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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
The Chronoliths

by Robert Charles Wilson

(Tor Books, $6.99, paperback, 320 pages, first published 2001, this edition 1 June 2002; ISBN: 0812545249.)

Tor Books is the unofficial American home of Canadian cover scanfantastic fiction. From the Northern series of genre anthologies co-edited by Montrealer Glenn Grant, to English-language books by a number Québécois authors, to regular releases by Ottawa fantasist Charles de Lint and Toronto science fiction writer Robert Sawyer, Tor has given Canadian writers a tangible presence south of the border.

Perhaps the most acclaimed of the Canadians on its roster is Robert Charles Wilson. The Chronoliths is his fourth Tor release, and his eleventh book altogether.

The macrostory of this novel involves the sudden and violent appearance of gigantic monoliths proclaiming the future conquests of a mysterious warlord named Kuin. These chronoliths, as the media dubs them, seem to be sent from the future and are composed of a heretofore unknown substance. The arrival of each chronolith is marked by intense bursts of cold and destruction. Around the world, in a near future beset by the same inequities and global social problems known today (only perhaps more so), many people, faced with a hopeless future in a political system that doesn't seem to care about them, see in the enigmatic Kuin not a conqueror but a saviour.

Against this backdrop, the novel follows the story of Scott Warden, a witness to the first chronolith manifestation. He is an ordinary man who wishes nothing more than a safe and quiet life. However, he and his loved ones repeatedly find themselves entangled in the world of intrigue and violence surrounding the chronoliths.

The novel's greatest strength is the deft way it balances both the micro and macro stories, each enriching the other. The Chronoliths revels in exciting speculative ideas while offering a poignant personal tale of coping with extraordinary circumstances.

Originally published, in slightly different form,
in The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, 13 October 2001.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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