Characters to care about
Review by Jim Argendeli
September 3, 1999
(CNN) -- If you had the ability to go back in time and change an aspect of your personal fate, would you? Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer takes that premise and flips it over in the thoroughly entertaining new novel "Flash Forward."
In Sawyer's book, which starts off in the year 2009, a team of scientists are working on an experiment trying to isolate an atomic particle at CERN -- the European laboratory for particle physics located outside Geneva. As an unexpected result of the experiment, for almost two minutes, the consciousness of every human flashes forward 20 years into their future bodies. In this two minute flash forward, everyone passed out -- causing deaths on a global scale. People who were operating heavy machinery, working high-rise construction, or undergoing surgery all suffered the consequences.
While the world goes about trying to recover from this catastrophe, others are trying to understand how the visions will impact their future lives.
The experiment was conducted by Sawyer's two main character scientists: While pragmatic, conservative Dr. Lloyd Simcoe believes that the visions are set in stone, his partner flashy, Dr. Theo Procopides, did not have a vision. By communicating with other visionaries using the world wide web, Theo finds out that he will be murdered in two decades and tries to find out who will murder him and, more importantly, can he alter the future. In order to gain clues into his murder, Theo seeks out the future homicide investigator who is only seven years old at the time of the visions.
Like all good science fiction novels, Sawyer gives us characters to care about by painting their humanity in ways the reader can relate too. Would you seek out a future lover or get married even though the future showed you with another spouse?
The novel is also quite funny with Sawyer giving us news reports of the results of the visions. In the future, George Lucas still has not finished his Star Wars saga and Bill Gates has lost his future as Microsoft stock takes a nose dive in 2027, filling for bankruptcy in 2029.
"Flash Forward" is a quick, fun read at about 300 pages. And, while Sawyer does occasionally get a little heavy with his physics, the characters and story keep you turning the pages to see how this future turns out.
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