Robert Charles Wilson's The Chronoliths was published in 2001 by Tor Books.
Here's a bit of information about Robert Charles Wilson:
Robert Charles Wilson is a Canadian science fiction author. He's the author of Spin and several other science fiction books. Click here to visit his official website.
And here's a description of The Chronoliths:
One day in Thailand, 21st-century slacker Scott Warden witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar. Its arrival collapses trees for a quarter mile around its base. It appears to be composed of an exotic form of matter. And the inscription chiseled into it commemorates a military victory... sixteen years hence.
As more pillars arrive all over the world, all apparently from our own near future, a strange loop of causality keeps drawing Scott into the central mystery – and a final battle with the future.
A SHORT REVIEW OF ROBERT CHARLES WILSON'S THE CHRONOLITHS
If somebody is wondering why I'm writing a review about a book, which was first published ten years ago (in 2001), the reason is simple: some books are worth reviewing and The Chronoliths is one of these books. The Chronoliths is so good a book that I decided to write a short review about it.
I became a fan of Robert Charles Wilson when I read Spin. I haven't read all of his books yet, but I've tried to read them at regular intervals, because they're fascinating books. I like the way Robert Charles Wilson writes about his characters and their lives. His characters are realistic and believable, which is great, because I've always liked well developed characters (this is one of the reasons why I decided to buy and read The Chronoliths).
When I began to read The Chronoliths, I immediately noticed that Robert Charles Wilson's characterization was wonderfully realistic and vibrant. Although The Chronoliths is a science fiction book, the characterization reminded me about a quality mainstream book (and I dare say that the characterization in this book is probably even better than in several new mainstream books).
Finding out things about the Chronoliths was part of this book's charm. They were huge monoliths which appeared without warning, created massive destruction and had inscriptions of military victories and images on them. They were believed to be sent from the future by a person called Kuin, who wanted to raise fear in people so that his military victories would be successful and everybody would believe that he's an invincible person. The arrival of the Chronoliths created a movement called Kuinism.
The main character in this book is Scott and the story is told from his point of view. He's a normal man whose life changes radically when a mysterious Chronolith appears in Thailand. The other characters (Sue, Janice, Ashley, Kaitlin, Hitch etc) were also interesting. It was interesting to read about Sue Chopra and her obsession with the Chronoliths (she believed that her and Scotty's destinies were linked to the Chronoliths). Her thoughts about "tau turbulence" were fascinating.
Robert Charles Wilson combined mathematics and (meta)physics fluently. I enjoyed reading about all the things related to mathematics and physics. Terms like "Calabi-Yau geometry" probably mean nothing to several readers, but this kind of mathematics has always fascinated me and I'm sure that other readers will also find it fascinating.
I also enjoyed the melancholy atmosphere, because Robert Charles Wilson wrote about a world where things were slowly declining and the future didn't look very bright. People became more and more worried about things as time went on and Chronoliths began to appear all over the world. This created a paranoid and fearful atmosphere, because nobody knew who Kuin is.
The Chronoliths is basically a story about philosophical issues, because the characters wonder if things can be changed and what will happen if things change. This kind of philosophical and thoughtful writing appeals to me, when it's done without preaching, so I liked it very much.
The Chronoliths is also a story about Scott's life and how the arrival of the Chronoliths changes it. Scott has to deal with the collapse of the society and he also has to face the rise of the Kuinists. His family life also changes and he loses his wife and daughter, but he tries to keep in contact with his family. The author could've easily written a simple and normal science fiction story, but fortunately he concentrated on his characters and wrote a wonderful book full of human drama.
I think that the ending of The Chronoliths may alienate and annoy readers, because it's left partly open. The author explained several things, but not all of them. I liked this kind of an ending, because it fit the story (and it was slightly bittersweet), but I can imagine that some readers will be disappointed with the ending. In my opinion The Chronoliths isn't an easy book, so this kind of an ending felt refreshing.
If you're looking for an intelligent and thought-provoking science fiction, you'll probably like The Chronoliths very much, because it's a well written science fiction book.