FLASHFORWARD - Robert J. Sawyer

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Book Synopsis

Even with no one at the helm, the world continues to turn.  Time for chaos to take over, and so it reigns triumphant.  For two paralysing minutes, humanity checks out of the present and shoots frighteningly into its own future.

Physicist Lloyd Simcoe and his associates who work at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland, have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  Using the Large Hadron (particle) Collider, the collaborative of top scientists were attempting to recreate energy levels Earth had not experienced since the "Big Bang".  As the countdown comes to zero for maximum acceleration, so does the world's human population as every single man, woman and child loses consciousness.  During this time out, most see visions of their own future, fleeting glimpses of who they will be 21 years ahead of the now.  For some, the visions are blessed and for others, they are terrible prophecies. Worst, some see nothing at all of their future lives as death by then will already have taken them from the ranks of the living.

With no one to bear witness, even security cameras have blanked out during this time.  It becomes necessary to accept such things during this read as the "observer" effect of quantum theory, in that if there is no one to see what is occurring, events will occur in a manner as what may best be assumed as a logical consequence of the original action.

Book Review

The ABC tv series has prompted the re-release of the paperback but has little resemblance to the events of 2009 that Sawyer created.

The best science fiction novels will always have you firmly believing in the writer's vision of our future world.  It is a given that there will be some hellishly dire warning as to where humanity will head if it trips merrily along its current path of debauchery and selfishness.  Science fiction offers up all the cool stuff like great technology and at best, grounds this reality from whatever stage of advancement the world is at as the novel is written (which would be 1999 for FLASHFORWARD).

It is interesting to compare how we are now, to how Sawyer thought we might be a decade into the future.  A layman's knowledge of quarks, the shelf life of a Supernova and the behaviours of neutrinos etc and suchlike might have been of valuable assistance to understanding what it is that causes the Flashforward, and it may be this aspect of the read that will appeal to the little space geek hidden inside of you anyway.  (CERN's real life website will be helpful here ).

As the novel is multi perspective (necessary for a novel where catastrophes occur on a global scale) we are privy to the immediate after reactions of the scientists who work together at CERN, and how their lives spiral outwards from that couple of minutes when the whole conscious world goes bye-bye.

It's an incredible premise that is not fully explored and the complexities of space and technology swamp the human interactions in this novel.  This does not necessarily detract from the read, however it strips away opportunities for possible morality explorations and "survivor" personal angst on a grand scale.  FLASHFORWARD will make its readers question themselves - it is quite impossible not to project yourself right into this story.    Is it best not to know your own future, so as to not consciously steer your life towards what may or not be a fixed path - one that was always going to be determined by your own actions?

FLASHFORWARD has enormous potential throughout the book but with such upward momentum, anything less than an apocalyptic conclusion might only serve as a let down.  It is easy to see why this novel is so awarded and highly regarded in science fiction circles.  Having every person on earth facing the same dilemma is an ambitious premise for a novel.  The ideas are put out there with a lot of theorizing  left to the reader - and perhaps that was always the intention.

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