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?
Title: Blind Lake.
Author: Robert Charles Wilson
Original Publication Date: August 2003
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….
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.
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.
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.
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
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).