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What would you do if you got a glimpse of your own personal future and it looked bleak? Try to change things, or accept that the future is unchangeable and make the best of it? In Flashforward, Nobel-hungry physicists conducting an unimaginably high-energy experiment accidentally induce a global consciousness shift. In an instant, everyone on Earth is "flashed forward" 21 years, experiencing several minutes of the future. But while everyone is, literally, out of their minds, their bodies drop unconscious; when the world reawakens, car wrecks, botched surgeries, falls, and other mishaps add up to massive death and destruction.

Slowly, as recovery efforts continue, people realize that during the Flashforward (as it comes to be called) they experienced a vision of the future. The range of visions is astounding--those who would be asleep in the future saw psychedelic dream landscapes, while others saw nothing at all (presumably they'd be dead). But those who saw everyday life 20 years hence have to come to grips with evidence of dreams forsaken (or realized). Soon, the physicists who caused the Flashforward are struggling to help the world decide whether the future is changeable--and whether the experiment is worth repeating. Robert J. Sawyer has captured a truly compelling idea with Flashforward, and he fully explores what such an event might mean to humanity. Fans will find this to be his best work to date, although the ending seems rushed after a detailed buildup. --Therese Littleton

Robert J. Sawyers award-winning science fiction has garnered both popular and critical acclaim. The New York Times Book Review called Frameshift filled to bursting with ideas, characters and incidents. His novels are fixtures on the Hugo and Nebula ballots. Sawyer now brings us Flashforward, the story of a world-shattering discovery. In pursuit of an elusive nuclear particle, an experiment goes incredibly awry, and, for a few moments, the consciousness of the entire human race is thrown ahead by about twenty years. As the implications truly hit home, the pressure to repeat the experiment builds. Everyone wants a glimpse of their future, a chance to flashforward and see their successes ... or learn how to avoid their failures. Sawyers combination of real people and real issues makes Factoring Humanity an accessible and interesting read. ~ The Winnipeg Free Press In Factoring Humanity, Robert J. Saywer deftly blends such disparate elements as quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence and False memory syndrome into a tightly focused storyline about humankinds race consciousness. ~ The Toronto Star Frameshift is one of those novels that can remind us of just how exciting science can be; and that is one of the real achievements of the best science fiction. ~ The Edmonton Journal Frameshift is a finely crafted novel with a riveting plot and complex characters that one can care about deeply. ~ The Calgary Herald

Customer Reviews:

  • Full of many small problems, and a single massive one
    I bought this book with high hopes. The basic premise was very interesting and the reviews glowing.
    I'll start with the small problems. First, Sawyer puts a date on when the story takes place. This is usually a bad idea since it sort of puts an expiration on the story. Here, it may have been necessary, given the plot, but I don't think so. He also likes to keep reminding the reader that it is the near future, but things are ever so different. No one under 30 has worn blue jeans in years, for example. We get it. Its the near future. We understand. Just SAY he's wearing red jeans.
    Further, Sawyer simply isn't much of a futurist. The technological advances in the book are so off (and often absent) that it would have annoyed me if I'd read it in 1999.
    In short, he keeps telling us this is the future, but it feels an awful lot like flash (pun unintended) without substance.
    Ultimately, though, the real problem is that the man simply can't write. Any exploration of the fascinating premise is hindered by the flat, boring characters, pathetic dialog, and almost total lack of emotion. The narrative tosses out useless tidbits that, I suppose, are meant to be seen as details into the world or the people, but are just wastes of text.
    It reminded me very much of something I might have read in a undergrad fiction writing workshop.

    In a way, he reminded me of Asimov. Asimov himself said that he wrote lousy characters, that he was all about plot and idea. The thing is, Asimov was brilliant, and could pull it off. Sawyer barely has plot, no characters, and just a serious lack of vision regarding the whole idea of the book. Worse, he seems to enjoy pummeling language until it is little more than dust.
    This is a sad work....more info
  • Avoid
    I'll be brief:

    This is the first Robert J. Sawyer book I've read. Very disappointing. The prose was turgid and dull, bloated and repetitive. (The dialogue reads at times like a transcription of boring conversation.) The characters, cardboard. (They're both inconsistent and unbelievable.) The editing, practically non-existent. (Typos galore, but also changing pronouns, misspelled words.) The plot, unconvincing. (And ultimately unexciting. In the end he tries to play a game similar to Greg Bear's Blood Music. It doesn't work.) The science, uninspiring. (He name-drops scientists, other science fiction writers, and other science fiction writers' ideas.)

    I came to the book really wanting to like it. I left the book feeling like I'd wasted my time.

    I don't think I'll be venturing Sawyer's way again, unfortunately....more info
  • Enjoyable SF Novel
    This is my first novel by Robert J. Sawyer, and I enjoyed it. FLASH FORWARD is an interesting story that deals with time travel, and the very concept of what the future truly is. For the most part, I found the book to be a real page turner, and I thought the beginning was genuinely terrific.

    But Sawyer does not strike me as a novelist who is very skilled at characterization. Most of the characters in FLASH FORWARD are pretty flat. Sawyer pretty much tells us how they feel, as opposed to showing their feelings in a dramatic fashion. There are also too many characters, and many supporting characters are simply not very well developed. Still, I liked the main characters enough to stick with them to the end of the story.

    The science in this novel is rather complex, and some of the scientific dialgoue between the characters pretty much went over my head. I am not a hardcore SF reader, so perhaps others would feel differently. But a casual reader might find some sections of this book to be rather technical and dry. I know I did. Also, like many of the other reviewers, I found the ending to be somewhat rushed and disappointing.

    Overall, though, FLASH FORWARD is an entertaining read, and I plan to read some of Sawyer's other work.

    Three and a half stars.

    ...more info
  • Is the future inevitable?
    Although this isn't among Sawyer's best, the issue he raises is one worthy of further discussion. 'Free will' remains one of the most compelling of human ideas. With geneticists demonstrating the impetus given our behaviour by our DNA, what is inevitable and what is left to chance? What actually drives our behaviour and how far into the future might we be able to predict? If we can garner a glimpse of the future, will that future necessarily be fixed? Sawyer gives us one means of assessing that question, although the technique he uses here is questionable. His resolution is far more mechanistic than anything even the sociobiologists have suggested.

    It's fascinating to read critiques of Sawyer's characterizations. Depicting persona is easily Sawyer's finest quality as a writer. His characters may not be charming nor even heroic, but they are certainly real people in every sense of the term. Lloyd Simcoe [how Canadian!!] can be readily condemned for his waffling, but the description of his mental gyrations are portrayed with fidelity. Theo's obsession with avoiding an untimely demise is hardly far- fetched under the circumstances. Even Cheung, a man of vast wealth and power, while not an original figure, is certainly conveyed from genuine models. What person of his status wouldn't undertake the realization of immortality if the chance presented itself?

    Those critical of Sawyer's scientific basis are simplistic. His science is sound, but shouldn't be taken as providing any final resolution to the many questions he raises. The issues remain open until we've delved much further into ourselves and the universe around us. The real problem with this story is Sawyer's ultimate acceptance of the Frank Tipler model of the future of humanity. Humans appear wholly incapable of envisioning that along with the rest of the animal kingdom we will go extinct. This is particularly amazing in view of the fact that we seem to be bringing that about ourselves. The Dyson sphere is a human-centred idea overlooking the diversity of life on this planet. A beautiful idea, but one dooming the remaining life on our world. Could we truly become immortal in such an environment?...more info

  • Totally enjoyable
    I didn't know what to expect from Mr. Sawyer. I had not read any of his works. I picked up this book and could hardly put it down. The story line is fascinating. The only thing I did not care for was how it ended. I got a bit lost in the "scientific" concept of time switching, and why it could not be done again. But, in all the book was a great read, and a roller coaster in development. Enjoy!...more info
  • Great old fashioned science fiction
    At the time I am writing this review, we are less than one month till the large Hadron Collider is actually activated. What a perfect time to read this novel that is full of a well constructed plot, fully developed characters, and old fashioned science fiction whizz-bang involving the Hadron Collider.

    The plot revolves around an experiment that takes place for 2 minutes, during which every human on the planet has his/her consciousness propeled 20 years into the future. Some people see an expected future, some people see nothing (they are dead). Massive accidents happen during these 2 minutes -- planes fall from the skies (pilot minds are 20 years in the future), people fall down stairs, cars crash. The entire plot involves the unfolding of peoples' actions and decisions after this event.

    If I say more, I will create a spoiler -- so let me just say that this was a great read. If you enjoy a good story, read this one....more info
  • Big Time Flaw (SPOILERS)
    I agree with many of the reviewers who liked the idea but found the execution of the story wanting. Also, I found a big flaw in the whole "is the future immutable or not" question.


    One of the big questions in the story is whether the future envisioned can be changed. It takes a hugely coincidental event (Theo's brother's suicide) to demonstrate that it can be. BUT, millions of people were killed during the two minutes when everyone went unconscious. Certainly most of those people would still have been alive 20 years in the future if the event had not occurred and many would have appeared in others' visions. That alone should easily have answered the "can the future be changed" question....more info
  • Good story, poor piece of writing
    In the very near future of 2009, two physicists working on a complicated experiment accidentally thrust the collective consciousness of the entire world ahead twenty-one years. Although the "flash forward," as it's later named, lasts only minutes, the aftermath is catastrophic. Not only are millions of people killed in accidents caused by their sudden and brief departure from the present (i.e. plane and car crashes, falls down stairs, etc.), but those who survived find themselves emotionally rocked by their respective (and sometimes shared) glimpses of the future. The two scientists are left to piece together what happened, while also trying to figure out whether or not the future they all saw was fixed or just one of many possible outcomes.

    I enjoyed this book very much: the story itself was fascinating, and thought-provoking, and the author is clearly an intelligent man with an intriguing imagination. However, I had a big problem with the execution of the story; Mr. Sawyer's a great storyteller, to be sure, but an awkward, almost amateurish writer. While the book was an easy, accessible read, I found it to be equally as clunky and frustrating in parts -- especially his shockingly excessive use of the word "doubtless," which was so abundant that it became distracting and, toward the end, grated on my every nerve. (How his editors let it go to press with such a glaring flaw is beyond me.)

    Still, I recommend this book to anyone who's interested in time travel and is looking for some light sci-fi reading. And, in spite of my feeling toward the author's technical skill as a writer (or lack thereof), the story itself was compelling enough to make me consider the idea of reading some of his other books.

    ...more info
  • Good solid read - dense, but light (?)
    I read this on a camping trip, and polished it off in the space of a day. It's since become one of my frequent re-reads. It's a good book, with a really great hook for the story. Sawyer does have a bad tendency to suddenly drop in a couple of pages at a time of expository physics lecture, but (strangely) they don't _seem_ intrusive when they appear. Overall, worth buying for a compelling read....more info
  • What would a glimpse of the future do to you?
    In 2009 a team of particle physicists pursuing the Higgs Boson, a theoretical subatomic particle, flip the switch at Geneva's huge new particle accelerator. Suddenly Lloyd Simcoe, project leader, finds himself naked in bed with a stranger, an old woman whose body feels like "fruit gone bad".

    Horrified, he discovers he too is old, as if 20 years has disappeared. But before he can consummate some repulsive sexual act he is jolted back to his seat at the collider controls. Only to discover the whole world has been thrown into pandemonium - planes fallen from the sky, cars piled up on the highway, trains derailed.

    Every human on the planet lost consciousness for two minutes, and most catapulted into a vision of their future.

    The facility administrator, whose wife has yet to give birth, finds himself in an ugly confrontation with a surly, hostile son. Theo, Lloyd's young research partner, had no vision at all. He won't be around. His younger brother, an aspiring writer, envisions abject failure.

    Lloyd believes these future visions are immutable. Though he loves his fianc¨¦e, Michiko (whose daughter was one of the accidental victims of the flash forward), there seems no point in marrying, since he will be married to another in 20 years. Theo, discovering that his death was a murder, becomes obsessed with finding his killer. Theo must believe he can change the future.

    Canadian author and Nebula Award-winner Sawyer ("Frameshift," Factoring "Humanity"), is a crisp, incisive writer with a playful and keen imagination. He generates plenty of action from his psychological and paradoxical what-ifing. Excellent sci-fi which proves, whether Sawyer thinks so or not, that a glimpse of the future is a dangerous thing....more info
  • Great Book
    Heard about this book on a Lost forum and was interested so I looked it up and ordered it. I finished the book in only a couple of days. Once I started reading I didn't want to stop. I also let my brother borrow the book when I was done and he read it within a couple days as well. Highly recommended....more info
  • Probing exploration of free will versus fate
    Another great one from the author CALCULATING GOD, although very different. This one's about whether we have free will, whether the future is fixed just as the past is or whether it can be changed. Sawyer seems to like to start off with a bang, and this book is no exception. The opening has an experiment go awry at a big physics accelerator in Europe (CERN), and suddenly everyone on Earth is seeing what the future will be like. The author wrings every possible permutation out of this premise while still managing to stay focused on a small group of well drawn characters. Provocative, interesting and fast paced....more info
  • Enjoyable read
    Just finished reading thought was a pretty good and easy read.. As a futurist, missed a few things about 2009 such as the use of video tape. Most modern high tech and high security installations now use digital for secrity survalance.. However he did call it right on who the Pope would be... one of the news digest bits at the beginning of one of the chapters mentions the pope as being Pope Benedict XVI, who became pope in 2005 about 6 years after he wrote the book... ...more info
  • New Favorite Author
    My habit as a reader is to track down everything written by an author I find I enjoy--the problem being, I run out of authors and books. That is why finding someone I've never encountered before, who already has been writing for years, is such a treat. Robert J. Sawyer fills this need for me. He does wonderful characters, using intriguing premises which he explores fully, in ways that make sense when read, but which I (for one) would never think of in advance. That's what happens here--given the opportunity to look ahead, would you take the opportunity? What would be the ramifications? Sawyer writes books not only for hard-core SF fans, but also, as I've learned by passing his stuff on to others, he also writes SF for people who profess to hate the stuff. I've chosen this title at random to comment upon; all of his work is well worthwhile....more info
  • Points here mostly for the concept, not so much the execution
    Every waking person on the planet falls unconscious at the same time. While unconscious, they are witness to a few moment of their lives decades in the future. How did it happen? How does it change the world? Is what they saw set in stone? And what about the people who didn't see anything?

    It's a man's book (you know, subtle differences in style...a bit dry) but it's SUCH a compelling idea to base a plot on it really couldn't go wrong. But yeah, a the characters and their interactions where all very secondary to the Big Idea. ...more info
  • Great Concept Poor Execution
    Great concept, but not a great execution. The characters are all unlikeable and behave in illogical manners. Worse, Sawyer has the tendency to tell, not show, and has an unfortunate taste for melodrama. He also has a strange view of what humanity will be like in 2020. Floating cars and androids. Well. We'll see. I'm still waiting on my rocket car promised to me by 1980 in old Bugs Bunny cartoons.

    I started the book and liked the concept (being able to sneak a peek at the future). Then I finished the book and just felt vaguely unpleasant about it afterwards.

    I'm reading this at the same time as Tipler's The Physics of Christianity, which turned out to be amusing, since one of the characters in the novel quotes Tipler, though not very well. Both books have a fascination with the Higgs Boson, so it was kind of interesting to read them in parallel....more info
  • With Minimal Science Knowledge, I Was Hooked
    I notice that other readers commenting here thought that the science strained credulity in this novel. This is where too much knowledge can interfere with a really great read. I'm glad I have no such problem! I found the premise of flashing to the future briefly, and seeing a brief glimpse of what was in it, and then looking at the effects this "journey" would have upon each person's choices upon returning to the present, was fascinating. Of course, "Factoring Humanity" is probably always going to remain my favorite Sawyer novel....more info
  • Flash Forward
    very small book format, would have preferred better presentation to read,looked like Readest Digest size,lacked gravitas....more info
  • Perfect Science Fiction
    Robert Sawyer's books to me are perfect science fiction. He takes a simple premise, peoples it with wonderfully human characters, gets you emotionally involved with them, and then takes you on a wonderful adventure that challenges your beliefs and expands your mind. Again, I must repeat, I think his books are perfect, all of them, and this one, "Flash Forward," is my absolute favorite. Thank you Robert Sawyer for being such a brilliant author. I eagerly await each new book you produce.
    Arzani Burman, author of "The Legacy of Violetta Rose: An Inter-Dimensional Journey Through the Lincoln Tunnel and Beyond"The Legacy of Violetta Rose: An Inter-Dimensional Journey Through the Lincoln Tunnel and Beyond...more info
  • Interesting premise
    This was a good book which posed some very interesting ideas. The plot was fast moving, well thought out and kept me up late at night(!)

    a few minor flaws were towards the end, when things began to get a bit trite..

    If you are in the mood for a novel that presents an interesting idea then this is the book for you...more info

  • Now my favorite author
    Sawyer just gets better and better with each new book. Believe me, I have read them all! I could not put this one down! Great premise and great characters. He has got to be the best "Hard Sci Fi" writer in the world right now!...more info
  • Excellent hard science fiction
    This book has the elements that attract me most to science fiction---interesting speculations about future technology, and a careful examination of the consequences of that technology. The characters are interesting, and their personalities are in line with the way many scientists truly are. Theo's pursuit of Michiko in the end was a little puzzling (if she blamed Lloyd, why not him too?), but this is the only complaint that I had....more info