Book of the Week: Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson

Burning Paradise

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What is it?

Hugo Award winner Robert Charles Wilson (Spin) returns with Burning Paradise a near-future thriller set in a world just a bit different from our own.

What’s it about?

The world is about to celebrate a century of near peace ever since the Great War was ended by the Armstice of 1918. There was no Great Depression, no World War II and the world has seen almost a hundred years of seemingly ever-increasing prosperity. However, all is not quite as it seems in the idealistic world as the great history of humanity has seen interference from intellengeces from beyond this world.

What’s it like?

Wilson is a writer known for his ability to churn out a fascinating concept bound by taught prose and Burning Paradise is no different. Reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus all indicate that Wilson’s ability to tell a thrilling story with convincing characters is on full display in Burning ParadiseAt the same time some science-fiction blogs and reviews have been less enthusiastic about the title such as in this review at Tor/Forge (the official blog of the book’s publisher) from Stefan Raets.

The notion of aliens messing with past and present life on Earth isn’t something new to Wilson. His aforementioned Hugo-winning novel Spin opens up with strange alien artifacts cutting Earth off from the rest of the galaxy. Whatever, the strengths and faults of Burning Paradise may be there is little doubt the Wilson is a writer who loves exploring the social side of science fiction.

What other novels explore the “social side” of science fiction?

Joe Haldeman’s Hugo and Nebula Award winning The Forever War examines the effects of time dilation and relativist travel and is thought to be a response to the author’s service in the Vietnam War as wall as a reaction to Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Carl Sagan’s Contact (and the film of the same name) offers an interesting examination of the response to potential extraterrestrial contact as it pertains to both Government and Religion (albeit with a leaning towards Cold War mentality). Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, while typically viewed as a book directed at children, is actually and acute and rather insightful look in society and war. Walter Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz offers a look on how society might be changed and how knowledge might be changed after a devastating nuclear war.



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