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Robert J. Sawyer

Robert Sawyer(1960- )
Robert J. Sawyer was born in Toronto, Canada. He studied Radio and Television Arts, and after graduating in 1982 he began a lucrative career in journalism. He began writing science fiction in 1988 and is now a full-time writer. Sawyer has twice won the Aurora, the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award; and in 1993 he won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story, by the Crime Writers of Canada. He won the 1995 Nebula Award for his novel ‘Terminal Experiment’. Learn about his science fiction stand-alone novels at Robert J. Sawyer’s website.

The Terminal Experiment: A substandard Crichton-style thriller

The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is a very popular Canadian science-fiction author, with many novels under his belt and several major awards, including the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Mindscan. I hadn’t read anything of his so I decided to give The Terminal Experiment a try. It’s about an engineer who creates three artificial copies of his consciousness, and one of them becomes a killer. The audiobook, by Recorded Books, is narrated by the very competent Paul Hecht, and is an easy listen. But how well does it hold up as an award winner?

I’ll freely admit I am not a big fan of “techno-thrillers” in science fiction. Gene... Read More

Hominids: What if Neanderthals survived on a parallel Earth?

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer

What would it be like if Neanderthals had become the dominant race of humans on the planet? Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer explores that very idea. This book follows a brilliant Neanderthal physicist named Ponter Boddet. Ponter and his partner, while working on experimental quantum computers, accidently open a bridge between universes. The bridge leads to the world we (Homo sapiens sapiens) currently reside in. Ponter fell into our world accidently and has now become stranded here.

Robert J. Sawyer is a master at taking an interesting thought experiment and turning it into a full-length novel. What would a Neanderthal world be like? What would a modern Neanderthal do if he were dropped into our world? It’s fascinating to think about. Sawyer answers those questions in a thoughtful, heavily researched, and entertaining manner.

Ponter Bodd... Read More

Humans: A love polygon

Humans by Robert J. Sawyer

Ponter, the Neanderthal from another dimension, is back on Earth – our Earth.

This time, Ponter has brought nearly a dozen of the most celebrated scientists and intellectuals from his world. Though we humans are a difficult bunch to deal with, the Neanderthals seem determined to make contact work. Thank goodness, since a lone gunman on our side shoots a member of their delegation as soon as he gets the chance. Mary, meanwhile, is recruited into an American think tank that is determined to figure out how the Neanderthals and their technology work.

All of this sounds like a very standard science fiction story about complications related to alien contact. Robert J. Sawyer’s Humans, however, is not overly concerned with the complications between the two worlds. It instead focuses on the growing relationship between Ponter and Mary. They c... Read More

Rollback: A surprisingly moving and humane story

Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is a very reliable writer. His books rarely blow you away, but they're always thought provoking, well crafted and very readable — and Rollback is no exception. In this novel, the SETI effort finally pays off when a message arrives from the distant star Sigma Draconis. Professor Sarah Halifax is instrumental in decoding the message and composing a response, but because the star is over 18 light years removed from Earth, it'll take nearly 40 years before a response can be expected.

At the start of the story, the now 88 year-old Professor Halifax is informed that a new message has been received. A wealthy benefactor offers her a "rollback" procedure, which is basically a rejuvenation process that will turn her biological clock back by about 50 years. This way, she can help compose a response and still be around when the "Dracons" answer. Profes... Read More

WWW:Wake: I was simply left in awe

WWW: Wake  by Robert J. Sawyer

It's been a long time since I read Calculating God, and I'd forgotten how good Robert J. Sawyer was. As I was reading Wake, the wonderful, smooth rhythm of Sawyer’s writing came back to me, and I wondered why I ever stopped reading his stuff. I loved Wake, but defining exactly why I loved it will be somewhat difficult.

Caitlin is a 15 year old math genius who was born blind. She's the perfect candidate for an experimental implant that helps her brain interpret the signal her eyes receive. The only problem is that the device does not exactly work as it should: instead of seeing the world around her, she is able to visualize the internet. However, it’s not just the web she sees: there is something else lurking in the background, something alive and growing smarter.

Robert J. Sawyer... Read More

WWW:Watch: Sweet ideas sometimes feel forced

WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

Note: This review is slightly spoilerish; some of the themes I discuss are important to the overall story, but no actual plot points are revealed. Sawyer delivers his message through dialog between characters, so some of the ideas I mention do not get discussed till later in the book. If you had mixed feelings about book 1, you should read this review before deciding to read book 2.

The story of Caitlin and the emergent entity WebMind continues in Watch. The story picks up directly following the events of Wake. WebMind has awoken from the darkness of pre-conscious existence, and has started to grow his abilities. It doesn’t take long for various government agencies to notice his presence and take the only action governments take in these kinds of situations: find a way to kill it. Watch steps away from the sense... Read More

WWW: Wonder: Ties up the story nicely

WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Wonder is the third and final book in Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW trilogy. It continues the story of visually challenged Caitlin Decter and the self aware web-based intelligence that she has named Webmind. Caitlin and Webmind struggle to deal with the sudden attention Webmind’s emergence has brought on them all. Caitlin believes that Webmind is a benevolent entity, but the government considers it a threat and wants to eradicate it. There are a couple of other subplots that come to together in WWW: Wonder, but the story mostly revolves around the few key characters.

Similar to the previous books, Wake and Watch, Wonder tackles the philosophical themes of self identity, personal responsibility, and the greater good. The message... Read More

Identity Theft: Hugo & Nebula nominated novella on audio

Identity Theft by Robert J. Sawyer

Alex Lomax, a private detective on Mars, has been hired by Cassandra Wilkins to find her missing husband, Joshua Wilkins. At first the solution to the mystery seems obvious, but Lomax soon discovers that it’s a lot more unusual, complicated, and dangerous, than he originally thought. Both Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins are Transfers — they’ve had their consciousnesses uploaded to artificial bodies. But that’s not the only reason the Wilkins case isn’t routine — it also involves a paleontologist who has discovered a large cache of valuable Martian fossils. Can Lomax solve the crime without getting himself killed?

Identity Theft is fast, fun, exciting, and peopled with interesting characters in an original setting. The idea of uploaded consciousnesses isn’t new for Robert J. Sawyer, but he asks some intriguing questions about that idea here. I’m looking forward to r... Read More

Red Planet Blues: Doesn’t justify its length

Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer

Red Planet Blues
, by Robert J. Sawyer, is a sci-fi noir novel a la Raymond Chandler set, unsurprisingly, on Mars. More specifically, in New Klondike, the domed city built during the time of the Great Martian Fossil Rush (thus the name Klondike), sparked when the pair of explorers who had found “Alpha” — the motherlode of pristine and incredibly rare Martian fossils  — died without having revealed the fossil bed’s location. The rush was on to be the first to find it, but now, decades later, the rush has petered out and New Klondike is well past its prime, grim and seedy, a perfect setting for a hard-bitten detective to narrate his tale of double-crossers, sharp talking dames, young toughs, lazy and/or corrupt cops, missing husbands, unfaithful wives, murderers and thieves, buxom blondes, spaceships, brain transfers, near-immortal androids, disruptor weapons — all the usual tropes of a Mic... Read More

Magazine Monday: Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, Inaugural Issue

Galaxy’s Edge Magazine is a new bimonthly publication appearing in both paper and electronic forms. The March 2013 issue is the first, and I purchased a copy of the electronic version as soon as it came to my attention. However, compared to Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and F&SF Read More

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock in fantasy land

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams

In this collection of stories, compiled by John Joseph Adams, a variety of authors invent cases that Sherlock Holmes might encounter if our world were just a bit different. These are cases in which the “improbable” occurs. Most of the stories involve some sort of fantastical situation in which Holmes is required to go outside of his normal logic-based abilities and enter the realm of fantasy. The array of horror, fantasy, and sci-fi authors is quite extensive. Laurie King, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Baxter and Robert Sawyer are just a few of the names that gr... Read More

More books by Robert J. Sawyer

Quintaglio Ascension — (1992-1994) Publisher: In a world where the age of dinosaurs never ended, the young saurian Afsan becomes apprentice to the court astrologer, when he discovers something about the Face of God that will test his faith and may save his world from disaster.

Robert Sawyer Quintaglio Ascension 1. Far-Seer 2. Fossil Hunter 3. ForeignerRobert Sawyer Quintaglio Ascension 1. Far-Seer 2. Fossil Hunter 3. ForeignerRobert Sawyer Quintaglio Ascension 1. Far-Seer 2. Fossil Hunter 3. Foreigner


SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer Flashforward, Golden FleeceGolden Fleece — (1990) Publisher: Aboard Argo, a colonization ship bound for Eta Cephei IV, people are very close — there’s no other choice. So when Aaron Rossman’s ex-wife dies in what seems to be a bizarre accident, everyone offers their sympathy, politely keeping their suspicions of suicide to themselves. But Aaron cannot simply accept her death. He must know the truth: Was it an accident, or did she commit suicide? When Aaron discovers the truth behind her death, he is faced with a terrible secret — a secret that could cost him his life.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer Flashforward, Golden Fleece, End of an EraEnd of An Era — (1994) Publisher: Archaeologist Brandon Thackery and his rival Miles ‘Klicks’ Jordan fulfill a dinosaur lover’s dream with history’s first time-travel jaunt to the late Mesozoic. Hoping to solve the extinction mystery, they find Earth’s gravity is only half its 21st century value and dinosaurs that behave very strangely. Could the slimey blue creatures from Mars have something to do with both?

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer Flashforward, Golden Fleece, End of an Era, StarplexStarplex — (1996) Publisher: The Aurora Award-winning science fiction novel, Starplex, is back in print! Human space exploration has expanded quickly over the last twenty years as they have made use of newly discovered artificial worm-holes. No one knows who created them, and they bring the far-reaches of the galaxy tantalizingly close. Discovery, however, is outstripping understanding, and when an unknown vessel — a ship with no windows, seams or visible means of propulsion — arrives, the already battle-scarred Starplex could be the starting point of an interstellar war…

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer FrameshiftFrameshift — (1997) Publisher: Geneticist Pierre Tardivel may not have long to live — he’s got a fifty-fifty chance of having the gene for Huntington’s disease. But if his DNA is tragic, his girlfriend’s is astonishing: Molly Bond has a mutation that gives her telepathy. Both of them have attracted the interest of Pierre’s boss, Dr. Burian Klimus, a senior researcher in the Human Genome Project who just might be hiding a horrific past. Avi Meyer, a dogged Nazi hunter, thinks Klimus was the monstrous “Ivan the Terrible” of the Treblinka Death Camp. As Pierre races against the ticking clock of his own DNA to make a world-changing scientific breakthrough, Avi also races against time to bring Klimus to justice before the last survivors of Treblinka pass away.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer Frameshift

Illegal Alien — (1997) Publisher: When a disabled spaceship enters Earth’s atmosphere, seven members of the advanced Tosok race are welcomed by the world. Then a popular scientist is murdered, and all evidence points to one of the Tosoks. Now, an alien is tried in a court of law-and there may be far more at stake than accounting for one human life.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer FrameshiftFactoring Humanity — (1998) Publisher: In the near future, a signal is detected coming from the Alpha Centauri system. Mysterious, unintelligible data streams in for ten years. Heather Davis, a professor in the University of Toronto psychology department, has devoted her career to deciphering the message. Her estranged husband, Kyle, is working on the development of artificial intelligence systems and new computer technology utilizing quantum effects to produce a near-infinite number of calculations simultaneously. When Heather achieves a breakthrough, the message reveals a startling new technology that rips the barriers of space and time, holding the promise of a new stage of human evolution. In concert with Kyle’s discoveries of the nature of consciousness, the key to limitless exploration — or the end of the human race — appears close at hand. Sawyer has created a gripping thriller, a pulse-pounding tour of the farthest reaches of technology. Factoring Humanity is a 1999 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer FlashforwardFlashforward — (1999) Publisher: The basis for the hit ABC TV series and the Aurora Award-winning novel that started it all! FLASHFORWARD. Two minutes and seventeen seconds that changed the world. Suddenly, without warning, all seven billion people on Earth black out for more than two minutes. Millions die as planes fall from the sky, people tumble down staircases, and cars plow into each other. But that’s the least of the survivors’ challenges. During the blackout, everyone experienced a glimpse of what his or her future holds — and the interlocking mosaic of these visions threatens to unravel the present.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer Flashforward, Calculating God, MindscanCalculating God — (2000) Publisher: An alien shuttle craft lands outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. A six-legged, two-armed alien emerges and says, in perfect English, “Take me to a paleontologist.” In the distant past, Earth, the alien’s home planet, and the home planet of another alien species, all experienced the same five cataclysmic events at the same time (one example: the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs). Both alien races believe this proves the existence of God: i.e., he’s obviously been playing with the evolution of life on each of these planets. From this provocative launch point, Sawyer tells a fast-paced, morally and intellectually challenging story of ambitious scope and touching humanity. Calculating God is SF on a grand scale. Calculating God is a 2001 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer Flashforward, Calculating God, MindscanMindscan — (2005) Publisher: Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids, the first volume of his bestselling Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, won the 2003 Hugo Award, and its sequel, Humans, was a 2004 Hugo nominee. Now he’s back with a pulse-pounding, mind-expanding standalone novel, rich with his signature philosophical and ethical speculations, all grounded in cutting-edge science. Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he’s discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she’s no longer constrained by a worn-out body either. But suddenly Karen’s son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance. Even worse, the original version of Jake, consigned to die on the far side of the moon, has taken hostages there, demanding the return of his rights of personhood. In the courtroom and on the lunar surface, the future of uploaded humanity hangs in the balance. Mindscan is vintage Sawyer — a feast for the mind and the heart.

SFF reviews Robert J. Sawyer TriggersTriggers — (2012) Publisher: On the eve of a secret military operation, an assassin’s bullet strikes President Seth Jerrison. He is rushed to the hospital, where surgeons struggle to save his life. At the same hospital, researcher Dr. Ranjip Singh is experimenting with a device that can erase traumatic memories. Then a terrorist bomb detonates. In the operating room, the president suffers cardiac arrest. He has a near-death experience — but the memories that flash through Jerrison’s mind are not his memories. It quickly becomes clear that the electromagnetic pulse generated by the bomb amplified and scrambled Dr. Singh’s equipment, allowing a random group of people to access one another’s minds. And now one of those people has access to the president’s memories — including classified information regarding the upcoming military mission, which, if revealed, could cost countless lives. But the task of determining who has switched memories with whom is a daunting one- particularly when some of the people involved have reason to lie…