Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson (book review).

Putting Robert Charles Wilson’s book ‘Burning Paradise’ together is a bit of a jigsaw. None of the characters introduced have any apparent significance to the overall arc of the plot and any major events that have happened are given like news stories than first hand. Granted they do something crucial in the finale but really anyone could have done what they did.


An interstellar species called the hypercolony with a need to propagate needs to bond with the sentient or main tool-using species on any planet it encounters. The results on Earth are humans that carry a mass of green stuff inside their bodies with an alien agenda of breeding. These are discovered by some humans who collectively call themselves the Correspondence Society who find themselves hunted because they know and are forever on the move once discovered. As such, we follow the travels of four of them, young adult to teens in the form of Leo Beck, Beth Vance, Cassie Iverson and her young brother Thomas fleeing and join up with mechanic Eugene Dowd. They have to take equipment down to South America and gives Wilson an opportunity to play with their relationships.

We also pick up other parts of the story with their Aunt Nerissa ‘Ris’ and Ethan Iverson whom a faction of the hypercolony tells them that they aren’t all after the same thing and want to change things.

I hate saying this but you really learn more about the difference in this reality to our own from then inside cover than reading the story itself. Wilson’s dialogue and text is interchangeable when he should have used the opportunity to differentiate them apart better than he has here. It makes the characters unemotional ciphers and you don’t even care for them. When Ris sprains her ankle, the emotional pain isn’t even there to share with the reader.

Plot-wise, with all that green stuff inside of humans, it sounds like a second-rate ‘X-Files’ story, mixed with assorted B-rate films from the 50s.  You never really feel if any of the people are really in danger, even aside from the lack of emotional content. To say I was disappointed is putting it mildly.

GF Willmetts

December 2013

(pub: TOR/Forge. 317 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $28.99 (CAN), £17.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3261-5)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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