Fiction Reviews

The Harvest

(1992) Robert Charles Wilson, Bantam Books, 5.99, pbk, 496pp, ISBN 978-0-450-58694-1


Bantam Books reprinted this title in 1994 and copies still (2012) abound on the net.

This blast from the near past comes from the Hugo Award winning Robert Charles Wilson and as with most of his SF titles he really is worth checking out. The attraction of Wilson's novels is his addressing how humans react to big events and/or unusual circumstances. In general the big event or unusual circumstance is SFnal in nature. With some of his previous novels the 'big event' or SFnal circumstance has been: an alien world whose microbiology hostile to humans (Bios); a life-changing (literally) astronomical observatory (Blind Lake); giant statues appearing from the near-ish future (The Chronoliths); and the present-day Earth surprisingly encased in a shell racing through time (Spin).   In The Harvest the conceit is that the aliens have arrived and offer humanity immortality. Just say 'yes' and in their orbiting ship they would just make it happen. Only a few no more than one in ten thousand reject this offer that seems too good to be true.

The hope was that the aliens would give the Earth one last chance to regenerate itself, but to the few who do not accept the offer, suddenly they feel very alone amidst the crowds who have been changed by the aliens. The story follows a number of individuals who finally meet up in a world that is gradually going through one of the cosiest catastrophes you will probably come across, but all the more quietly chilling for that.

While most of the plot dynamic concerns how our small troupe of characters cope By not following the rest of humanity in their pact with the aliens, along the way we do learn of the aliens' motive and why they have done what they are doing. So it includes a sort of a bit of a twist on the Fermi Paradox.

The Harvest is from earlier on in the author's career but by the time he wrote it one of his previous books had already been cited as aNew York Times notable book and the previous year to The Harvest's publication, he had been a Philip K. Dick Award finalist for the best (US) SF novel of 1991. The Harvest was the next stage in what is turning out to be a remarkable SF writing career.

Jonathan Cowie

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