Rollback — Robert J Sawyer

Upon reading Sawyer’s biography at the end of this book earlier tonight I realized one of the things that’s bothered me about his books from the beginning. I don’t think I actually like Sawyer. Which seems like a strange thing to say about someone I’ve never met—but part of Sawyer’s style is very talky, and very much a conversation he’s having with you versus his characters having with each other. And I keep getting the feeling that if I were to meet him, I would find him incredibly irritating. What does this say about me? I’m trying not to think about it.

Anyhow, we’ve got two ideas going back and forth in this book. First, that in our present time the SETI program finally received a message from another planet, it was decoded, and strangely enough turned out to largely be an ethical questionnaire. Second, that in the mid-21st century we’ll have developed an expensive procedure that allows complete rejuvenation for those with the deepest pocket books, a SETI philanthropist pays for the original person who decoded the message to have this treatment (along with her husband), but for unknown reasons her’s doesn’t take.

Thus, the book’s underlying themes are largely related to ethics, and a lot of the chapters set in the present (the book alternated between our present and the mid-21st) were the kind of dreadfully mind-numbing dialogues that I’ve come to expect in Sawyer’s books. Not to mention how he beats you over the head with his Canadian setting in a way that I’ve never seen a British author do with UK settings.

So, there are some interesting ideas here, and I both enjoy and am irritated by Sawyer’s books usually—obviously I keep reading them. In bits it did remind me of Carl Sagan’s Contact, which was most certainly intentional.