Monday, September 21, 2009

Flashforward


Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
Mass market paperback, 319 pages
Tor, copyright 1999
ISBN-13: 9780812580341
science fiction
highly recommended

From the cover:
A scientific experiment begins, and, as the button is pressed, the unexpected occurs: Everyone in the world goes to sleep for a few moments while everyone's consciousness is catapulted more than twenty years into the future. At the end of those moments, when the world reawakens, all human life is transformed by foreknowledge.
My thoughts:

An event that causes everyone on Earth to simultaneously pass out, during which time almost all of them receive a glimpse - in under two minutes - of something that appears to be occurring 21 years in their future is the fascinating premise for Flashforward. Actually the whole concept of an event of this magnitude makes Flashforward compelling reading because you want to know what happens and how the characters deal with what they've seen in their future - and what those glimpses (or not) may imply. Can they change the outcome or is the future predetermined? Even the question of free will comes into question. Start thinking about all of what this could entail and you'll see why the idea is so compelling. Now, Sawyer has a whole lot of theoretical physics talk that might make some readers eyes glaze over. For those of you who aren't great hard science fiction fans, you can skim over the theoretical discussions, but they are pretty interesting.

Sawyer excel's at the ideas in Flashforward, debating the whole concept, but the actual writing, character development, and plot seem uneven. The best part of the book is the philosophical discussions of what a glimpse into the future means and I'm not convinced that a TV show can capture that and hold it's audience. Oh, yes, you've probably heard that a TV series of the same name will be premiering this Thursday night, although in the TV series the glimpses people experience are only six months into the future. I wanted to read the book before I watched the series - if I watch it. (Apparently Flashforward will be competing with Survivor and, well, Survivor wins on Thursday nights. Hopefully I can watch the repeat episode scheduled for Friday night.) My recommendation is based entirely on the concept: Highly Recommended

Quotes:
A slice through spacetime… opening

Lloyd Simcoe, a Canadian-born researcher, sat at the injector console. He was forty-five, tall, and clean-shaven. His eyes were blue and his crewcut hair so dark brown that one could get away with calling it black—except at the temples, where about half of it had turned gray.
Particle physicists weren’t known for their sartorial splendor, and Lloyd had until recently been no exception. But he’d agreed a few months ago to donate his entire wardrobe to the Geneva chapter of the Salvation Army, and let his fiancĂ©e pick out all-new things for him. Truth be told, the clothes were a little flashy for his taste, but he had to admit that he’d never looked so sharp.pg. 12

Lloyd was director of the collaborative group of almost a thousand physicists using the ALICE (“A Large Ion Collider Experiment”) detector. He and Theo had spent two years designing today’s particle collision—two years, to do work that could have taken two lifetimes. They were attempting to recreate create energy levels that hadn’t existed since a nanosecond after the Big Bang..... In the process, they hoped to detect the holy grail of high-energy physics, the long-sought-after Higgs boson, the particle whose interactions endowed other particles with mass. If their experiment worked, the Higgs, and the Nobel that would likely be awarded to its discoverers, should be theirs. pg. 13-14

And then, suddenly, everything was different. pg. 14

—and, suddenly, incredibly, thankfully, amazingly, Lloyd Simcoe was back at CERN, back in the LHC control room. For some reason, he was slumped in his vinyl-padded chair. He straightened himself up and used his hands to pull his shirt back into position.
What an incredible hallucination it had been! .... Lloyd took a moment to reorient himself. There had been no transition between here and there: no flash of light, no sense of wooziness, no popping of his ears. One instant , he’d been at CERN, then, in the next, he’d been somewhere else, for—what?—two minutes, perhaps. And now, just as seamlessly, he was back in the control room.
Of course he’d never left. Of course it had been an illusion. pg. 18

“They use the fire trucks for first aid as well as fires,” said Sven.
Michiko realized the magnitude of what Sven was suggesting. “We should check all the rooms here; make sure everyone is all right.”
Lloyd nodded and moved back to the corridor. “Antonia, you check everyone in the control room. Michiko, you take Jake and Sven and go down that way. Theo and I will look up this way.” He felt a brief pang of guilt at dismissing Michiko, but he needed a moment to sort out what he’d seen, what he’d experienced. pg. 21

As he said that, Michiko re-emerged. Her skin was even paler than normal, and her voice was quavering as she spoke. “There won’t be any ambulances,” she said. “Not anytime soon, anyway. The emergency operator told me they’re all tied up in Geneva. Apparently every driver on the roads blacked out; they can’t even begin to tally up how many people are dead.” pg. 25

Theo felt woozy, shell-shocked. Although he hadn't had a vision, it seemed everyone else had. pg 37

It had to be the LHC experiment: it couldn't be a coincidence that the highest-energy particle collision in the history of the planet happened at precisely the same moment as the onset of the phenomenon. pg. 41

1 comment:

Flash said...

Hi!

If you're interested in more about FlashForward, you can watch the first 17 minutes here: http://bit.ly/4peJMZ

Also, join the Facebook page for the latest about the show, actors, plot, etc. You can join here: http://bit.ly/4vneT4

Hope you like it!