Robert Charles Wilson

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Robert Charles Wilson in 2010

Robert Charles Wilson (born December 15, 1953) is a Canadian science fiction author.



Short fiction

See Robert Charles Wilson's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details

The Cartesian Theater (2006)

Won the 2007 Theodore Sturgeon Award
Page numbers from the reprint in Rich Horton (ed.), Science Fiction: The Best of the Year 2007, ISBN 0-8095-6297-9
  • I pretended to admire the tattoo in the shape of the Greek letter omega that covered her cheeks and forehead. It looked as if a dray horse had kicked her in the face.
    • p. 87
  • I don’t plan ever to get old. It’s unseemly.
    • p. 98
  • Lada saw me as a diamond-in-the-rough, begging for her lapidary attention. While I saw her as an ultimately inscrutable amalgam of love, sex, and money.
    It worked out about as well as you’d expect.
    • pp. 103-104
  • This was unrecorded history, unhappening even as it happened.
    • p. 110

This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beecher Stowe (2009)

  • Thus it was not money but conscience that had propelled me on this journey. Conscience, that crabbed and ecclesiastical nag, which inevitably spoke, whether I heeded it or not, in a voice much like my mother’s.
    • pp. 10-11
  • Strange, isn’t it, how people cling most desperately to a thing when it becomes least useful to them?
    • p. 12

Memory Wire (1987)

All page numbers from the first edition mass market paperback published by Bantam Spectra Books
  • “You think Wexler is lying?”
    “I think he’s fallible,” Byron had replied.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 20)
  • It was amazing how these events lost their impact, translated through the flat gaze of a video screen.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 33)
  • He had come out of the war twice-decorated and with a thoughtful respect for the horrors of combat. He had seen terrible things, participated in terrible things...but that was the nature of war, and it was not something you could enter into halfway. War was a state of mind, war was all or nothing.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 134)
  • There were times when his life had seemed to him like one prolonged act of sleepwalking.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 142)
  • They allow us access to the experience of the past—the only kind of time machine we are ever likely to have.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 160)
  • For them, the idea of forgetting was indistinguishable from the idea of death. To pass out of memory was to pass out of the world. To conserve memory was to confer immortality.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 161)
  • The past was gone, the dead were dead and did not speak, and everybody dies; one day Oberg would be dead and silent, too, and that was as it should be: the broad and welcoming ocean of oblivion. It made life bearable. It was sacred. It should not be tampered with.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 179)
  • He was not accustomed to thinking about these things so bluntly, but the facts were as obvious as they were painful.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 181)

A Bridge of Years (1991)

All page numbers from the first edition mass market paperback published by Bantam Spectra Books
  • “There’s no forgiveness built into the system. I told Barbara so, dozens of times. She was always marching off to save the whales, save the trees, save some goddamn thing. It was endearing. But in the back of my head I always heard Dad’s voice: ‘This is only a holding action. Nothing is ever really saved.’ Barbara thought the greenhouse effect was like a virus, something you could stop if you came up with the right vaccine. I told her it was a cancer—the cancer of humanity on the vital organs of the earth. You can’t stop that by marching.”
    “Isn’t that a little like giving up?”
    “I think it’s called acceptance.”
    Archer stood and walked to the door, where his silhouette obscured the motion of the trees.
    “Very bleak attitude, Tom.”
    “Experience bears it out.”
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 52-53)
  • “Must be a full moon,” she said.”Lawrence is turning into an asshole.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 143)
  • Now as ever, he was startled by the wild exuberance of the twentieth century. All these lights! Colored neon and glaring filaments, powered, he had learned, but mechanical dams spanning rivers hundreds of miles away. And most of this—astonishingly—in the name of advertising.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 148)
  • What was time, after all, except a lead-footed march from the precincts of youth into the country of the grave? Time was the force that crumbled granite, devoured memory, and seduced infants into senility—as implacable as a hanging judge and as poetic as a tank.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 177)
  • “Time is a vastness,” he said finally. “We tend to underestimate it.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 244)

Darwinia (1998)

All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Orb Books ISBN 978-0-7653-1905-0
  • Guilford thought he knew what science was. It was nothing more than curiosity...tempered by humility, disciplined with patience.
    Science meant looking—a special kind of looking. Looking especially hard at the things you didn’t understand. Looking at the stars, say, and not fearing them, not worshiping them, just asking questions, finding the question that would unlock the door to the next question and the question beyond that.
    • Prologue (pp. 10-11)
  • A lot of people have made political careers out of religious piety and the fear of foreigners, but that won’t last. Not enough foreigners or miracles to sustain the crisis.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 77)
  • After a gaudy sunset that land became an immense, limitless darkness. Too large, Guilford thought, too empty, and too plain a token of the indifferent machinery of God.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 80)
  • I won’t put my ignorance on an altar and call it God.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 136)
  • But really, who do you think we’re working for? Not some Sunday school god, not the proverbial loving shepherd. The shoving leopard, more like.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 174)
  • He was as alone as he had ever been, frighteningly alone, in a borderless land of shaded forests and rocky, abyssal gorges. But that was all right. He didn’t much mind being alone. It was what happened when people were around that worried him.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 195)
  • The essence of life is change, he said, and the essence of eternal life is eternal change.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 209)
  • I gather we’re not the most craven species in the galaxy, but we’re not the most angelic by a long shot.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 211)
  • “Maybe you were better off not knowing.”
    “Ignorance is not bliss.”
    • Chapter 29 (p. 245)
  • Last week the doctor at the Tilson Rural Clinic had shown him his X-rays, the too-easy-to-interpret shadows on his liver and lungs. Guilford had declined an offer of surgery and and last-gasp radiation therapy. This horse was too old to beat.
    • Epilogue (p. 316)
  • He hated the idea of eulogizing himself. Some tasks are best left to others, surely including obituaries.
    • Epilogue (p. 318)

Bios (1999)

All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Tor Books ISBN 0-312-86857-X
  • That worries me. One death is attrition; two would look like incompetence—on someone’s part.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 37)
  • “The planet doesn’t hate you,” Theo had once said. “But its intimacies are fatal.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 43)
  • A broken human being isn’t even a good tool.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 103)
  • Perfect aristocratic tone, Degrandpre thought: insult and menace in a single phrase.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 106)
  • She understood too much. She understood that she had reached her destiny point, that time and the circumstances of her life had conspired to bring her to this place. For one ecstatic moment she was the axis on which the stars revolved.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 140)
  • Zoe slowed but didn’t stop. She kept her hands in front of her, still a judicious distance from the animal.
    But close enough to smell it. Close enough to see the steam rising from its warm underbelly into the night air. Four billion years of un-Earthly evolution had shaped this aggregate of cells, this beast. She looked at it. And, amazingly, it looked at her. An impossible distance from the planet of her birth, this miracle had happened: Clay had made life. Life regarded life. First light, Zoe thought.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 140)
  • Here was the real horror, Degrandpre thought, this breaking of barriers. Civilization, after all, was the making of divisions, of walls and fences to parse the chaotic wild into ordered cells of human imagination. Wilderness invades the garden and reason is overthrown.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 164)
  • The awful thing about lying was that it became a habit, then a reflex, as automatic as the blinking of the eyes or the voiding of the bowels. Lying was the Terrestrial disease, his mother used to say.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 168)
  • Life invented it first, Zoe thought, like so many other things. Like eyes: Turning photon impacts into neurochemical events with such subtlety that a frog can target a fly and a man can admire a rose.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 194)
All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Ziegler said, “You know the story in the Bible, the story of Abraham and Isaac?”
    “Of course.”
    “God instructs Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. Isaac makes it as far as the chopping block before God changes his mind.”
    Yes. Jacob had always imagined God a little appalled at Abraham’s willingness to cooperate.
    Ziegler said, “What’s the moral of the story?”
    “Hardly,” Ziegler said. “Faith has nothing to do with it. Abraham never doubted the existence of God—how could he? The evidence was ample. His virtue wasn’t faith, it was fealty. He was so simplemindedly loyal that he would commit even this awful, terrible act. He was the perfect foot soldier. The ideal pawn. Abraham’s lesson: fealty is rewarded. Not morality. The fable makes morality contingent. Don’t go around killing innocent people, that is, unless you're absolutely certain God want you to. It’s a lunatic’s credo.
    “Isaac, on the other hand, learns something much more interesting. He learns that neither God nor his own father can be trusted. Maybe it makes him a better man than Abraham. Suppose Isaac grows up and fathers a child of his own, and God approaches him and makes the same demand. One imagines Isaac saying, ’No. You can take him if you must, but I won’t slaughter my son for you.’ He’s not the good and faithful servant his father was. But he is, perhaps, a more wholesome human being.”
    • The Fields of Abraham (pp. 21-22)
  • The attacking piece displaces its victim. The vanquished piece leaves the plane of the board entirely. But it does not, in a higher sense, cease to exist.
    • The Fields of Abraham (p. 37)
  • To capture the pawn, threaten the queen.
    • The Fields of Abraham (p. 37)
  • “Goddamn you,” Jacob said.
    “There’s no damnation, Jacob. No Heaven but the forest and no God but the hive.”
    • The Fields of Abraham (p. 37)
  • Ecstasy hates company.
    • The Inner Inner City (p. 72)
  • We contrast the urban and the natural, but that’s a contemporary myth. We’re animals, after all; our cities are organic products, fully as “natural” (whatever that word really means) as a termite hill or a rabbit warren. But how much more interesting: how much more complex, dressed in the intricacies and exfoliations of human culture, simple patterns iterated into infinite variation. And full of secrets, secrets beyond counting.
    • The Inner Inner City (p. 74)
  • You have a knack for turning your eyes inside out, so you see them. And they see you. And you're afraid, because they’re from the uncreated future, from a place, I think, where the human race has reached its last incarnation, from the end of the material world. Perhaps the end of all worlds. And they’re sad—melancholy is the better word—because you're like an angel to them, the angel of the past, the angel of infinite possibility. Possibility lost. The road not taken.
    • The Observer (p. 111)
  • One doesn’t have to understand in order to look. One has to look, in order to understand.
    • The Observer (p. 112)
  • I understand so very little. But I am not afraid to look: I am a good observer at last. My eyes are open, and I am not afraid.
    • The Observer (p. 113)
  • Does it strike you, Mr. Keller, that we live every day in the science fiction of our youth?
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 172)
  • Don’t despise life.
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 173)
  • “Ah, books.” Ziegler, smiling, came up behind me. “They bob like corks on an ocean. Float between worlds, messages in bottles.”
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 179)
  • “Don’t tell me. It changed your life.” I was smiling.
    She smiled back. “It didn’t even change my mind.”
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 180)
  • And death?
    I don’t fear death.
    I dread the absence of it.
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 195)
  • “Consciousness,” according to current scientific thought, was something the higher mammals had evolved in order to help them reproduce, much the way a garden slug secretes slime. It had no special ontological status. The “self” was a genetically modulated and biologically useful illusion.
    • Pearl Baby (p. 211)
  • The Mysteries are the Mysteries, and ultimately personal—maybe the most personal thing in the universe. Evangelism, in my opinion, is a failure of the imagination. Beware of prophets: the best visions are the ones they leave in the desert.
    • Afterword (p. 220)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Kait was immediately bored. Children Kaitlin’s age possess no context; one video event is much like another.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 32)
  • Personally, I don’t believe in anything more supernatural than what you read about in the Bible, and I only believe that one day out of seven.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 112)
  • Try to imagine that Minkowski cube, Ray said, as a block of liquid water freezing (as contrary as this seems) from the bottom up. The progression of the freeze represents at least our human experience of the march of time. What is frozen is past, immutable, changeless. What is liquid is future, indeterminate, uncertain. We live on the crystallizing boundary.
    • Chapter 9 (pp. 114-115)
  • Children wear their natures like brightly-colored clothes; that’s why they lie so transparently. Adulthood is the art of deceit.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 156)
  • The most fundamental parental urge is the urge to nurture and protect. To grieve for a child is to admit ultimate impotence. You can’t protect what goes into the ground. You can’t tuck a blanket around a grave.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 156)
  • I suppose every decade gets the music it deserves.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 175)
  • I suppose he could have said this more gently, but what would be the point?
    • Chapter 15 (p. 189)
  • Sometimes the conscience makes demands that are non-negotiable. Courage has nothing to do with it. We weren’t here because we were brave. We were here because we had to be here.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 189)
  • There’s no point living if you can’t, at least occasionally, live.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 224)
  • When does loyalty become martyrdom?
    • Chapter 19 (p. 240)
  • It was possible at last to hear the silence—to appreciate that there was a silence, deep and potent, out there beyond the pretension of the light.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 272)
  • I want them not to forget. Which is, I suppose, what all aged veterans want. But they’ll forget. Of course they will. And their children will know less of us than they do, and their children’s children will find us barely imaginable.
    Which is as it should be. You can’t stop time.
    • Chapter 28 (pp. 314-315)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Times like this, with the wind moving the grass and curling around her like a huge cool hand, Tess felt the world as a second presence, as another person, as if the wind and the grass had voices of their own and she could hear them talking.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 23)
  • If you understood the facts they needed no embroidery: all the wonder was already there, the more spellbinding because it was true.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 69)
  • Nobody wants to conduct an autopsy on a dead saint.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 116)
  • Promises were like bad checks, easy to write and hard to cash.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 179)
  • “Wow,” Sue said. “You actually stole this?”
    “We don’t use that word,” Elaine told her. “Chris has an unnamed high-level source.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 238)
  • His heart was in the right place. He wanted a religion that could plausibly comfort widows and orphans without committing them to patriarchy, intolerance, fundamentalism, or weird dietary laws. He wanted a religion that wasn’t in a perpetual fistfight with modern cosmology.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 255)
  • We live in an enlightened age, however, an age that has learned to see and to value other living things as they are, not as we wish them to be. And the long and creditable history of science has taught us, if nothing else, to look carefully before we judge—to judge, if we must, based on what we see, not what we would prefer to believe.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 258)
  • Understanding is better than ignorance. Ignorance, unlike life, unlike narrative, is static. Understanding implies a forward motion, thus the possibility of change.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 263)
  • This would have been less annoying had it been untrue.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 347)
  • His fertility cycles meant little to him. In his lifetime, he knew, he might make only one or two real contributions to the City’s genetic continuity, his viral gametes combining with others in the bodies of the night feeders to become morphologically active. It was abstractly pleasing, though, to realize he had cast his own essence into the ocean of probability, where it might come floating back unknown to him, as a fresh citizen with new and unique ideas and odors.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 358)

Spin (2005)

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Everybody falls, and we all land somewhere.
    • p. 1 (opening words)
  • Along with a dozen other students I had dissected a human cadaver and sorted its contents by size, color, function, and weight. There was nothing pleasant about the experience. Its only consolation was its truth and its only virtue was its utility.
    • p. 59
  • The world is what it is and won’t be bargained with.
    • p. 62
  • He’s exactly what she wants. He’s the last thing she needs.
    • p. 72
  • “We might have destroyed ourselves, but at least it would have been our own fault.”
    “Would it, though? Whose fault exactly? Yours? Mine? No, it would have been the result of several billion human beings making relatively innocuous choices: to have kids, drive a car to work, keep their job, solve the short-term problems first. When you reach the point at which even the most trivial acts are punishable by the death of the species, then obviously, obviously, you’re at a critical juncture, a different kind of point of no return.”
    • p. 128
  • The suicidally disgruntled were legion, And their enemies included any and all Americans, Brits, Canadians, Danes, et cetera; or, conversely, all Moslems, dark-skinned people, non-English-speakers, immigrants; all Catholics, fundamentalists, atheists; all liberals, all conservatives...For such people the consummate act of moral clarity was a lynching or a suicide bombing, a fatwa or a pogrom. And they were ascendant now, rising like dark stars over a terminal landscape.
    • p. 191
  • It was the kind of experience, Molly said, that would grow calluses on an angel’s ass.
    • p. 204
  • I don’t believe money is evil, but it can be terribly corrosive.
    • p. 225
  • I loved Molly. Or at least I told myself I did. Or, if what I felt for her was not love, it was at least a plausible imitation, a convincing substitute.
    • p. 248
  • An honest book is almost as good as a friend.
    • p. 261
  • He rolled his eyes. “Those are things people say, Tyler. Talking about multilateralism and diplomacy is like saying ‘I love you’—it serves to facilitate the fucking.
    • p. 306
  • All the brands and flavors of Big Salvation. At the last minute we would devise a technological fix and save ourselves. Or: the Hypotheticals were benevolent beings who would turn the planet into a peaceable kingdom. Or: God would rescue us all, or at least the true believers among us. Or. Or. Or.
    Big Salvation. It was a honeyed lie. A paper lifeboat, even if we were killing ourselves trying to cling to it. It wasn’t the Spin that had mutilated my generation. It was the lure and price of Big Salvation.
    • p. 340
  • “When was it obvious she was ill?”
    “Weeks ago. Or maybe—looking back on it—well—months.”
    “Has she had any kind of medical attention?” Pause. “Simon?”
    “Why not?”
    “It didn’t seem necessary.”
    “It didn’t seem necessary?
    “Pastor Dan wouldn’t allow it.”
    I thought: And did you tell Pastor Dan to go fuck himself?
    • p. 363
  • His eyes were closed, shut tight on whatever battle his common sense was conducting with his faith.
    • p. 377
  • “It never fails to astonish me,” Carol said. “The tenacity of love.”
    • p. 403
  • Don’t be upset. The world is full of surprises. We’re all born strangers to ourselves and each other, and we’re seldom formally introduced.
    • p. 438
  • We’ll do what life always does—defy expectations.
    • p. 451

Axis (2007)

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • “You learning anything from this?” Tyrell asked.
    Turk stood up and brushed his hands. “Yeah. I'm learning that I know even less than I thought I did.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 36)
  • [There was] only one news channel, overseen by a bland and complexly multicultural board of advisors. It broadcast in fifteen languages and was, as a rule, interesting in none of them.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 40)
  • There’s no drug that’ll make a stupid man smart.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 81)
  • Fortune had done him few favors in the past, and he wasn’t sure he trusted it.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 92-93)
  • What we cannot remember, we must rediscover.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 100; repeated on p. 355 at the end of the book)
  • Average people seldom talked about anything interesting and often hurt each other savagely.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 107)
  • The village muezzin called the faithful to prayer. Diane ignored the sound.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 149)
  • We spent a lot of time discussing cosmology first. I think that was your father’s unique way of evaluating people. You can tell a lot about a person, he once said, by the way they look at the stars.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 235)
  • I believed there were no Hypotheticals in the sense of consciously acting agents—conscious entities. There was only the process. The needles of evolution, endlessly knitting.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 348)
All page numbers from the hardcover edition published by Tor Books
  • These movies belonged to the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—that period of great, unsustainable, and hedonistic prosperity, driven by the burning of Earth’s reserves of perishable oil, which culminated in the False Tribulation, and the wars, and the plagues, and the painful dwindling of inflated populations to more reasonable numbers.
    • p. 29
  • You must not make the mistake of thinking that because nothing lasts, nothing matters.
    • p. 35
  • Evolution can’t be predicted, Julian used to tell me; it’s a scattershot business; it fires, but it doesn’t aim.
    • p. 57
  • The Dutch at close proximity looked much like Americans, apart from their peculiar uniforms, and so it was their uniforms I fired at, half convinced that I was killing, not human beings, but enemy costumes, which had borne their contents here from a distant land; and if some living man suffered for his enslavement to the uniform, or was penetrated by the bullets aimed at it—well, that was unavoidable, and the fault couldn’t be placed at my feet.
    The private charade was not equivalent to Courage, but it enabled a Callousness that served a similar purpose.
    • p. 109
  • To fire a bullet into the heart or brains of one’s fellow man—even a fellow man striving to do the same to you—creates what might be called an unassimilable memory: a memory that floats on daily life the way an oil stain floats on rainwater. Stir the rain barrel, scatter the oil into countless drops, disperse it all you like, but it will not mix; and eventually the slick comes back, as loathsomely intact as it ever was.
    • pp. 110-111
  • Julian read the Bible as if it were a work of contemporary fiction, open to criticism or even revision. Once, when I queried him about the purpose of his unusual reinterpretations, he said to me, “I want a better Bible, Adam. I want a Bible in which the Fruit of Knowledge contains the Seeds of Wisdom, and makes life more pleasurable for mankind, not worse. I want a Bible in which Isaac leaps up from the sacrificial stone and chokes the life out of Abraham, to punish him for the abject and bloody sin of Obedience. I want a Bible in which Lazarus is dead and stubborn about it, rather than standing to attention at the beck and call of every passing Messiah.”
    • pp. 126-127
  • The rooms were confining, the windows minuscule, the ceilings perilously low. She could not have spent much money on the furnishings, which were shabby, threadbare, nicked, and splintered—I had seen better furniture abandoned at Montreal curbsides.
    But if her book-cases were humble, they were bowed under the weight of surprisingly many books—almost as many as there had been in the library of the Duncan and Crowley Estate back in Williams Ford. It seemed to me a treasure more estimable than any fine sofa or plush footstool, and worth all the rough economies surrounding it.
    • pp. 146-147
  • “Truth is a perilous commodity,” Julian admitted, “but so is ignorance, Adam—more so.”
    • p. 200
  • If I am an agnostic, Calyxa, it’s because I'm also a realist.
    • p. 216
  • I would confront the thieves, I thought, and the self-evident justice of my case would cause them to crumble before me. I don't know why I expected such extravagant results from the application of mere justice. That kind of calculation is seldom borne out by worldly events.
    • p. 217
  • I suppose the pursuit of fashion has always carried a price, monetary or otherwise.
    • p. 234
  • “Perpetual peace is a dream,” he said, “as much as we may yearn for it—but war! War is an integral part of God’s ordering of the universe, without which the world would be swamped in selfishness and materialism. War is the very vessel of honor, and who of us could endure a world without the divine folly of honor? That faith is especially true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause he little understands, during a campaign of which he has little notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use. On the field of battle, where a man lives or dies by the caprice of a bullet or the verdict of a bayonet, life is at its best and healthiest.”
    • p. 246 (spoken by the tyrannical president Deklan Comstock)
  • “Bloody indeed,” the President said. “But we’re not a nation that flinches at blood, nor are we a people constrained by feminine delicacy. To us all is permitted—even cruelty, yes, even ruthlessness—for we’re the first in the world to raise the sword not in the name of enslaving and oppressing anyone, but in the name of freeing them from bondage. We must not be miserly with blood! Let there be blood, if blood alone can drown the old secular world. Let there be pain, and let there be death, if pain and death will save us from the twin tyrannies of Atheism and Europe.”
    • pp. 247-248 (spoken by the tyrannical president Deklan Comstock)
  • Since Deacon Hollingshead’s arrival in town last July the Dominion had been hard at work, cleansing New York City of moral corruption.
    “Corruption” is a popular word with the enthusiasts of the Dominion, usually uttered as a prelude to the knife, the docket, or the noose.
    • p. 317
  • Later Julian would give me another book he had culled from among the Archival duplicates, a short novel called The Time Machine by Mr. H. G. Wells, about a marvelous but apparently imaginary cart which carried a man into the future—and it fascinated me—but the Archive itself was a Time Machine in everything but name. Here were voices preserved on browning paper like pressed flowers, whispering apostasies into the ear of a new century.
    • p. 332
  • “But you're a Philosopher!” Julian exclaimed at one point. “This is Philosophy, not Religion, since you rule out supernatural beings—you know that as well as I do!”
    “I suppose it is Philosophy, looked at from one angle,” Stepney conceded. “But there’s no money in Philosophy, Julian. Religion is far more lucrative as a career.”
    • p. 338
  • A man who submits himself wholeheartedly to God might handle them and not be harmed. That was the faith my father had professed. Certainly he trusted God, in his own case, and believed God manifested Himself in the rolled eyes of his congregants and in their babble of incomprehensible tongues. Trust and be saved, was his philosophy. And yet in the end it was the snakes that killed him. I wondered which element of the calculation had ultimately failed him—human faith or divine patience.
    • pp. 355-356
  • You never stop being a parent, Adam, no matter how old or wise your child becomes—you'll see.
    • p. 356
  • Do you want to tell the truth, or do you want to tell a story?
    • p. 361
  • Is there any evidence to the contrary? I don’t need certainty in order to act on a well-founded suspicion.
    • p. 368
  • “Sometimes he wears the crown,” Magnus Stepney once remarked, “and sometimes, by the grace of God, he takes the damned thing off.”
    • p. 377
  • Some pious men may find this truth unorthodox and bitter:
    But Nature, Chance, and Time ensure survival of the fitter!
    • p. 389
  • Deacon Hollingshead: “The history of the world is written in Scripture, and it ends in a Kingdom.”
    Julian Comstock: “The history of the world is written in sand, and it evolves as the wind blows.”
    • p. 404
  • The afternoon is too tempting to be denied. It isn’t Paradise here, or even close, but the mimosa is in bloom and the air from the sea is cool and pleasant. On days like this I think of poor old Magnus Stepney’s evolving Green God, harking us all up to Eden. The Green God’s voice is faint enough that few of us hear it clearly, and that’s our tragedy, I suppose, as a species—but I hear it very distinctly just now. It asks me to step into the sunshine, and I mean to do its bidding.
    • p. 413 (closing words)

Vortex (2011)

All page numbers from the hardcover edition published by Tor Books
  • Sandra had spent her days rendering pass/fail verdicts over troubled minds, applying tests most functional adults easily passed. Is the subject oriented to time and place? Does the subject understand the consequences of his actions? But if she could give the same test to humanity as a whole, Sandra thought, the outcome would be very much in doubt. Subject is confused and often self-destructive. Subject pursues short-term gratification at the expense of his own well-being.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 16)
  • Some things are taken away from you, some you leave behind—and some you carry with you, world without end.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 31)
  • She gave me a disdainful look. “Please don’t make facile judgments about things you don’t understand.”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 33)
  • To whom had he retailed his conscience, Sandra wondered, and what was the going price these days?
    • Chapter 9 (p. 118)
  • It was sad but completely understandable. Ten billion human beings without any cortical or limbic augmentation had simply acted to maximize their individual well-being. They hadn’t given much thought to long-term consequences, but how could they? They had no reliable mechanism by which they could think or act collectively. Blaming those people for the death of the ecosphere made as much sense as blaming water molecules for a tsunami.
    • Chapter 10 (pp. 126-127)
  • The problem was the Voxish prophecies. Our founders had written them into the Coryphaeus as unalterable axioms—embedded truths, permanently exempt from debate or revision. That hadn’t mattered when the rapture of the Hypotheticals was a distant goal toward which we moved in gradual increments. But now we had come to the blunt end of the question. Prophecy had collided with reality, and the obvious inference—that the prophecies might have been mistaken—was a possibility the Coryphaeus was forbidden to consider.
    • Chapter 22 (pp. 227-228)
  • What had been released into the desert vacuum and starry oases of the galaxy was the inexorable logic of reproduction and natural selection. What followed was parasitism, predation, symbiosis, interdependency—chaos, complexity, life.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 304)
  • From this new point of view, the universe I had inhabited became an object I could perceive in its entirety. It was a hypersphere embedded in a cloud of alternative states—the sum of all possible quantum trajectories from the big bang to the decay of matter. “Reality”—history as we had known or inferred it—was only the most likely of these possible trajectories. There were countless others, real in a different sense: a vast but finite set of paths not taken, a ghostly forest of quantum alternatives, the shores of an unknown sea.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 327)
  • What is inevitable is not death but change. Change is the only abiding reality. The metaverse evolves, fractally and forever. Saints become sinners, sinners become saints. Dust becomes men, men become gods, gods become dust.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 327)
All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Tor Books, ISBN 978-0-7653-3261-5
  • There was no mind in back of those words, Ethan reminded himself. Nothing but a series of highly-evolved algorithms aimed as achieving a strategic result. Engaging in dialogue with such a creature was no more useful than trying to fend off a scorpion by quoting Voltaire.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 28)
  • And the hypercolony would lie. More precisely, it would say whatever advanced its interests. The distinction between truth and falsehood was irrelevant to the hypercolony, perhaps even imperceptible to it. It generated human language solely for the purpose of manipulating human behavior.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 43)
  • Ris, it can’t tell the truth—it can’t distinguish between truth and lies. You know that. It uses words to manipulate people.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 59)
  • Cassie had seen pictures in textbooks, of ranks of men in brown uniforms with rifles slung over their shoulders: the Allied Expeditionary Force, off to join the battered Brits and French. And pictures of the muddy European trenches: Ypres, Passchendaele, the Marne, where countless young men had been slaughtered by other young men as bewildered and obedient as themselves.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 116)
  • Reproduction, Nerissa thought: Ethan had once called it the blade of evolution. There was no intelligence in evolution, only the cutting-board logic of selective reproduction. She envisioned the work of evolution as a kind of blind, inarticulate poetry. We are the was it Charles Darwin had said? From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved…There is grandeur in this view of life.
    Grandeur or horror. The idea that all the kaleidoscopic strangeness of biological systems could unfold without guidance or motivation was almost too unsettling to accept.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 121)
  • Life shites on hope.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 134)
  • “So we can trust each other.”
    “It’s the rest of the world we can’t be sure about.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 143)
  • “So are they some form of life, or are they machines?”
    “At the chemical level all living things can be construed as machines.”
    • Chapter 18 (pp. 190-191)
  • “What are you saying, you think he’s completely sane?”
    “No. But I’m not sure any of us rises to that standard.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 193)
  • All the pious high-school bullshit about the Century of Peace had been revealed for what it was: as artificial as a plastic nativity scene and as hollow as a split piñata. The world was peaceful the way a drunken coed passed out at a frat party was peaceful: it was the peace that facilitated the fucking.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 207)
  • The only reason you can’t see how crazy this is is because we’ve been neck-deep in crazy for years.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 222)
  • “Even if you could talk to it, you wouldn’t learn anything. All it would tell you is what it wanted you to hear. Or no, not even what it wants you to hear; it would generate words that in some kind of model of possible outcomes produce a result that enhances the likelihood of its reproductive success.”
    “I do that too,” Leo said. “From time to time.” Smiling.
    “Smartass,” Cassie said.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 227)
  • And the question she found herself asking now that Leo was asleep beside her was: had she fallen in love?
    Because that was how it felt. But only a few minutes ago her body had exploded into an orgasm so intense that it probably registered on the Richter scale, so maybe her judgment wasn’t entirely unbiased.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 230)
  • What is intelligence, exactly? Maybe that sounds like a simple question. We know—or think we know—what our own kind of intelligence is like. After all, we experience it on a daily basis.
    But there are other kinds of intelligence. There is the intelligence of the hive—the complex behavior that arises from individually unintelligent organisms following a few simple behavioral rules in response to cues from the environment. And there is a kind of intelligence that inheres in the ecosystem as a whole. Evolution, over time, has created entities as diverse as crinoids and mushrooms and harbor seals and howler monkeys, all without a predetermined goal and without devoting even a moment of thought to the subject. You might even conclude that this kind of thoughtless intelligence is more powerful and patient than our own.
    • Part 3, introduction (p. 235)
  • His sympathy (that is, for a caterpillar parasitized by a wasp) was an anthropomorphism, a projection. The caterpillar was hardly more than a protein engine enacting a suite of encoded behaviors. A meat robot. As am I, except that in the case of Ethan’s species evolution had conjured a knowing self out of chemistry and contingency. I feel, therefore I abhor.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 245)
  • Violence is the great attractor of human history, Dr. Iverson. A force almost as irresistible as gravity.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 278)

Last Year (2016)

All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Tor Books, ISBN 978-0-7653-3263-9
  • “Baumgartner’s coke habit isn’t the secret she thinks it is, and it gives us leverage.”
    “Coke, yeah, you know: cocaine. When she powders her nose, she literally powders her nose.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 108)
  • Not all idealism is fake.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 192)
  • “It’s complicated, Jesse. There’s the official story. There’s the real story. And there’s the conspiracy theory.”
    “Tell me the real story.”
    “I would, but I don’t know what it is.”
    “Well, then what’s the official story? And who declared it official?”
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 204-205)
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