Tag Archives: Robert J. Sawyer

Predictive Frameshift

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night the last few months. It links human cruelty, psychopathy, and mob behavior to the nature of consciousness, mostly focusing on the main characters but playing out against a global crisis brought on by a rising tide of xenophobia.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about Frameshift. His 1997 novel deals with (among other things) eugenics, Neanderthals, Nazis, and health insurance companies doing everything they can to avoid covering people with pre-existing conditions.

I can’t imagine why that keeps coming to mind….

Les Mis Break: From Paris to Mars for Red Planet Blues

Red Planet BluesSorry I don’t have a new article on Reading Les Misérables this week. I took a break to read Robert J. Sawyer’s latest novel, Red Planet Blues. It’s a detective noir story set on a future Martian colony where people have perfected the art of transferring human minds into robot bodies. It’s expensive, but it also makes modern fingerprint, DNA and other biometric forensics useless, forcing investigators to fall back on good old-fashioned sleuthing. The colony itself is essentially a gold rush town, only instead of gold, people have gone to Mars seeking fossils of long-extinct Martian life.

Sawyer read an excerpt from the novel during his author spotlight at Chicon 7 last summer. It sounded like great fun, and it lives up to its promise.

Unless I get totally swamped, I should be back to Victor Hugo next week…well…probably. There’s a new Julie Czerneda book out, and I’m really tempted to read that now that I know it’s out. I don’t want to lose too much momentum on Les Mis, though.

Rereading FlashForward

I’ve been re-reading Robert J. Sawyer’s original Flashforward novel

Flash Forward and Flashforward

…for obvious reasons.

Adaptation

It’s been interesting to look at both where the TV series diverges from the book — the setting, the time scale, recordings, and in most cases the cast — and where it tracks — the concept, the impact of the worldwide blackout on people now, the way different people approach their foreknowledge, a main character investigating his own murder, and the way the viewpoint organization just pulls together to take point on investigating the incident.

And every once in a while, a specific conversation is adapted. Demetri’s “You’re going to be murdered” phone call from Hong Kong and Theo’s phone call from South Africa are very similar. And there’s a discussion on the likelihood of an event hitting exactly on the hour that was practically lifted for episode two.

I doubt the TV show will tackle the question of whether the universe exists without observers (sort of “If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?” taken to the extreme) or the long-term implications of life extension. And somehow I doubt the Large Hadron Collider and search for the Higgs boson are involved (though I noticed the TV show’s Lloyd Simcoe works at Stanford, which does have their own particle accelerator).

It’ll be interesting to see where they go with this.

Prediction

Entirely separate from the TV show, it’s also been interesting to look at the book’s predictions for the present day. Most of it takes place in 2009, but it was published 10 years ago. I list a few items — like getting the Pope’s name right, but missing the explosion of cell phones — in my review of the book from when I read it last year.

Then there’s the suggestion made that one could prove the future can be changed by demolishing some major landmark that many people saw in their visions, but “I don’t suppose the National Park Service is going to let us do that.” In my head, I imagined a deadpan voice saying, “You can’t blow up a national monument.” Hmm, I doubt the cause of the blackouts in the TV show will be robots from space. 😉

Flash Forward Looks Incredible (Comic-Con)

One of the events I made sure to hit at Comic-Con was the Flash Forward panel. Flash Forward is a new series launching on ABC this fall — you’ve probably seen ads for it — about what happens when everyone in the entire world blacks out for two minutes and has a vision of what they will be doing at a specific time in the future. This incident has two major consequences:

  • Millions of people die, worldwide, in the space of moments. Cars and airplanes crash, people standing on staircases or ladders fall to their deaths, swimmers drown, etc.
  • The survivors know exactly what they’ll be doing for a two-minute slice of time in the future…but they don’t necessarily know why.

Flashforward TV CoverIt’s based on the novel Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer, which I reviewed at Speed Force last December. It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it. The focus seems to be different, though: the book follows the scientists whose experiment accidentally triggered the event, in which everyone sees visions of 21 years in the future. The TV show is following, to start with anyway, an FBI agent investigating the event.

So where the book is mostly philosophical science fiction, the show looks like a mix of action, mystery and drama.

Both have, as their major theme, a single question: If you knew what your future was going to be, what would you do? Would you try to change it? Would you try to make it happen? If you saw a future you wanted, would you slack off, confident that things would work out in the end, or would you put in extra effort knowing you’d succeed?

To start with, they brought out the producers of the show, had some discussion, then ran the first two acts of the pilot episode.

Read on for a write-up and photos from the panel. Continue reading

Flash Forward Comes to TV

This should be cool!

Flash Forward

Various sources are reporting that ABC has officially picked up 13 episodes of Flash Forward, based on the Robert J. Sawyer novel of the same name (which I reviewed at Speed Force last December).

The series is about the fallout from an event in which everyone in the world blacks out for 2 minutes and sees a vision of their own future. (In the book it’s 20 years, but in the TV show it’s 6 months…presumably to make it more urgent and so that the show can catch up to it.)

The cast features Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger, John Cho, Jack Davenport, Brian O’Byrne, Courtney B. Vance, Christine Woods, Zachary Knighton and Peyton List.

Where else can you see William Shakespeare, Hikaru Sulu, Penelope Widmore and James Norrington together?

Variety points out that with Lost returning in January, ABC may intend Flash Forward to fill the gap in fall, while Lost fans wait for its final season. (ABC has said from the start that they’re hoping Flash Forward will be the show to keep Lost‘s audience coming back after that show wraps.)

(via Robert J. Sawyer. Cross-posted at Speed Force)