the Little Red Reviewer

The Infinity Box, by Kate Wilhelm

Posted on: January 9, 2015

infinty box wilhelmThe Infinity Box, by Kate Wilhelm

originally published in Orbit Vol 9, 1971

where I got it: purchased used as a Tor Double










Can you believe I’ve never read a Kate Wilhelm? Famous for The Hugo award winning and Nebula nominated Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, she’s been awarded multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003. Along with her husband Damon Knight, Wilhelm was instrumental in the creation and running of the Milford Writers Workship, which would grow into the Clarion workshop.


Nominated for a Nebula award in 1972, The Infinity Box  first appeared Orbit 9 and then again in 1975 as the titular story in a collection of Wilhelm stories. I came across the novella in a Tor Double alongside Zelazny’s He Who Shapes.  I’d like to track down the Infinity Box collection, or at least issues of Orbit that contain her work while I continue to hunt for a copy of Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang.


The story is told from the point of view of Eddie Laslow, happily married, father of two, owner of an electronics lab and a few patents.  When the shy and petite Christine moves in across the street, Eddie immediately feels like they’ve met before, even though she doesn’t look familiar.  He’s a little creeped out by her, but can’t avoid her company when Christine and Eddie’s wife Janet become fast friends.


After an evening of drinks, Christine begins to talk about her childhood and failed marriage. In and out of institutions as a child, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, among other things. Falling in with a psychology professor, he discovered she was able to see objects and scenes in every moment, not just this moment. Almost like a long term time lapse photograph, when she looks at a tree, she sees it as it is right now, and as it was every moment since it sprouted from a seed. They end up getting married, but he died of a heart attack after abandoning his researches.  She is going through his papers, hoping to find his final documentations that involve her condition(s).

Thinking he is having a drunken nightmare, Eddie finds himself one evening seeing through Christine’s eyes. He can see her house, her furniture, even control her body a little bit.  Terrified by the intrusion, she passes out, and he falls into a falling dream. Confiding in Janet about the details of her mental illnesses and how problematic her marriage was, Christine admits her fear that she is going crazy again.


What I thought was going to be a mind control scifi story quickly turned into an incredibly disturbing psychothriller.  Eddie becomes both sickened and fascinated by his connection to Christine and what he’s able to do to her.  He can’t stop going in her mind and controlling her body, yet he feels guilty afterwards, and after an incredibly disturbing scene, he convinces himself that she’s the one who is easily manipulatable, so it must be her fault. As Eddie becomes dangerously obsessed and paranoid, Christine realizes it’s not her dead husband haunting her, but someone or something else. Where are the limits of her powers?  Is she just biding her time? How did her husband really die? Fans of psychological horror will get a kick out The Infinity Box, and as it clocks in at just 76 pages, you can zip through this lightning paced thriller in an afternoon.


In a way, The Infinity Box felt like a magical realism story told from the point of view of the villain. Christine sounds like the kind of character who would be the protagonist in a Charles deLint novel – a woman with unexplained and extraordinary powers who is still learning how to use and control them, and who has been taken advantage of by those who thought they could control her.
The novella ends abruptly but appropriatly, and I found myself wanting to know what Christine’s honest opinion of the ending, and if she knew ahead of time what was going to happen to Eddie.


5 Responses to "The Infinity Box, by Kate Wilhelm"

Now I’m curious to see if I have a copy of Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang. I might. I know that sounds crazy, but you haven’t seen my book shelves:-D


Where Late The Sweet Birds sang is just wonderful, but this sounds great, thanks for the review.


I was floored by this when I read it sometime in the 1980s. As you say in your review it isn’t what it starts out seeming like it will be, and gets darker, and darker. This one stayed with me for quite a while, and your review brought it back.


Wow, I haven’t read anything by this author before and now I want to grab this title and everything else from the back list. The whole vintage month has been amazing. I hope you end up extending it as you are helping me find all sorts of gems haha!


I’ve only read one Wilhelm short, a story that was included in Orbit 7. It started out great, but fell apart near the end, largely because the ending felt so rushed. This one sounds promising. One of the days I would love to get more of those Orbit hardbacks, they have some great Paul Lehr covers.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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