Blind Lake

Of this year’s Hugo nominees, Robert Charles Wilson’s Blind Lake has the greatest crossover appeal, a fact which will draw in some readers and (possibly) alienate others. An SF thriller set in a community under pressure, Blind Lake features a Stephen King-esque small community and a plausible extra-terrestrial– but who the heck is Nerissa Iverson?

General Information

Title: Blind Lake.

Author: Robert Charles Wilson

Original Publication Date: August 2003

ISBN: 0-765-34160-3

Buy from:

Cover Price (hardcover) $6.99 U.S. $9.99 Canadian.


Sometime around 2040, a technological singularity produces a device capable of observing planets of other star-systems. Blind Lake, one of two observation sites, follows a sentient alien subject through an extra-terrestrial version of 9-to-5.

Suddenly and without explanation, Blind Lake goes under a complete quarantine; even communication with and news from the rest of the world cease. Robot trucks deliver food; military drones kill anyone who tries to escape. The residents try to cope with and comprehend their strange new situation; naturally, some of them begin to behave strangely. For less apparent reasons, so does the Subject in the viewer….

High Points:

Two alien intelligences appear in this novel. The Subject itself proves a compellingly banal, alien Joe Average Guy. The “other” alien intelligence, a type familiar to SF reader, raises worthwhile questions.

Raymond Scutter, the novel’s principal villain, proves fairly predictable, and not entirely believable. He has, however, this thing about dingdongs. The passage explaining his love of the Hostess pastry represents some of the most entertaining writing in an SF novel this year.

Low Points:

One too many predictable (and forced) character developments take place against the backdrop of suspense in a small town. Wilson can write very well, but he does not do so consistently.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6 The book has some good ideas, though I cannot say that any of these are particularly original.

Story: 4/6 I definitely wanted to keep reading. I found the ending a bit too pat, but I wouldn’t call it a major disappointment.

Characterization: 4/6 I could believe in most of the characters, but I never felt terribly drawn to any of them. As with many books where a community becomes a character (think many of Stephen King’s books, or Stephen Dobyns’ The Church of the Dead Girls), the attempt to individuate so many people does not consistently succeed.

Imagery: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 The suspense works, though it seems forced in places.

Editing: 5/6. Much as I liked the dingdong passage, I also found that Wilson’s writing became clunky in places.

Overall Score: 5/6.

In total, Blind Lake receives 31/42

Oddball Comment:

The back cover of the book (and some of the online reviews) identify the protagonist as “Nerissa Iverson.” Within the covers (at least in my edition), she has the name, “Marguerite Hauser.”

What gives? Did the blurb writer screw up, or is their another story here? (I have e-mailed the author on this urgent matter).

3 replies on “Blind Lake”

  1. reply from the author

    E-mail from Wilson:

    Hi, and thanks for writing.

    This question has come up so often I had to boilerplate an answer. This is it:

    “Nerissa Iverson” was the name I gave Marguerite in the book proposal I first submitted to Tor. She was Marguerite in the ms, but production and advertising must have worked from the proposal. “Nerissa” shows up not only on the flap copy of the hardcover and the back of the mass market edition, but in reviews from Booklist and elsewhere. I did bring all this to the attention of my editors before the pb was printed, but Nerissa slipped through yet again.

    I’m reminded of an old (1960s) Signet edition of Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, with a plot description on the back cover that was not only
    near-incoherent but described some other book altogether. (“Moon cities plunge underground!” it began.)

    Maybe I’ll name a character Nerissa Iverson in some future book, just to confuse the hell out of everybody.

    Again, thanks for asking — one of the nice things about this is that I’m reminded that people really do read my books. Including the back cover!


    • Re: reply from the author

      I just read “Blind Lake” by Robert Charles Wilson and enjoyed it very
      much. I found this site via a search for “Nerissa Iverson”, the mysterious
      name on the back cover of the paperback.

      I have one more picky question (for the author?) or anyone else who
      might have an explanation…

      In chapter 33, Marguerite recalls “making love” with a man named Brian
      Okuda, prior to meeting her future husband Ray; however, back in
      chapter 17, Marguerite recalls that “Ray had been not only her first
      husband but her first lover.”

      A minor error, or am I missing something? Sorry for nit-picking! The
      book is great!


  2. Powered through it in 3 days
    Fantastic read. Few SF can conjure up well-thought-out and likable (or hatable) characters. This is my first Wilson novel, but definitely not my last!

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