Blind Lake is the second Robert Charles Wilson novel I’ve read this year that was eerily similar to Under The Dome. Like Mysterium, it’s shorter, strains less credulity, and was published years before King’s “sometimes aliens are just jerks” story. But where Mysterium focused on the everyday townspeople level-headed enough to survive being transported to a parallel Earth, Blind Lake’s protagonists are the only scientists devoted enough to keep a unique quantum-powered telescope running when their facility is quarantined without explanation by the military.
Dealing with ideas he’d later explore to greater effect in Spin, and revisiting the trapped in a small town extraterrestrial mystery structure of Mysterium, Blind Lake is a disappointingly safe novel. The plot is equivalent to a television sci-fi mini-series and it’s just as drawn out. The human threat– exemplified by the female lead’s small-minded, abusive ex-husband– is exploitative and rote. As a villainous bureaucrat who hates science, he’s less repulsive than the selectman in Under The Dome who runs on a platform of rape and miniature American flags, but he’s still a cartoon. And their autistic daughter, haunted by visions of a doppelganger only she can see, doesn’t make the book feel any less like a preemptive Stephen King parody.
There’s an intriguing hint of a more sophisticated story, as Wilson plays with the idea of how the act of observing changes the observed. The Blind Lake facility is dedicated to tracking the behavior of one alien subject light years away. As the quarantine drags on and the scientists continue their watch, its movements become more erratic. But that thread is none too subtly mirrored in the experiences of the distressed daughter, and the concept is explained away too neatly at the climax. Like the rest of the ideas in the Blind Lake, it’s something Wilson explored more eloquently elsewhere, in this case, when he published Axis four years later.