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Mysterium (1995)

Mysterium (1995)

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3.52 of 5 Votes: 4
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0553569538 (ISBN13: 9780553569537)
bantam books

About book Mysterium (1995)

Mysterium_ by Robert Charles Wilson is a skillfully written, engrossing earlier work of the author's, one that hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention of his other works (such as _Darwinia_, _Bios_, and _The Chronoliths_). _Mysterium_ is a book one could place in the "island in the sea of time" sub-genre of books on alternate history and parallel universes, one made famous recently by of course _Island in the Sea of Time_ by S. M. Stirling (1998), _1632_ by Eric Flint (2000), and _Weapons of Choice_ by John Birmingham (2004) and their sequels, the premise being that some little corner of the modern day world (or a whole fleet instead of an island or a town in the case of _Weapons of Choice_) of our Earth gets sent into the past (which becomes from that point on a parallel universe, when those people from our time interact with the rest of the world). _Mysterium_ differed in two respects; first, this story came first (for whatever that is worth), as it is copyright 1994 (though I am sure others can provide earlier examples of this sub-sub-genre), and second, the town of Two Rivers, Michigan found itself in is a parallel universe from the beginning, contemporaneous with our Earth but with a history that diverged from our own close to two thousand years ago. But I get ahead of myself.An archaeological team working in a remote area of Turkey on what was believed to be a rather unremarkable prehistoric site come across what they first think is a piece of jade – remarkable enough to be sure – but that instead turns out to be something else, something with odd optical properties and that is quite radioactive. Unfortunately, as is the case with many works, the discoverers do not fare well, most if not all dying of radiation sickness.The powers that be determine that the object is not of this earth. Furthermore, with Turkey’s permission of course, the object is taken to the a heavily guarded research facility in the U.S. The facility is just outside of Two Rivers, Michigan, on a military base of sorts, cut off from the town. The base, very much aloof and apart from the town, at first piqued the curiosity of the locals, wondering what the meaning of the new base was in an era of declining defense spending and also hopeful of new jobs. When the new jobs don't really materialize to any great degree and the base stayed extremely quiet, they quickly forgot about it.One night though - a mere twelve pages into the book I would like to add - mysterious bright lights and an explosion at the facility, just visible to those in the town, signified a bizarre event, one that removed the entire town and the military base to a parallel universe, the exact same spot on the globe on a world with a totally different history, in an alternate Michigan. Fully aware that there was some accident at the base, the townspeople awoke to find the power, water, and phones out, and those few with battery powered radios not able to get any stations except for a very distant one, one that seemed to be putting on some quasi-religious radio play of all things. Most just went on with life for a bit as best they could, hopeful that the utilities would be restored, though several tried to leave town and made an amazing discovery; all roads and trails out of town just stopped, ending in a cut as sharp as if a laser had made it. So sharp was the divide that trees were split right down the middle along the line, bare heartwood exposed for all to see. The other side of the line, inches beyond the road, was virgin forest, deep dark woodlands that had never known an axe.One of the locals who possessed a floatplane took off, hoping to uncover more of this mystery. He found that the town was now deep in the wilderness, all nearby other roads and towns long vanished, and what should be Detroit had completely different architecture, odd-looking cars, and even horse-drawn wagons. Heading back home, his flight apparently attracted the attention of the authorities of this world, who moved in with aircraft, tanks, and soldiers, putting the town under martial law.The startled locals learned that they were in an alternate reality; they were not in the United States of America, but in an entity called the Consolidated Republic, a French-English nation that ruled most of North America and was regrettably run by an authoritarian religious theocracy. What's more, it was not a Christianity as the townspeople knew it; it became apparent later in the book that the Christianity in this world was a intolerant descendent of Gnostic Christianity, this world's history having diverged considerably during Roman times, as the Roman Empire never became Christian and indeed even to the present Apollo and other Greco-Roman gods were still worshipped in many countries of Europe (ones at war with the Consolidated Republic). The locals privately derided this world's Christianity as being practically polytheistic, while the Proctors (much feared Gestapo-like religious police of the Bureau de la Convenance Religieuse) despised the Two Rivers Christians as worshipping a "stick figure Christianity," one unbelievably crude and simplistic. I hope I am not giving too much away here – I don’t think I am – but I just thought I would include that in the review, as I had not seen this used before in parallel universe/alternate history stories. Regrettably, the conflict between Two Rivers and the authorities was much more severe as that, as the Proctors had dire plans for the town, for they believed it to be both incredibly useful as source of advanced technology and weaponry (being about roughly 50 years ahead of them) and as a blasphemous and dangerous threat to their social order. The remainder of the book dealt with the ugly plans of the Proctors and the secret resistance lead by several townspeople and their sympathizers. I really liked the idea of transporting a part of our world to a parallel universe, not the past (as much as I might like those stories). I found the word intriguing and generally liked the characters though did not find them terribly memorable. What I did not like was the story was too short and while it had an ending, it could have gone on longer. Also, though this is not a huge problem, the device that got them to the parallel world does not seem to figure into the rest of the story at all; it is just that, a plot device. If you like Wilson’s work as I do, I think you will like this book and if you like parallel universe adventures I think you will appreciate this one as well.

A kanadai – későbbi Hugo-díjas – szerzőnek ugyan viszonylag korai műve (a kötet 1994-ben jelent meg) a Misztérium, mégis sokat köszönhet neki. Két Philip K. Dick-díj jelölés után ezzel a művével végre el is nyerte a rangos díjat, ami ezáltal széles körben ismertté tette a nevét a science-fictiont olvasók előtt. Már ebben az írásában is jól megfigyelhető írói eszköztárának egyik legmeghatározóbb vonása – ami úgy tűnik, a kanadai sci-fi „írói-iskola” tagjainak (Wilson, Gibson, Sawyer) sajátja –, nevezetesen, hogy legyen könyvük témája bármennyire is tudományos (vagy akár elvont), a próza maradjon mindig olvasóbarát és közérthető. Ezért aztán ezeknek a könyveknek az olvasása igazi felüdülés, még akkor is, ha adott esetben a témája vagy a mondanivalója igen komoly.A regényről annyit mindenképp meg kell még említeni, hogy a fontosabb nézőpont-karaktereket – a tanárt, a diákot és esetleg még a fiatal tudóst – leszámítva a szereplők elég kidolgozatlanok, sablonosak. Ez főleg igaz az alternatív világ „gonosz” alakjaira, akik mintha csak egy náci háborús filmből kerültek volna oda (vagy mondjuk a Fahrenheit 451 tűzőrségéből). Ne essünk abba a hibába, hogy azt gondoljuk, biztos jobb a helyzet a főszereplők esetében, hiszen végletekig kidolgozott szereplőkről az ő esetükben sem beszélhetünk, ez nem az a regény, amit a szereplők érdekes személyiségjegyei vinnének el a hátán. Ettől eltekintve – és igen pesszimista hangvétele dacára/miatt (Olvasója válogatja, melyik a helyes válasz…) – azonban feltétlenül ajánlott olvasmány a kortárs science fiction könyvek rajongóinak épp úgy, mint a műfajjal csak most ismerkedők számára.Bővebben a blogon:

Do You like book Mysterium (1995)?

Il y a essentiellement deux sortes de science fiction : la futuriste et l'uchronique. Wilson appartient à la deuxième et plus précisément au genre du "formidable événement". Ici, l'explosion d'un artefact archéologique qui ne peut exister transplante un disque autour d'une petite ville américaine dans un autre monde. Un événement trop important pour qu'on puisse réparer et revenir en arrière. Donc il faut s'adapter, se cacher, combattre...Mysterium marche plutôt bien. Ce nouveau monde issu d'un branchement de l'histoire il y a deux millénaires est plutôt intéressant. Bref, ce livre se laisse lire sans problème et éclaire différemment l'histoire de notre univers.

Un mystérieux complexe scientifique installé près de la ville de Two Rivers donne lieu à toutes les spéculations, jusqu’à ce que, du jour au lendemain, une explosion fasse basculer la ville dans l’improbable le plus absolu. Ses habitants s’éveillent dans une ville qui est toujours la leur, mais dans un univers qu’ils ne reconnaissent pas. Isolés du reste d’un monde qui leur est à la fois familier et étranger, ils sont rapidement mis en quarantaine par l’armée, surveillés et étudiés. Ce nouveau monde dans lequel s’est réveillée Two Rivers est principalement dominé par la religion, une variante omniprésente du catholicisme, mêlée de mythes et de superstitions que notre monde a épuré au fil des siècles. Dans ce monde la religion a pris un autre tournant, l’Histoire aussi. La technologie à quelques décennies de retard et Two Rivers se pose à la fois comme un miracle et un blasphème pour cette société très religieuse et hiérarchisée.Globalement, j’ai trouvé le roman beaucoup trop court, le propos est riche, mais le traitement trop rapide. L’interprétation que fait l’un des personnages du glissement de Two Rivers vers ce monde alternatif est vraiment intéressante, et aurait mérité d’être mieux exploitée, ainsi que ce personnage lui-même et les autres principaux protagonistes, pas assez développés, à mon sens. Le personnage absent de l’oncle scientifique aurait lui aussi mérité plus d’attention, vu son importance dans l’intrigue. Une impression de trop peu pour un énorme potentiel, un propos passionnant pour un roman toutefois très bon, malgré la frustration de ne pas en avoir eu plus à me mettre sous la dent !
—My Inner Shelf

This is the fourth book I've read by Robert Charles Wilson. He seems to have a certain patented approach: a wildly improbable concept, vividly imagined and somehow made to seem plausible, at least for a while, building irresistibly toward a conclusion, a revelation of some central mystery that promises to explain it all. Tension arises because it seems an impossible feat, but the payoff comes at the narrative climax. It all comes together in a manner that is deeply satisfying — when it works.I've also been impressed by RCW's general well-roundedness. Prose style, characters, location, plot, pacing — all are nicely fleshed out and complementary. He's one of the better writers of straight-up genre science fiction, in my humble opinion.Mysterium is the earliest of his books I've read. His basic approach is here. The wildly improbable concept is that a whole town in Michigan has been suddenly transported to an alternate Earth. It's still recognizably "our" planet, but with a different history, which emerges slowly and intriguingly as the bewildered residents try to come to make sense of their new reality.I enjoyed the ride. It was a pleasurable read on an action-adventure level that kept me turning pages to see what would happen next.But when all was said and done it felt a little superficial. There was nice twist at the very end, but ultimately I didn't feel the deeper questions raised by the novel's premise were explored in meaningful fashion. That said, maybe someone more familiar with the history of Gnostic Christianity would have picked up on some subtleties I missed.In the end I felt Mysterium not as fully developed as RCW's later novels like The Chronoliths or Spin.
—Bart Everson

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