Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer

Suddenly everyone in the world loses consciousness for two minutes. Planes fall from the sky, there are millions of car crashes, millions die. And when everyone comes round they have had a glimpse of their life in the future.

When it awakes the world must live with the knowledge of what is to come.

Some saw themselves in new relationships, some saw exciting new technologies, some saw the stuff of nightmares. Some, young and old alike, saw nothing at all . . .

A desperate search to find out what has happened begins. Does the mosaic of visions offer a clue?

What did you see?

flashforwardAs it says on the cover, Flashforward is the basis of the new TV series that hit screens last year. While I’ve not watched it, when this popped through the door I couldn’t help but want to read it. The premise is interesting – a worldwide event that causes Earth’s population to black out for two minutes which in turn gives them a glimpse of their future. My first thought was: cool! But then my mind turned to how this could make a good story. Would it just be a bunch of ideas? A novel full of smaller stories? Or what if it could give a story that you want to read about, something that needs a conclusion? To be honest, Flashforward is all of these combined and much more than I got a lot more than I thought out of it.

I guess the best place to start is with the visions that the human race have of the future, or rather two minutes in 2040. This all happens just as the large hadron collider is turned on for the first time (and is naturally the main suspect for those working there that know this), and because of the mass blackout millions of people die. Some people see great things for themselves, others not so much. But the focus of the story settles on the team working at the LHC and their visions. While Lloyd and Michiko are in a relationship, they both see different things, and Theo is among those that don’t have a vision at all – those that are presumed dead at the time.

Seeing the fallout from the visions of these three gives a very good basis for the novel to play out nicely. Theo discovers that he was murdered a couple of days before the time the visions show, and this means he wants to do some digging and to find out what exactly happened to his future self. It’s at this point that the story falls squarely on its main plot – a whodunnit mystery. This isn’t all the book is about, but it gives the story that could have been a little all over the place a solid thread to follow. Lloyd and Michiko discover that they are not married in the future they see and this leads to some deep discussions about how fixed the future is.

It’s these discussions that really take the story up a notch. Robert J Sawyer has managed to give an interesting premise, been able to follow that up with a decent story and then also give some very good speculation and science to back it all up. I loved reading the sections where Lloyd, Michiko and others discussed the future, how fixed it could be, how it could change and also the general discussions on the science of the Flashforward. To be honest I wasn’t expecting such a deep look at all of these aspects, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find them here.

I will highly recommend this one to any fan of science fiction that enjoys the speculative side of it, the way an author can raise many questions in such a short space of time, and to anyone that simply enjoys a very good story. Great stuff!

4 thoughts on “Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer”

  1. Nice review, thanks. I read it before the show started (then recorded the show weekly and never got around to watching it). I enjoyed the book quite a lot. I like when science and philosophy can be woven into a truly entertaining story. I like my learinng and thinking to be fun! Glad you enjoyed it as well.

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