Book Review 2008 #33: Axis

Axis is the second novel in a trilogy, the sequel to the Hugo award-winning novel Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson.

I loved the first novel in this series (although I thought at the time that it was a standalone), which sets one of Wilson’s classic Big Ideas in motion and takes us through it with interesting characters. What if unknown aliens put a time bubble around the Earth, so as to slow its aging relative to the rest of the universe?
At the end of that novel, the shield changes subtly, and a gateway to another world appears, a chance for a new world, a new life, and a new opportunity.
Axis takes us to that world, and continues to develop the universe of the Hypotheticals, once again through the eyes of his characters.
Honestly, though, this suffers from middle book syndrome. It’s clear that Wilson hasn’t written many series (any, I think) and the book’s pacing suffers for not being a self-contained work. It relies heavily on the first book (reading this one without the second is futile) and the characters and events don’t sing like the first novel. This one is much more reliant on the interesting ideas (a la Mysterium) than the actual writing and characters themselves. The characters (even one from Spin) aren’t as well developed as the ones in Spin. In this respect, the book is a disappointing step backward for Wilson.
Its predecessor won the Hugo award for best novel, I do not expect this one to be nominated, except perhaps in a weak field. It’s not a terrible book, merely an average one.