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Flashforward

A book by Robert J. Sawyer

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A challenging thought experiment!

  • Feb 11, 2011
  • by
Rating:
+3
Like Schrödinger's Cat, Flashforward is a confounding, challenging, magnificent thought experiment that is, at once, breathtakingly simply and yet staggering in its possible scope and ramifications.

Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides (a pair of brilliant Canadian particle physicists ... hip, hip hooray!) are hot on the trail of the elusive Higgs Boson and the Nobel Prize that would almost certainly follow in the wake of success. To say that their experimental set up at CERN, Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider, producing over eleven hundred and fifty trillion electron volts - energy levels that haven't been seen since less than one billionth of a second after the Big Bang - went off the rails is an understatement of epic proportions. In fact, the experiment resulted in a complete shut down of humanity's collective consciousness and every single person in the world, awake or asleep, experienced a full two minute blackout. But what they also saw was, apparently, a crystal clear vision of a two minute segment of their own future twenty years ahead.

As people blackout for two minutes, the immediate mayhem and destruction is almost beyond imagining - car crashes, botched surgeries, people falling down stairs and off ladders, burns as people collapse into their hot stoves, planes falling out of the sky, fires as people drop the lit matches that happened to be in their hands. But, as the dust of the immediate disaster settles, the magnitude of what happened sinks in and people begin to coordinate their two minute peeks into a consolidated vision of the world's future twenty years hence. Sawyer's fertile imagination simply runs riot as he presents us a with a humorous, lucid and very personal peek into his version of how the world might look twenty years from now. I howled with laughter; I nodded in agreement and I cringed in disagreement and dismay at some of the snippets he hypothesized.

Take a gander at just a few examples:


"In 2017, at the age of ninety-one, Elizabeth II, Queen of England, died. Charles, her son, at that time sixty-nine, was mad as a loon, and, with some prodding from his advisors, chose not to ascend to the throne. William, Charles' eldest son, next in line, shocked the world by renouncing the throne, leading Parliament to declare the Monarchy dissolved."

"In 2019, South Africa completed, at long last, its post-Apartheid crimes-against-humanity trials, with over five thousand people convicted. President Desmond Tutu, eighty-eight, pardoned them all, an act, he said, not just of Christian forgiveness but of closure."

"Ozone depletion was substantial; people wore hats and sunglasses, even on cloudy days."

"Despite bans on their hunting, sperm whales were extinct by 2030."

"George Lucas still hadn't finished his nine-part Star Wars epic."

"The 2029 World Series will be won by the Honolulu Volcanoes."

"The President of the United States was African-American and male; there had apparently yet to be a female American president in the interim. But the Catholic Church did indeed now ordain women."


As people ponder the ramifications of what they've seen and experienced, the world becomes a global forum for a heated debate on the issues of determinism, free will and destiny. Social pressure quickly builds for a repeat of the experiment under world-wide controlled conditions and Sawyer treats us to a realistic, shocking example of cultures clashing in the forum of the United Nations.

Sadly, it's been my experience with Sawyer's novels, and this one doesn't break the pattern, that he has difficulty resolving a plot line and providing a satisfactory ending that is up to the incredibly high standard set by the rest of the novel. In a problem that is reminiscent of Hybrids, the ending to Flashforward, while it might be perceived as thought provoking to some people, is just a little bit too over the top Hollywood and, in my opinion, reduces a potentially great novel to a good one.

Keep `em coming, Robert. I'm a fan and I'm still looking forward to the next one!

Paul Weiss

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February 11, 2011
I've asked Lunch to combine this topic. Great review. Here's mine, with a Robert Sawyer video! http://lunch.com/t/61r9
 
February 11, 2011
Great review! I wrote one too but it must appear on a duo topic someplace in the cyberverse! I really enjoyed the main character hemming and hawing about getting married since he may not be married in the future. I was wondering if you've seen the TV show. I haven't.
February 11, 2011
I'm not much of a TV watcher. Always meant to try to watch the show but somehow never got around to it.
February 11, 2011
That's cool. I mostly rent videos than watch regular TV. I think the show which was based on the book had people go forward six months rather than 20 years, lasting two seasons I think. I would not mind checking one of these TV sites like Hulu.com.
 
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More Flashforward reviews
Quick Tip by . December 14, 2009
Just started this book, so far a good fast paced story.
review by . March 05, 2009
This is about the sixth Sawyer book I have read and like the other five, it delivers! Sawyer has a way of making highly likable characters and weaving in high tech science in terms that any layman can understand.    Lloyd and Theo are scientists performing at an experiment CERN to prove a long held scientific theory. Unknown to the scientist, the earth is being bombarded by a neutrino blast, remnants of a star that went nova, at the same time they are doing their experiment. …
review by . July 26, 2007
In 2009 a team of particle physicists pursuing the Higgs Boson, a theoretical subatomic particle, flip the switch at Geneva's huge new particle accelerator. Suddenly Lloyd Simcoe, project leader, finds himself naked in bed with a stranger, an old woman whose body feels like "fruit gone bad".     Horrified, he discovers he too is old, as if 20 years has disappeared. But before he can consummate some repulsive sexual act he is jolted back to his seat at the collider controls. Only …
review by . September 30, 2004
This is about the sixth Sawyer book I have read and like the other five, it delivers! Sawyer has a way of making highly likable characters and weaving in high tech science in terms that any layman can understand.    Lloyd and Theo are scientists performing at an experiment CERN to prove a long held scientific theory. Unknown to the scientist, the earth is being bombarded by a neutrino blast, remnants of a star that went nova, at the same time they are doing their experiment. …
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Wiki

What would you do if you got a glimpse of your own personal future and it looked bleak? Try to change things, or accept that the future is unchangeable and make the best of it? InFlashforward, Nobel-hungry physicists conducting an unimaginably high-energy experiment accidentally induce a global consciousness shift. In an instant, everyone on Earth is "flashed forward" 21 years, experiencing several minutes of the future. But while everyone is, literally, out of their minds, their bodies drop unconscious; when the world reawakens, car wrecks, botched surgeries, falls, and other mishaps add up to massive death and destruction.

Slowly, as recovery efforts continue, people realize that during the Flashforward (as it comes to be called) they experienced a vision of the future. The range of visions is astounding--those who would be asleep in the future saw psychedelic dream landscapes, while others saw nothing at all (presumably they'd be dead). But those who saw everyday life 20 years hence have to come to grips with evidence of dreams forsaken (or realized). Soon, the physicists who caused the Flashforward are struggling to help the world decide whether the future is changeable--and whether the experiment is worth repeating. Robert J. Sawyer has captured a truly compelling idea with Flashforward, and he fully explores what such an event might mean to humanity. Fans will find this to be his best work to date, although the ending seems rushed after a detailed ...

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Tags

Books, Book, Science Fiction, Particle Physics

Details

ISBN-10: 0312867123
ISBN-13: 978-0312867126
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
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