cover image The Affinities

The Affinities

Robert Charles Wilson. Tor, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3262-2

Wilson (Burning Paradise) works a fascinating transformation on one of the oldest plot devices in SF: people who are widely hated for their inherent difference from the rest of humankind. Those who join one of the 22 Affinity groups are normal people with normal abilities, but careful screening by InterAlia, a private company, places them in groups of particularly compatible fellow members, allowing for an unusual degree of cooperation and happiness. Adam Fisk, dissatisfied with his life and his unhappy family, gets tested and is assigned to the Tau group. At his first Tau gathering, he feels like he’s finally come home. As the years pass, however, laid-back Tau and the stiff-necked Het group consistently outperform the others, as well as the unaffiliated. InterAlia goes bankrupt, portable test kits become available, and international tensions soar; the U.S. government considers legislation designed to corral the Affinities’ successes, and Tau and Het increasingly come into conflict. Adam is caught up in the growing violence with no idea of how to stop it. Wilson’s trademark well-developed characters and understated but compelling prose are very much in evidence in this quietly believable tale of the near future. (Apr.)