FLASHFORWARD by Robert J. Sawyer [Review]


Imagine being able to grab a quick glimpse of what is happening to you at a point 21 years in the future. What would you do if you are not happy with what you see? If you liked what you saw, would you be afraid you could screw things up in the intervening years? What if you saw nothing? Would you take the future as fixed or able to change if based on events in the intervening time?

Flashforward provides us with an interesting science fiction view on the age old questions of free will, destiny and fate. It opens with a physics experiment that causes the whole of humanity to blackout and has their consciousness flung 21 years in the future for a period of about 2 minutes. When people wake up they have to cope both with the tragic aftermath of a worldwide blackout, but also what they learned from their view of the future. The book is split into three main parts; the first focusing on the experiment and the flashforward, the second with efforts to identify the cause of the flashforward and how the characters come to terms with their future actions, and the third describing the events of 21 years in the future. Throughout the story there are some interesting and, at points exhaustive, discussions on whether the flashforward represent an absolute future or just one of many possible futures.

I became interested in reading Flashforward after viewing the premiere of the ABC Television show based in part on Sawyer’s book. The book and the television show have the same general premise, though the plots and characters are different, so reading the book should not ruin the TV show for you and vice-versa. Sawyer’s narrative keeps you hooked for the most part; there are times where the characters seem to be especially dense to the situation facing them. The scientific theories are sprinkled through the book and are given thorough explanations, though there are times where the explanations get so detailed that you feel you should be getting college credit. The highlight is the book’s beginning, though the third part also has some highpoints.

The rating of three stars reflects the appeal of the concept and the scientific realism to the events of the book, along with an opening section that sucks you into the book. I recommend Flashforward for hard-core science fiction lovers, the exploration of the different theoretical models and descriptions of the physics involved in the experiment were very interesting. If you are more of a novice sci-fi reader it would still be an interesting read, though you may find yourself skipping some of the longer scientific explanations. If you are not into science fiction I recommend you stick to the TV show or another book, there’s not enough non-science storytelling going on to keep you going when you get to the science parts. Age wise this is an adult book, mainly due to the complicated subject matter, though a young adult sci-fi fan may enjoy it. I listened to the unabridged audiobook version, purchased from audible.com, and well narrated by Mark Deakins.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars | Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition | Pages: 320 | Buy on Amazon

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