for Mike.
28 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2012
The book starts out as a strange, but fairly engrossing story that happens partly before Axis. The characters are well fleshed out without being repetitive or going into ridiculous detail. The flash forwards give a good sense of the differences, and nearly alien natures, of the new societies in a neat fashion.

The ending is where the book really fails. It does give the reader a good concept of what the hypotheticals are at a point in the ending that is very thought provoking. It then starts rambling into techno-babble and epic timescales that border on a word salad. The techno-babble is less edgy and more like a crank trying to convince you to invest in his product that turns old milk into limitless free energy.

The author seems to have got to the last few chapters and didn't really know how to stop, as well as didn't know how to connect the story 10,000 years in the future to the story in the present. He didn't just end the book, he went to the end of time itself till it folded itself into absurdity.

If you read the rest then you should read this, but try not to be too disappointed when the end really doesn't measure up. The first portions are very good and well written that they will appeal to any Spin fan.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,187 reviews49 followers
January 28, 2013
The last of the series that began with Spin and continued with Axis. It was short, like Axis. I was expecting something deeper, longer.

I liked having Turk Findley reappear. I thought he might reappear, but I wasn't sure. There were some unfinished issues with his life in Axis.

I enjoyed going back and forth between the present in Houston (the present as it is in this book) and the future on Vox. I liked the story of Vox Core better. I became interested in Vox and it's history and I wanted a lot more. The story that took place on "modern-day" Earth wasn't as dramatic as it could have been; I expected a lot more chases and running and hiding like in the first two books.

I felt like the story of the Farmers on Vox was terribly unfinished. They could have used their own book. It was far too simplified in my opinion.

So, overall, I felt like it was a good story that needed fleshed out and expanded. I did like the discussion about the Hypotheticals, though.
Profile Image for Fantasy Literature.
3,226 reviews166 followers
September 4, 2013
Turk Findley has been returned to Equatoria ten thousand years after the Hypotheticals took him and Isaac. Things have changed. The Ring of Worlds that was connected by the Arches remains, but the societies that once traveled between these interplanetary portals have died away and been replaced. The Earth, sadly, is a wasteland. Its oceans are too acidic and its air is too poisonous to support life. Unfortunately, when the Hypotheticals connected Earth to other worlds, humanity began importing oil from Equatoria, which boosted the economy but destroyed our planet.

Now, however, Turk is recruited by Treya, a member of the Vox. The Vox is a limbic democracy (as opposed to a cortical democracy) where everyone has a chip in their neck that connects them to the Network... Read More:
Profile Image for Scott.
525 reviews
July 23, 2012
Following the events of Axis, Turk Findley awakens in the far, far future and in the hands of Vox, a religious cult that has traveled from world to world with the intent of making direct contact with the Hypotheticals, the entities responsible for the Spin. When he befriends a Vox woman who also possesses the memories of a woman from the 21st century, they gradually begin to realize the danger of their quest.

Parallel to this story, in the "present" (post-Spin), a state care worker finds herself dealing with a simple young man who has inexplicably been transcribing Turk's life story.

These two threads, ten thousand years apart, finally converge in a heady, moving and satisfying conclusion to both this novel and the trilogy as a whole.
Profile Image for Florin Constantinescu.
479 reviews25 followers
August 8, 2017
"Spin" was brilliant, "Axis" only good, so I approached the final book in the trilogy a little wearily.
Is there a downward trend? Well, luckily no.

This is not as cool as "Spin" (5*), but certainly better than "Axis" (3*), so it deserves the 4*. It features a better set of characters this time, and manages to successfully (I think) wrap up all loose ends from both previous books. It is also the most science-fiction-ish of the three books, with spaceships added in the mix, and even some time travel.
218 reviews
February 22, 2018
Even though the story jumps ahead 10K years, the story still manages to remind us of the original Spin novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline and the style in which we focus on 2 stories, one 10K years in the future and one a few years in the future. This book reminds me of why I enjoy reading all of Robert Charles Wilson's novels!
Profile Image for Peter.
709 reviews48 followers
June 25, 2020
Hmm, this isn't where I expected the series to go. And while I usually enjoy being surprised like that, unfortunately here, the execution just wasn't up to scratch. The ideas and concepts were really well thought out and incorporated into the story, but in a concluding book of a series, I wanted more than just another story set in this Spin world. The few extra bits of information about the central mystery were nowhere near enough to provide the sort of catharsis I want from a series like this.

This instalment once again had 3 pov characters which seemed more like a decision based on the formula of previous books rather than being entirely necessary to the story. Unfortunately, the characters also struggled to feel unique and multi-dimensional. They simply weren't developed very well, nor fleshed out enough for me to ever get a good sense of them. It was almost like they were secondary to the story the author wanted to tell.

As for the story, it wasn't too bad. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it was the strongest point of the book. Both storylines were interesting and unpredictable. The mysteries driving both of them forward were compelling enough to keep me engaged and made it easier to overlook the shoddy character work. The only real negative here was the ending which didn't feel deserved and which didn't really work for me on any level.

In terms of the world-building, it was fine. The ideas and concepts were mostly really clever and the philosophical issues brought up by them were nicely incorporated into the story. However, it did seem to focus primarily on a very small part of the world and the few mentions of the rest of the world weren't elaborated on as much as I would have liked.

The writing was on par with the rest of the series, which is to say it was fine. The pacing was generally on the slow side and the plotting was decent, but never particularly engaging. Nothing stood out as glaringly bad, but nor was there anything particularly great either.

As a standalone book, I'd probably give it a 3/5, but this isn't sold as a standalone and I feel obliged to judge in that context. The sci-fi aspects were the star of the show and if that's what you enjoy, then this series is probably worth a read. The first book was easily the best and going by the fact that I remember almost nothing from the sequel, I'm willing to bet that this was the next best.
Profile Image for Bobby O'Rourke.
127 reviews
December 23, 2021
The third and final entry in Wilson's Spin trilogy, Vortex picks up the ball where Axis fumbled by giving the reader a few interesting (and returning) characters, while still delivering some solid sci-fi philosophizing.

Vortex takes place at two different chronological points: one 40 years after Spin, in which new characters Bose, Sandra, and apparent derelict Orrin Mathers try to subvert an illegal 4th-drug ring, and one set 10,000 years in the future, in which Turk from Axis joins up with a woman named Treya ("Allison") and Isaac Dvali as they encounter a space colony obsessed with contacting the Hypotheticals. Both stories intertwine in a twisty time-bending way, that I can't spoil but I would like to (but I won't).

Spin is still the best in the trilogy, but Vortex still finds fertile soil to dig into when exploring ideas of continuation, the value of (human?) life, commenting on humanity's tendency to anthropomorphize the universe, and also whether it's even worth extending your life and for what purpose. As a whole, the series (and Wilson in general) are definitely worth the read.
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