This 1999 work by Hugo-winning author Robert Charles Wilson falls short of his more successful works, but it demonstrates his range. Here, he attempts traditional SF– with a Wilsonian twist.
Author: Robert Charles Wilson.
A young woman, manipulated in a variety of ways, joins the exploration of Isis, an alien world which appears to be actively hostile to humanity.
The characters and their society recall, in some respects, those of an older kind of SF. Here, however, the stock responses don’t yield the expected results.
Wilson gives us too little description of Isis itself, and too much explanation of the ideas that inform this novel.
Originality: 4/6. Most of the ideas in this book will be familiar to readers of SF. The ending takes a somewhat less-familiar idea in an interesting direction.
Imagery: 4/6. I had hoped for more description of Isis and its fauna. He allows us to develop a picture of his future earth, which never appears directly in the novel. On other subjects, he arguably provides too much exposition.
Story: 5/6 Wilson has written a tight story, which does not get lost in either the biological complexity of Isis or the political machinations of earth’s future. Given the danger faced by the character, I wish the conflicts had been explored in greater detail.
Characterization: 4/6. The protagonist, Zoe, has been written with some depth, though I wish we had seen more of her interesting internal struggles. The other people are believable, but most of them lack complexity.
Emotional Response: 4/6.
Editing: 5/6. Wilson ranks among SF’s better prose stylist. This novel features a little too much “info-dump,” which (especially as the conclusion looms) mars the pace needlessly.
Overall Score: 4/6. If you enjoyed Blind Lake or the Hugo-winning Spin, you will find much to like in this more conventional work of Wilson’s. What you won’t find is a novel that equals his stronger achievements.
In total, Bios receives 30 out of 42