Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

FlashforwardAs the cover states, this is the book that inspired the 2009 tv series. Inspiration it is, but there’s not a lot in common between the book and the show. There’s the basic idea that the whole world loses consciousness for a short period of time and had a vision of the future. Other than that, most of the details are different – the characters, the time frame of the flashforward, even the cause of the flashforward. So don’t read this expecting to get some kind of extension of character development or depth in story from the tv series.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part introduces the main characters and deals with the immediate aftermath of the flashforward. The second part is mostly a murder mystery as one of the characters (Theo) tries to work out who is going to kill him in the future. The third part is set in the time of the flashforward visions.

The two main characters are Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides, the two scientists running an experiment at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) working with the Large Hadron Collider. They believe that as their experiment started at the exact same time as the flashforward, they were somehow responsible for it happening. However, as there was no way of knowing what would be the consequences. There are some wonderful philosophical debates that happen in this book, mainly by the scientists at CERN but also in the vignette news articles that start each chapter. They discuss why they all saw the same future, why it changes for some (those who suicide after seeing their future) and whether it can be changed or not. Some of the other discussions include, why did no one say what happens in the time in between, whether it can be influenced by fate or free will and does it even matter in the long run.

While a few bits of the science and philosophical discussions were a little difficult for me to understand, it was mostly explained so well that those few bits didn’t matter. I did find the characters to be a little lacking. Theo, in particular, was exceptionally self-centred, and while that can be somewhat explained by the fact that the flashforward saw his murder, he had little for me to like. And then there was a particular aspect to the finale that I really didn’t like. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I felt this common sci fi trope was out of place, it didn’t really gel with the rest of the science.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The lack of detailed character development was not that distracting because the plot and pacing kept the story interesting. It was well written, well paced and I loved the little news articles at the start of the chapters. I recommend giving it a read.

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