The third volume gives us a closer look at Turk Findley, whom we met back in Axis, and we meet again the half Hypothetical/half human boy Isaac. The chapters of the book alternate between two timelines: one approximately 40 years following the events of Spin and the other approximately 10,000 years following the events of Axis.
Turk Findley awakens ten thousand years after he and the gene-modified boy Isaac were drawn into the Hypotheticals’ temporal Arch on the planet Equatoria, at the climax of Axis. He finds himself on an artificial floating archipelago called Vox, populated by a fanatical collective who, just like Axis’s rogue scientist Avram Dvali, (from Axis) are obsessed with making direct contact with the Hypotheticals, whom they view as no less than gods. Like all fanatics, they simply take for granted that their gods want to meet them, too, and will eagerly deliver them the spiritual ascendance they crave. Ideological conformity is monitored by an implanted node in each Vox citizen linking their minds to the Coryphaeus, Vox’s governing Network. Other human societies in the Ring of Worlds connected by the Arches oppose Vox, and Turk’s arrival coincides with one of them dropping a small nuke on Vox Core, an event that proves only a brief if significant interruption.
The counter plotline has Turk’s story of his adventures on Vox somehow being channeled into the mind and the diaries of young drifter Orrin Mather. Orrin is brought into a psychiatric clinic in Houston by a cop named Bose, who, in the opinion of Dr. Sandra Cole, is taking a level of personal interest in the case unusual for an officer. Bose’s reasons become apparent as the two of them seek to unravel Orrin’s mystery. Has the boy, who’s barely literate and never demonstrated any particular creativity in his life, simply made up this far future saga?
Well, I thought it was an odd way to continue the story of Turk 10,000 years in the future. Seemed like a contrived vehicle and for me, did nothing to enhance the basic premise of the fanatical group seeking their god. The Vox archipelago sails under the arch to the environs of the earth, to find the planet ravaged, ruined, and desolate. I am not sure if we are meant to assume that the human species did itself in by using all it’s resources, or we are meant to simply contemplate the passage of time and understand that nothing is forever, except possibly the Hypotheticals.
Did the Vox population get to meet the Hypotheticals? Well, yes, but not in the way they had expected.
Warnng…. Spoiler alert. If you plan to read this trilogy, stop reading here.
The Hypotheticals, who encased the earth in a bubble that slowed down time, encased Mars in a bubble, set up arches from world to world, are ……. a process, not a thing. Not a being. They … it … evolved from a research probe sent into space who knows how long ago, which was equipped with a program for self replicating, and grew from that. Its goal is information gathering … that was the probe’s original mission, and the whole thing got out of hand and grew into this monster process whose goal was to gather all the info it could, and in fact created worlds etc. in order to find more information.
So the trilogy is ultimately about our search for god, or a deity, or a something greater than ourselves to believe in, and our vulnerability and capacity for self-deception.
There was generally a lot of disappointment in the book reading world with the second and third books of the trilogy, but for me, a person with perhaps lower standards than many, I enjoyed it immensely.