Robert J. Sawyer’s award-winning science fiction has garnered both popular and critical acclaim. The New York Times called Frameshift “filled to bursting with ideas, characters, and incidents.” His novels are fixtures on the Hugo and Nebula ballots. Now, his award-winning novel Flash Forward is becoming a network TV series, expected to air in the fall of 2009.
In pursuit of an elusive nuclear particle, an experiment goes incredibly awry, and, for a few moments, the consciousness of the entire human race is thrown ahead by about twenty years. As the implications truly hit home, the pressure to repeat the experiment builds. Everyone wants a glimpse of their future, a chance to flash forward and see their successes…or learn how to avoid their failures.
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By Sawyer, Robert J.
Tor Science FictionCopyright © 2000 Sawyer, Robert J.
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Day One: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
A slice through spacetime...
The control building for CERN's Large Hadron Collider
was new: it had been authorized in A.D. 2004 and completed in 2006. The building enclosed a central courtyard, inevitably named "the nucleus." Every office had a window either facing in toward the nucleus or out toward the rest of CERN's sprawling campus. The quadrangle surrounding the nucleus was two stories tall, but the main elevators had four stops: the two above-ground levels; the basement, which housed boiler rooms and storage; and the minus-one-hundred-meter level, which exited onto a staging area for the monorail used to travel along the twenty-seven-kilometer circumference of the collider tunnel. The tunnel itself ran under farmers' fields, the outskirts of the Geneva, airport, and the foothills of the Jura mountains.
The south wall of the control building's main corridor was divided into nineteen long sections, each of which had been decorated with a mosaic made by an artist from one of CERN's member countries. The one from Greece depicted Democritus and the origin of atomic theory; the one from Germany portrayed the life of Einstein; the one from Denmark, that of Niels Bohr. Not all of the mosaics had physics as their themes, though: the French one depicted the skyline of Paris, and the Italian one showed a vineyard withthousands of polished amethysts representing individual grapes.
The actual control room for the Large Hadron Collider was a perfect square, with wide, sliding doors positioned precisely in the centers of two of its sides. The room was two stories tall, and the upper half was walled with glass, so that tour groups could look down on the proceedings; CERN offered three-hour public tours Mondays and Saturdays at 09h00 and 14h00. Hanging flat against the walls below the windows were the nineteen member-state flags, five per wall; the twentieth spot was taken up by the blue-and-gold flag of the European Union.
The control room contained dozens of consoles. One was devoted to operating the particle injectors; it controlled the beginnings of experiments. Adjacent to it was another with an angled face and ten inlaid monitors that would display the results reported by the ALICE and CMS detectors, the huge underground systems that would record and attempt to identify the particles produced by LHC experiments. Monitors on a third console showed portions of the gently curving underground collider tunnel, with the I-beam monorail track hanging from the ceiling.
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 fiancée 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. Today, he was wearing a beige dress shirt; a coral-colored jacket; brown pants with exterior pouches instead of interior pockets; and--in a nod to fashion tradition--black Italian leather shoes. Lloyd had also adopted a couple of universal status symbols that also happened to be bits of local color: a Mont Blanc fountain pen, which he kept clipped to his jacket's inside pocket, and a gold Swiss analog watch.
Seated on his right, in front of the detector console, was the master of the makeover herself, his fiancée, engineer Michiko Komura. Ten years Lloyd's junior at thirty-five, Michiko had a small, upturned nose and lustrous black hair that she had styled in the currently popular page-boy cut.
Standing behind her was Theo Procopides, Lloyd's research partner. At twenty-seven, Theo was eighteen years younger than Lloyd; more than one wag had compared the conservative middle-aged Lloyd and his fiery Greek colleague to the team of Crick and Watson. Theo had curly, thick, dark hair, gray eyes, and a prominent, jutting jaw. He almost always wore red denim jeans--Lloyd didn't like them, but no one under thirty wore blue jeans anymore--and one of an endless string of T-shirts depicting cartoon characters from all over the world; today he had on the venerable Tweety Bird. A dozen other scientists and engineers were positioned at the remaining consoles.
Moving up the cube...
Except for the gentle hum of air conditioning and the soft whir of equipment fans, the control room was absolutely silent. Everyone was nervous and tense, after a long day of preparing for this experiment. Lloyd looked around the room then took a deep breath. His pulse was racing, and he could feel butterflies gyrating in his stomach.
The clock on the wall was analog; the one on his console, digital. They were both rapidly approaching 17h00--what Lloyd, even after two years in Europe, still thought of as 5:00 P.M.
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, when the universe's temperature was 10,000,000,000,000,000 degrees. 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.
The whole experiment was automated and precisely timed. There was no great knife switch to pull down, no trigger hidden under a spring-loaded cover to push. Yes, Lloyd had designed and Theo had coded the core modules of the program for this experiment, but everything was now under the control of a computer.
When the digital clock reached 16:59:55 Lloyd started counting down out loud with it. "Five."
He looked at Michiko.
She smiled back encouragingly. God, how he loved her--
He shifted his gaze to young Theo, the wunderkind--the kind of youthful star Lloyd had hoped to have been himself but never was.
Theo, ever cocky, gave him a thumbs-up sign.
Please God...thought Lloyd. Please.
* * *
And then, suddenly, everything was different.
There was an immediate change in the lighting--the dim illumination of the control room was replaced with sunlight coming through a window. But there was no adjustment, no discomfort-and no sense the Lloyd's pupils were contracting. It was as if he were already used to the brighter light.
And yet Lloyd couldn't control his eyes. He wanted to look around, to see what was going on, but his eyes moved as if under their own volition.
He was in bed--naked, apparently. He could feel the cotton sheets sliding now over his skin as he propped himself up on one elbow. As his head moved, he caught a brief glimpse of dormer windows, looking out apparently from the second floor of a country house. There were trees visible, and--
No, that couldn't be. These leaves had turned, frozen fire. But today was April 21--spring, not autumn.
Lloyd's view continued to shift and suddenly, with what should have been a start, he realized he wasn't alone in bed. There was someone else with him.
No--no, that wasn't right. He didn't physically react at all; it was as if his body were divorced from his mind. But he felt like recoiling.
The other person was a woman, but--
What the hell was going on?
She was old, wrinkled, her skin translucent, her hair a white gossamer. The collagen that had once filled her cheeks had settled as wattles at the sides of her mouth, a mouth now smiling, the laugh lines all but lost amongst the permanent creases.
Lloyd tried to roll away from the hag, but his body refused to cooperate.
What in God's name was happening?
It was spring, not autumn.
Unless, of course, he was now in the southern hemisphere. Transported, somehow, from Switzerland to Australia...
But no. The trees he'd glimpsed through the window were maples and poplars; it had to be North America or Europe.
His hand reached out. The woman was wearing a navy-blue shirt. It wasn't a pajama top, though; it had buttoneddown epaulets and several pockets--adventure clothing made of cotton duck, the kind L. L. Bean or Tilley sells, the kind a practical woman might wear to do her gardening. Lloyd felt his fingers brushing the fabric now, feeling its softness, its pliancy. And then--
And then his fingers found the button, hard, plastic, warmed by her body, translucent like her skin. Without hesitation, the fingers grasped the button, pushed it out, slipped it sideways through the raised stitching around the button-hole. Before the top fell open, Lloyd's gaze, still acting on its own initiative, lifted again to the old woman's face, locking onto her pale blue eyes, the irises haloed by broken rings of white.
He felt his own cheeks drawing tight as he smiled. His hand slipped inside the woman's top, found her breast. Again he wanted to recoil, snapping his hand back. The breast was soft and shriveled, the skin hanging loosely on it--fruit gone bad. The fingers drew together, following the contours of the breast. finding the nipple.
Lloyd felt a pressure down below. For a horrible moment, he thought he was getting and erection, but that wasn't it. Instead, suddenly, there was a sense of fullness in his bladder; he had to urinate. He withdrew his hand and saw the old woman's eyebrows go up inquisitively. Lloyd could feel his shoulders rise and fall, a little shrug. She smiled at him--a warm smile, an understanding smile, as if this were the most natural thing in the world, as if he often had to excuse himself at the outset. Her teeth were slightly yellow--the simple yellow of age--but otherwise in excellent shape.
At last his body did what he'd been willing all along: it rolled away from the woman. Lloyd felt a pain in his knee as he did so, a sharp jab. It hurt, but he outwardly ignored it. He swung his legs off the bed, feet slapping softly against the cool hardwood floor. As he rose, he saw more of the world outside the window. It was either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, the shadow cast by one tree falling sharply across the next. A bird had been resting in one of the boughs; it was startled by the sudden movement in the bedroom and took wing. A robin--the large North American thrush, not the small Old World robin; this was definitely the United States or Canada. In fact, it looked a lot like New England--Lloyd loved the fall colors in New England.
Lloyd found himself moving slowly, almost shuffling across the floorboards. He realized now that this room wasn't in a house, but rather a cottage; the furnishings were the usual vacation-home hodgepodge. That night table--low-slung, made of particle board with a wallpaper-thin veneer of fake woodgrain on top: he recognized it, at least. A piece of furniture he'd bought as a student, and had eventually put in the guest room at the house in Illinois. But what was it doing here, in this unfamiliar place?
He continued along. His right knee bothered him with each step; he wondered what was wrong with it. A mirror was hanging on the wall; its frame was knotty pine, covered over with clear varnish. It clashed with the darker "wood" of the night table, of course, but--
Of their own accord, his eyes looked into the mirror as he passed, and he saw himself--
For a half-second he thought it was his father.
But it was him. What hair was left on his head was entirely gray; that on his chest was white. His skin was loose and lined, his gait stooped.
Could it be radiation? Could the experiment have exposed him? Could--
No. No, that wasn't it. He knew it in his bones--in his arthritic bones. That wasn't it.
He was old.
It was as if he'd aged twenty years or more, as if--
Two decades of life gone, excised from his memory.
He wanted to scream, to shout, to protest the unfairness, protest the loss, demand an accounting from the universe--
But he could do none of that; he had no control. His body continued
its slow, painful shuffle to the bathroom.
As he turned to enter the room, he glanced back at the old woman on the bed, lying now on her side, her head propped up by an arm, her smile mischievous, seductive. His vision was still sharp--he could see the flash of gold on the third finger of her left hand. It was bad enough that he was sleeping with an old woman, but a married old woman--
The plain wooden door was ajar, but he reached a hand up to push it open the rest of the way, and out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of a matching wedding ring on his own left hand.
And then it hit him. This hag, this stranger, this woman he'd never seen before, this woman who looked nothing like his beloved Michiko, was his wife.
Lloyd wanted to look back at her, to try to imagine her as she would have been decades younger, to reconstruct the beauty she might have once had, but--
But he continued on into the bathroom, half turning to face the toilet, leaning over to lift the lid, and--
* * *
--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! There would be hell to pay, of course: they were supposed to be fully shielded here, a hundred meters of earth between them and the collider ring. But he'd heard how high-energy discharges could cause hallucinations; surely that had been what had happened.
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.
He glanced around, trying to read the faces of the others. Michiko looked shocked. Had she been watching Lloyd while he was hallucinating? What had he done? Flailed around like an epileptic? Reached out in to the air, as if stroking an unseen breast? Or just slumped back in his chair, falling unconscious? If so, he couldn't have been out for long--nowhere near the two minutes he'd perceived--or surely Michiko and others would be looming over him right now, checking his pulse and loosening his collar. He glanced at the analog wall clock: it was indeed two minutes after five p.m.
He then looked over at Theo Procopides. The young Greek's expression was more subdued than Michiko's, but he was being just as wary as Lloyd, looking in turn at each of the other people in the room, shifting his gaze as soon as one of them looked back at him.
Lloyd opened his mouth to speak although he wasn't sure what he wanted to say. But he closed it when he heard a moaning sound coming through the nearest open door. Michiko evidently heard it too; they both rose simultaneously. She was closer to the door, though, and by the time Lloyd reached it, she was already out in the corridor. "My God!" she was saying. "Are you okay?"
One of the technicians--Sven, it was--was struggling to get to his feet. He was holding his right hand to his nose, which was bleeding profusely. Lloyd hurried back into the control room, unclipped the first-aid kit from its wall mount, and ran to the corridor. The kit was in a white plastic box; Lloyd popped it open and began unrolling a length of gauze.
Sven began to speak in Norwegian, but stopped himself after a moment and started over in French. "I--I must have fainted."
The corridor was covered with hard tiles; Lloyd could see a carnation smear of blood where Sven's face had hit the floor. He handed the gauze to Sven, who nodded his thanks then wadded it up and pressed it against his nose. "Craziest thing." he said. "Like I fell asleep on my feet." He made a little laughing sound. "I had a dream, even."
Lloyd felt his eyebrows climbing. "A dream?" he said, also in French.
"Vivid as anything," said Sven. "I was in Geneva--over by Le Rozzel." Lloyd knew it well: a Breton-style crêperie on Grand Rue. "But it was like some science-fiction thing. There were cars hovering by without touching the ground, and--"
"Yes, yes!" It was a woman's voice, but not in response to Sven. It was coming from back inside the control room. "The same thing happened to me!"
Lloyd re-entered the dimly lit room. "What happened, Antonia?"
A heavyset Italian woman had been talking to two of the other people present, but now turned to face Lloyd. "It was like I was suddenly somewhere else. Parry said the same thing happened to him."
Michiko and Sven were now standing in the doorway, right behind Lloyd. "Me, too," said Michiko, sounding relieved that she wasn't alone in this.
Theo, standing next to Antonia now, was frowning. Lloyd looked at him. "Theo? What about you?"
Theo shook his head.
"We all must have passed out," said Lloyd.
"I sure did," said Sven. He pulled the gauze away from his face, then touched it against his nose again to see if the bleeding had stopped. It hadn't.
"How long were we out?" asked Michiko.
"And--Christ!--what about the experiment?" asked Lloyd. He sprinted over to the ALICE monitoring station and tapped a couple of keys.
"Nothing," he said. "Damn."
Michiko blew out air in disappointment.
"It should have worked," said Lloyd, slapping an open palm against the console. "We should have got the Higgs."
"Well, something happened," said Michiko. "Theo, didn't you see anything while the rest of us were having--having visions?"
Theo shook his head. "Not a thing. I guess--I guess I did black out. Except there was no blackness. I was watching Lloyd as he counted down: five, four, three, two, one, zero. Then it was like a jump cut, you know, in film. Suddenly Lloyd was slumped over in his seat."
"You saw me slump over?"
"No, no. It's like I said: one instant you were sitting up, and the next you were slumped over, with no movement in between. I guess--I guess I did black out. No sooner had it registered on me that you were slumped over than you were sitting back up, and--"
Suddenly, a warbling siren split the air--an emergency vehicle of some sort. Lloyd hurried out of the control room, everyone following. The room on the opposite side of the corridor had a window in it. Michiko, who had got there first, was already hoisting the venetian blind; late-afternoon sun streamed in. The vehicle was a CERN fire truck, one of three kept on site. It was racing across the campus, heading toward the main administration building.
Sven's nose had apparently at last stopped bleeding; he was now holding the bloody mass of gauze at his side. "I wonder if somebody else had fall?" he said.
Lloyd looked at him.
"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.
The first room Lloyd and Theo entered contained a downed woman; Lloyd couldn't remember her name, but she worked in public relations. The flatscreen computer monitor in front of her showed the familiar Window 2009 three-dimensional desktop. She was still unconscious; it was clear from the massive bruise on her forehead that she'd pitched forward, hitting her head on the metal rim of her desk, knocking herself out. Lloyd did what he'd seen done in countless movies: he took her left hand in his right, holding it so that the back of her hand was face up, and he patted it gently with his other hand while urging her to wake up.
Which, at last, she did. "Dr. Simcoe?" she said, looking at Lloyd. "What happened?"
"I don't know."
"I had this--this dream," she said. "I was in an art gallery somewhere, looking at a painting."
"Are you okay now?"
"I--I don't know. My head hurts."
"You might have a concussion. You should get to the infirmary."
"What are all those sirens?"
"Fire trucks." A pause. "Look, I've got to go now. Other people might be hurt, as well."
She nodded. "I'll be all right."
Theo had already continued on down the corridor. Lloyd left the room and headed down, as well. He passed Theo, who was tending to someone else who had fallen. The corridor made a right-hand turn; Lloyd headed along the new section. He came to an office door, which slid open silently as he approached it, but the people on the other side all seemed to be fine, although they were talking animatedly about the different visions they'd had. There were three individuals present: two women and a man. One of the women caught sight of Lloyd.
"Lloyd, what happened?" she asked in French.
"I don't know yet," he replied, also in French. "Is everyone okay?"
"I couldn't help overhearing," said Lloyd. "The three of you had visions, too?"
Nods all around.
"They were vividly realistic?"
The woman who hadn't yet spoken to Lloyd pointed at the man. "Not Raoul's. He had some sort of psychedelic experience." She said it as if this was only be expected given Raoul's lifestyle.
"I wouldn't exactly say 'psychedelic,'" said Raoul, sounding as though he needed to defend himself. His blond hair was long and clean, and tied together in a glorious ponytail. "But it sure wasn't realistic. There was this guy with three heads, see--"
Lloyd nodded, filing this bit of information away."If you guys are all fine, then join us--some people took nasty falls when whatever it was happened. We need to search for anyone who might be hurt."
"Why not go on the intercom, and get everyone who can to assemble in the lobby?" said Raoul. "Then we can do a head count and see who's missing."
Lloyd realized this made perfect sense. "You continue to look; some people might need immediate attention. I'll go up to be front office." He headed out of the room, and the others rose and entered the corridor as well. Lloyd took the shortest path to the office, sprinting past the various mosaics. When he arrived, some of the administrative staff were tending to one of their own who'd apparently broken his arm when he fell. Another person had been scalded when she pitched forward onto her own steaming cup of coffee.
"Dr. Simcoe, what happened?" asked a man.
Lloyd was getting sick of the question. "I don't know. Can you operate the PA?"
The man looked at him; evidently Lloyd was using a North Americanism the fellow didn't know.
"The PA," said Lloyd. "The public-address system."
The man's blank look continued.
"Oh, sure," he said, his English harshened by a German accent. "Over here." He led Lloyd to a console and flipped some buttons. Lloyd picked up the thin plastic wand that had the solid-state microphone at its tip.
"This is Lloyd Simcoe." He could hear his own voice coming back at him from the speaker out in the corridor, but filters in the system eliminated any feedback. "Clearly, something has happened. Several people are injured. If you yourself are ambulatory--" He stopped himself; English was a second language for most of the workers here. "If you yourself can walk, and if people you're with can walk as well, or at least can be left, please come at once to the main lobby. Someone could have fallen in a hidden place; we need to find out if anyone is missing." He handed the microphone back to the man. "Can you repeat the gist of that in German and French?"
"Jawohl," said the man, already switching mental gears. He began to speak into the mike. Lloyd moved away from the PA controls. He then ushered the able-bodied people out of the office into the lobby, which was decorated with a long brass plaque rescued from one of the older buildings that had been demolished to make room for the LHC control center. The plaque spelled out CERN's original acronym: Conseil Européenne pour la Recherche Nucleéaire. These days, a acronym didn't actually stand for anything, but its historical roots were honored here.
The facts in the lobby were mostly white, with a few--Lloyd stopped himself before he mentally referred to them as melanic-Americans, the term currently preferred by blacks in the United States. Although Peter Carter, there, was from Stanford, most of the other blacks were actually directly from Africa. There were also several Asians, including, of course, Michiko, who had come to the lobby in response to the PA announcement. Lloyd moved over to her and gave her a hug. Thank God she, at least, hadn't been hurt. "Anybody seriously injured?" he asked.
"A few bruises and another bloody nose," said Michiko, "but nothing major. You?"
Lloyd scanned for the woman who had banged her head. She hadn't shown up yet. "One possible concussion, a broken arm, and a bad burn." He paused. "We should really call for some amubulances--get the injured to a hospital."
"I'll take care of that," said Michiko. She disappeared into the office.
The assembled group was getting larger; it now numbered about two hundred people. "Everyone!" shouted Lloyd. "Your attention, please! Votre attention, s'il vous plaît!" He waited until all eyes were on him. "Look around and see if you can account for your coworkers or office mates or lab staff. If anyone you've seen today is missing, let me know. And if anyone here in the lobby requires immediate medical attention, let me know that, too. We've called for some ambulances."
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."
Copyright 1999 by Robert J. Sawyer
Excerpted from Flashforward by Sawyer, Robert J. Copyright © 2000 by Sawyer, Robert J.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the very near future of 2009, two physicists working on a complicated experiment accidentally thrust the collective consciousness of the entire world ahead twenty-one years. Although the "flash forward," as it's later named, lasts only minutes, the aftermath is catastrophic. Not only are millions of people killed in accidents caused by their sudden and brief departure from the present (i.e. plane and car crashes, falls down stairs, etc.), but those who survived find themselves emotionally rocked by their respective (and sometimes shared) glimpses of the future. The two scientists are left to piece together what happened, while also trying to figure out whether or not the future they all saw was fixed or just one of many possible outcomes. This sci-fi/thriller/murder mystery plays out like an extended episode of The Outer Limits. Imagine if a super-conductor being operated at the CERN laboratory in Geneva actually causes the entire human race to experience two minuttes of their consciousness being transported 21 years into the future. A neat idea that, in lesser hands, would have been given pulp treatment. Sawyer deftly shows not only the brilliance of these visions but also the tragic results of all human activity coming to a halt for 2 minutes (countless tradgedies and disasters worldwide). Also, not all governments and individuals are thrilled about the glimpse into the future and what it reveals to them. Throw into the mix the fact that one of the CERN Physicists has no vision because he must not exist 21 years in the future - a fact proven by the hundreds of individuals who have visions that include the revalation that he was murdered a few days prior to the "flash forward". Fantastic read.
I picked up this book because I like the TV show so much that I wanted to learn more. There are major differences between the two, mainly that the flashforward in the book is 20 years in the future, while the flashforward in the TV show is only 6 months. I think 6 months makes the story more compelling, and has a more immediate effect on the characters and the choices they start making. While the book centered on scientists and explained the scientific cause of the flashforward, I prefer the FBI agents on the show not knowing the cause. I have to admit that all of the scientific explanations bogged the story down and I skimmed over those pages. Gave this a 3 out of 5 rating as it's a great premise and I enjoyed it, but it was a little on the dry side and I could have done without all of the science. Not a must read, but just okay.
That's I felt like I was reading at certain parts of this book. But putting that aside, it did make for a very interesting novel. I was a little annoyed when this (French Canadian) writer took pot shots at Americans; making us look like the root of all evil or a bunch of bafoons, but still, I managed to get over that also. Like any other "time travel" book, this novel seemed to say that what happened during the "flash forward" was all do to the knowledge everyone had that resulted from the flashforward which people remembered in the future when it actually took place 21 years earlier .....confused yet? You won't be once you read this book. A fine piece of writing setting aside all the quirks I mentioned previously in this review. The ending was kind of disappointing but still an enjoyable book for any Sci-fi fan.
The interpretations of the applications of quantum physics in the story line is the greatest draw. A basic background in quantum oddities may help. Even without that, the premise of seeing a piece of one's future makes for a thought provoking read.
This is a book written for physicists, which isn't a bad thing, but there's almost nothing to the story itself that keeps you engaged. The cause of the flashforward isn't very compelling, and the aftermath of the LHC characters is tired and weak. The only part I really enjoyed were the "glimpses" of the future for a book written in 1999, taking place in 2009, and trying to predict a future in 2031.
In 2009 some of the world's leading research physicists gather at the CERN research facility to conduct an experiment using the Hardon Collider to "capture" the Higgs Boson subatomic particle. The lead scientists Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides anticipate success and a subsequent Nobel Prize. However something occurs around the globe at the moment the atom smashing experiment begins. Every human on earth who survives sees a two minute visionary clip of themselves in 2030. However, millions died when the collective sub-consciousness led to all types of accidents and disasters during the 120 seconds. Simcoe is stunned more so with what he saw rather than the deadly fiasco the experiment caused. He is engaged to marry one woman, but saw his wife of the future was another female. Theo had no vision so he assumes he will be dead before 2030; he believes he will be a murder victim. They try to replicate their experiment, but fail until they realize timing is everything as they go for a third try when a neutrino shower occurs as both want more information about the future regardless of cost. This is an engaging cautionary science fiction thriller that uses the Frankenstein concept of scientists having no ethical boundaries experimenting, even encouraged by the second and third times they replicated the experiment. The story line is fast-paced and exciting, but chooses the thriller aspects over the emotional elements beyond a personal need to know. The two scientists know their experiment killed more people in two minutes than some of the monsters of history did during brutal reigns yet they don't seem to care on a personal level. Still this is an exhilarating thriller as the world sees a flash forward moment and each reacts accordingly to what they prefer to see. Harriet Klausner
If you love a good time travel story, this book should be at the top of your list. If murder-mystery is more you thing, this book has that too. Robert Sawyer, so as not to leave any one out, has written a great hard science story too. The way Sawyer approaches time travel in this story is certainly unique and really makes you think about life. What would you do with a glimpse at your future? What would you do if your dreams were not realized? Give up? Sawyer also explores the idea of time being fixed, what is going to happen is immutable, and the idea that time is changeable, that we have an infinite number of futures dependent on the choices we make now for tomorrows outcomes. He masterfully explores both of this theories without ever clearly forcing either upon you, even by the end of the story you are still left to choose which theory you agree with most. This story is well researched and based in current science theory. I highly recommend this book.
Another great book that left me pondering my own life. What would I do if I had a 2 minute glimpse into my own future? It's fun to see Sawyer's view of what the entire world did with that 2 minute glimpse.They made the TV show out of this, which is why I read it, and the book was far better (and I loved the TV show)Well done Robert J. Sawyer!
A quick SF read about the consequences of a mass suspension of consciousness throughout the world, during which every person viewed their future (or lack of it), 21 years in the future. It's a bit uneven, sometimes propelled along by action, then slowing considerably as various theories of physics are explained. But it held together and had a satisfying resolution.
In 2009 Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides were physicists at CERN, the particle collider institute in Switzerland, and they were hoping to create conditions to finally see the Higgs boson. Instead, when they started their instrument everyone in the world blacked out for two minutes. Most people had a vision of themselves in the future. But the tragedy was that all those people who were driving or doing other things that required attention were no longer in control and many people died. Lloyd's fiancee's daughter was hit by an out of control car and died. Theo did not have a vision which meant that he was not alive at that point in the future even though he is quite a bit younger than Lloyd. Lloyd has his own dilemma in that his vision showed him in bed with a woman who is not his fiancee. It wasn't clear whether the experiment caused the world-wide black out but Lloyd is convinced it did. While he tries to work out what went wrong (because they didn't see any Higgs boson) Theo tries to find out his cause of death. He soon learns that he was murdered a few days before the date of the vision and he is determined to find out who killed him.These story lines and others are gripping and I had trouble turning off my PDA in order to sleep or work. What would happen if people had a glimpse of their future? Is the future immutable? Will Lloyd and his fiancee marry and stay together despite his vision? Will Theo be murdered?Yet another winner from Sawyer.
I enjoyed this but felt that the setup and development was let down by the ending. Not bad, but had more promise that pay-off.
I am surprised something this substandard could win a Hugo. Whilst an interesting premise - that a physics experiment at CERN accidentally gives everyone a 2 minute vision of their own future 20 years ahead, the writing lets it down.Shallow characterisation makes it difficult to empathise, and plot turns all seem to be remarkably convenient. The fact that millions died in the event seems to spark very little world anger against CERN when they accept responsibility.The author bemoans at one point the wider worlds lack of understanding of - and enthusiasm for - science, yet seems to think and write exactly like a young scientist who has no concept of normal human interaction. And thus writes an unfortunately dull book.
I reserved this book at my library, only after I found out that the TV serie with the same name was based on this book. Now After reading the book I can safely say it was loosely based on it. The story was very fun to read, I am not a huge fan of science fiction, but the story was not incredibly fictionnal. It shown a possible future, a possible experiment, a possible ending. Truly interesting, not to heavy, especially when the author was explaining all the physic required. I would recommand it to everyone.
The best part of the book was the unique way of how the author presented the scifi ish aspect. Could it be possible?...
The good points:1) the "science" in the story is well conceived (and is similar in concept to that in Hominids) and is believable within the context of the story2) there are fewer stereotypes than in Hominids and the politicking sometimes fits in with the storyThe bad point that sums up this novel: it's stupidThe premise could have led to a very interesting story - humankind could have tried to deal with what they knew about the future, or tried to replicate the flash forward, or investigate why or how it happened, etc. But what happens instead? It turns into a soap opera about a handful of characters who, regardless of their age or gender, behave how one would expect 30-35 year old males to act. The science fiction stops and the male version of a chick flick starts.If you knew you were going to be murdered in 21 years time would you spend all your time and energy obsessing to figure out who did it NOW, considering that some of the significant players are still children? Would you fly across the world NOW to meet a woman you know you'll have sex with in 21 years time? Do you think there's even a slight chance that the powers that be would NOT re-use a "time machine"? If you say yes to any of these, then you might like this story.Otherwise... save your money...
A Sci-Fi thriller took place at CERN in Geneva and various part of the country.
Set in 2009, Sawyer takes as his premise that in the midst of ordinary life one day everyone on the planet loses consciousness for a few minutes and wakes up knowing his or her future in the year 2030. For some it is a good thing, but not for all. As scientists puzzle over what caused the flashforward (as the phenomenon came to be known), others are trying their best to deal with their futures that haven't yet occurred. Sawyer offers his readers the opportunity to enter the debate over destiny vs. free will, having his characters enter into philosophical discourse as well as lectures on certain concepts of quantum physics, the nature of God, and reality. There are really only two negatives about my experience with this book. First, the characters are a bit cardboardish and ultimately forgettable. I liked them as scientists but when they were in their own personal lives they were a bit flat. Second, the ending of the book (which I won't give away) didn't seem to fit for some reason. Overall, the story itself was a good one, although at times it became a bit dense while trying to slog through the science. I think that people who enjoy more technical (hard) science fiction will really like this one. If you're not up on the discussion of Schrodinger's Cat, you may want to spend some time reading about it before you start this book. I spent a long time trying to figure it out, since I was not blessed with a brain that does science. Others who may be interested in the philosophy behind the story (free will vs. an immutable destiny) will also enjoy it. I can definitely recommend it.
Similar to the writing style of Kim Stanley Robinson. Reads somewhat like a novelized TV movie. Far more about interpersonal relations than science, free will vs. destiny. Even goes so far as to mention directly the (actual) works of a physicist who has written works linking quantum theory and Christianity. Final section wraps everything up with excessive neatness. There was some fun in reading it a week or two AFTER when the bulk of the action is set (April, 2009), especially with the LHC offline instead of causing problems as depicted in the story.
The ending reduced this book by one star. The entire books seems to be a set up for the author to discuss his "philosophy". Also too numerous to count the number of time "doubtless" was used - a good editor would have helped.
A good book that could have been great. What if we were all granted a peek at our lives 20 years from now? How would we react, and how would it impact society, technology, and individual lives? It's a great question, and while some of the answers are interesting, the book has a couple of problems. The characters don't really grab you, but rather seem flat, characterized really only by their futures (one good, one bad, one basically indifferent). Sawyer also takes some serious leaps (at one point it is "surprisingly easy" to get the world to agree to another flash forward. Yes, that would be surprising. It felt a little lazy to let it go that easily) and often people don't behave like it seems they should. In spite of that, the begininng and even middle of the book are great. The ending was unsatisfying, but overall the book is worth reading.
In April 2009, two scientists spearheading an experiment in particle physics at CERN switch on the Large Hadron Collider. Entirely unexpectedly, something happens: the consciousness of every person on Earth slips forward approximately twenty years into the future. Two minutes later, they return to themselves - but the world has been irrevocably changed by foreknowledge. Isn't that a great idea for a novel? I thought so. It's shame the execution is so terrible. Detailing all that is wrong with it will take time, but I'll make that sacrifice. First of all, the prose is, well, it has a utilitarian cast at best. At worst, it can descend into he said and then she said and then they went out but they opened the door first. He's particularly fond of emphasising how much research he's done. Two-page digressions on quantum physics are not uncommon. And then, there are the characters - all of which are puppet-like, wheeled on and off stage as the author likes without a spark of life to them; particularly awful are his women, who exist to cry after men or get naked for men. There's one incident where a male character Has! A! Realisation! that for a woman, going out on a dark street at night with a man she's only just met is a bad idea. For some reason, Sawyer tells us this as though it's a great and profound insight. (And I'm sure someone will want to tell me that women aren't really the target audience for the novel, blah blah blah shut up. A novel about the future that doesn't have anything to say about women is, shall we say, fundamentally lacking.)In the end, though, I give this three stars. Because the idea, which could have been done so well, is a really great idea, and perhaps some day someone will steal it and extract the great, literary novel out of it that Sawyer could have.
I like the way Sawyer incorporates some the unintended consequences of our technology in his stories.
A good book. The beginning was a very quick read. I like the mosaic aspect of the book and would have been very happy to see the book continue on in that direction. I thought the end was a little bit of a cheat, but still interesting enough. I am interested to see how the TV show carries this book off. From what I have seen, it appears as if it is just the premise only.
Interesting book. Completely different than the TV show, which is disappointing, because I thought the book was dynamic and a good read and could have added much to the series, but with the series they went more for mysterious suspense.
If you know what your future was in 22 years , could you change it? Could you use it? That's the basic theme of this book. The book starts out fast an furious and goes down hill from there. The characters are predictable and the plot forced to a point where I couldn't suspend my disbelief and go along with the story.The highlight of the book is when half the world starts to complains about a "flashforward" gapI'm always on the lookout for new (to me ) sci fi writers. so on the plus side I'm going to try some of Sawyer's other books. He has won a Hugo and Nebula awards along with John W Campbell Memorial Award.