Apr 26, 2017

The Affinities, by Robert Charles Wilson

This is a great idea. A fantastic idea, a really, truly, interesting and cool idea. Too bad the writing sucks.

Extrapolating the next leap forward of social development, Wilson gives us the Affinities: 22 types of people, grouped by some intangible biomechanical features. Not every person qualifies for an Affinity; about half of humanity falls into one of these groupings, with five being the largest. Members of the groups feel an...affinity...for each other. A deep, instant understanding that allows for incredible collaboration and cooperation, and mutual trust that leads to fulfilling, meaningful relationships, often to the exclusion of others, i.e. the families they were born into. These groups start to become much more than simple social clubs, and when things get political, relations between the Affinities get hairy.

Unfortunately, Wilson doesn't do the idea justice. Perhaps it's the first person narrator, but the story is told so flatly that I just couldn't get invested. The plot pulled me through and I read it quickly, but Adam isn't a particularly likable character and the twists are pretty predictable. Adam is merely a reporter, with hardly any strong emotion to speak of. He's annoyed at his strict, racist Republican dad, feels bad for the girl he was supposed to marry but didn't, pities people who don't have an Affinity, loves the pretty girl but not enough to stand up for her against the asshole father. It's lazy storytelling, letting the idea free and simply recording the logical next steps rather than molding it into an original, surprising tale that teaches us about human nature. Or something. Anything. I could see this being a fun TV show on TNT Tuesday nights, Prime Time! But it's only a mediocre book.

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