Published by Macmillan on April 21st 2015
Genres: Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Sexual Content: References to sex.
Reviewed by: Kim
In our rapidly-changing world of "social media", everyday people are more and more able to sort themselves into social groups based on finer and finer criteria. In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities, this process is supercharged by new analytic technologies--genetic, brain-mapping, behavioral. To join one of the twenty-two Affinities is to change one's life. It's like family, and more than family. Your fellow members aren't just like you, and they aren't just people who are likely to like you. They're also the people with whom you can best cooperate in all areas of life--creative, interpersonal, even financial.
At loose ends both professional and personal, young Adam Fisk takes the suite of tests to see if he qualifies for any of the Affinities, and finds that he's a match for one of the largest, the one called Tau. It's utopian--at first. Problems in all areas of his life begin to simply sort themselves out, as he becomes part of a global network of people dedicated to helping one another--to helping him. But as the differing Affinities put their new powers to the test, they begin to rapidly chip away at the power of governments, of global corporations, of all the institutions of the old world. Then, with dreadful inevitability, the different Affinities begin to go to war--with one another. What happens next will change Adam, and his world, forever.
Lost in a crowd? Need to find yourself? A place where you just belong? THE AFFINITIES introduces a wonderful/scary world where finding your place in the world is simply an inexpensive test away; and if you don't fit into any of the 22 standard profiles, or affinities, you even get your money back!
THE AFFINITIES was scientifically and socially interesting; I loved seeing how the different categories of people worked together (and against each other). There was also a good portion of the story concerned with the people who didn't make the cut, some of whom are very angry about not being allowed in the “clubs”. I enjoyed how the different theories and ideologies were explained seriously, but without being so wordy as to bore or lose me. Several non-professional characters had some amazing things to say, both about the affinities and our world in general.
Adam, the protagonist, is almost boring but not quite. He is a nearly blank slate that we can project ourselves onto, but he still manages to have very human characteristics that make you feel for him. His relationships, both with people in his affinity and outside of it, were sometimes strange and sometimes wonderful.
There are 7 and 11 year jumps between the different parts of the book, and Adam only knows as far as the end of that part, which kept the suspense up throughout the book. Although the narrator could tell us about what had just happened, he, like us, had no idea what the future would bring. In a setting so physically similar from our own and yet so socially different, it felt as if anything could happen between the different parts of the book.
The ending was powerful, at the same time sad and hopeful. A must read for sociology nerds and lovers of “science-fiction” that could be just a few years away.Series Titles: