Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Hardback, 1999, 320 pages.

Like many others, I picked up this book because I enjoyed the television show. Well, let me warn you right off the bat: this is nothing like the television show. In fact, I like the television show more (and I'm still very sad that they cancelled it!). But don't let that turn you away from the book. It was a fascinating concept and a quick read (but okay, I skimmed most of the heavy science parts).

In April 2009, a physics experiment causes a worldwide temporal displacement: a "flashforward" during which the entire human race's consciousness shifts forward in time 21 years. The book deals mainly with the physicists Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides and their responses to their visions (Simcoe finds he's married to someone other than his fiancee, and Theo finds out he's been murdered a few days before the day everyone saw), but Sawyer also jumps around and looks at the global effects of such an event as well as minor characters here and there.

I read through this book in 4-5 sittings. During the first two, I covered nearly 2/3 of the book. Then it slowed down, and I started to get bored with all the science explanations and the blatant "telling" instead of "showing." It asks some amazing philosophical questions. Everyone wonders about what their future is like, and if they had a chance to see it, how they would react. There's a lot of debates about free will and time and how it all fits together.

I found the characters a little flat. I was interested in their stories, but not past the point of, "Hmm, I wonder what's going to happen." Like 4 on a scale from 1 to 10. But it is what kept me reading, I wanted to know about Theo's killer and how Lloyd's marriage worked out. I also thought some of Sawyer's predictions about the future were a little contrived/far-fetched. Of course we have to have flying cars, but I don't think the institution of marriage will ever be reduced to merely living together for a certain amount of time. And in all three books I've read of Sawyer's, he has to say something about how his Canadian/European characters can enjoy socialized healthcare while Americans can't. Yes, we know. No need to rub it in.

All in all, I'd recommend this book, but not before others.

A thing I could learn from this book:

Cut out what the reader won't care about. So much of the science stuff I just skimmed. Like, what's the point? Is this a novel or a science textbook? A lot of it was really interesting, but most of it was like, "Hmm, okay, don't care." A lot of the character description was unnecessary, too. If it doesn't move the story along, get rid of it.

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