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.

Title: Bios

Author: Robert Charles Wilson.

ISBN: 0-812-57574-1

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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.

High Points:

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.

Low Points:

Wilson gives us too little description of Isis itself, and too much explanation of the ideas that inform this novel.

The Scores:

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