Dear Thursday: FLASHFORWARD by Robert Sawyer [Book 16 of 2010] May27

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Dear Thursday: FLASHFORWARD by Robert Sawyer [Book 16 of 2010]

On Wednesday morning I noticed that this week was basically morphing into TV week here at Fierce and Nerdy, so I decided to keep that going by making FLASHFORWARD, the novel on which the recently-canceled ABC series was based, the first novel that I read on my iPad (in iBooks).

Why I Decided To Read It: Funnily enough I didn’t even know the television series had a novel progenitor, so when I found out, I downloaded it immediately, wondering if it was any better than the lackluster show.

What It’s About: One day in 2009, every single person in the world blacks out and has a “flash forward” vision of 21 years into the future. The novel deals with the social, ethical, and scientific fallout from the blackout, following varied characters at CERN, the organization responsible for the Large Hadron Collider. It’s an ensemble piece, which switches POV among a cast of mostly CERN scientists. But Lloyd Simcoe, the scientist who co-created the experiment that is running in the LHC at the moment of the blackout, is our guide character and the one we hear from most. We also follow his partner, Theo Procopides, who discovers that he’ll be murdered two days before the FLASHFORWARD, and now must find out how and why.

What Makes It Different: This novel might sound fantastical, but it thoroughly grounds itself in science. Also people stop and talk, I mean really talk, about scientific theory. I’ve never read anything quite like it. Also, it should be noted that Sawyer, an avid futurist, wrote this novel in 1999. So it’s interesting to see how he envisioned both the near future of 2009 and the far future of 2030. He pretty much nailed 2009, except for black Americans insisting on being called melanic-Americans. As for 2030, we’ll see.

What I Loved: I loved the science. I loved the dilemmas that the main plot sets up. I loved the ideas and the real human emotion that fueled the plot. I loved that the novel spoke quietly about HUGE themes. I really wish that ABC had borrowed more heavily from it, as opposed to taking out all the real science, the Large Hadron Collider, the European location, and setting it completely in America at the FBI. ABC basically rendered a forward-thinking novel into yet another procedural. Seriously, America TV, as far as sci-fi goes, we’ve GOT to do better.

What I Didn’t Like: I wished every old woman hadn’t been described as either a crone or looking younger than her years. Also, the melanic-American beat felt patronizing to this black American.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Get it done. Sawyer’s writing style is very spare and almost wooden at times. It really doesn’t matter. It reminded me as I struggle with the rewrite of my rogue sci=fi novel that clear ideas or much more important than stellar execution.

Talk it out. I can’t stress enough how delightful I found listening to scientists talk about scientific theory. This device not only fleshed out some tricky plot questions, but it also taught the reader everything she would need to know to understand the rest of the novel. Will definitely take note for my own writing.

Stay positive. Since Sawyer’s website was hyperlinked in his About The Author, I went to his blog. His spin on FLASHFORWARD, the TV series getting cancelled was brilliant. He noted only the many positives from the experience and didn’t seem bummed at all. What a great attitude.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: People Who Claim To “Hate” Sci-fi (this is your way in), 2001 Fans, Arthur C. Clarke Fans (this guy could seriously be his son), People Who Felt Let Down By The Series, and Futurists.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!