Robert J. Sawyer’s Flash Forward, a scientific snafu

To say I don’t buy into time travel, even in the unconscious state of Robert J. Sawyer’s novel Flash Forward, is an understatement. Do I believe CERN could be responsible for a worldwide blackout? Perhaps that’s possible, and certainly enough of a premise to drive a story. Do I believe that survivors would all visit a destined future in some sort of 21 year time shift, and come back thinking it was a vivid hallucination they couldn’t explain? Sorry, no, but then I’m a realist.

I recently had correspondence with Robert J. Sawyer, and he challenged me to do some in-depth research of his work. Heaven knows there is plenty to write about. This is a prolific writer with more credentials than most best selling novelists acquire in a lifetime.


So how did I happen to choose Flash Forward? For one, it was sitting on the shelf of my favorite bookstore, Anthology Book Company, which is owned by my daughter-in-law. Also, it had been made into a TV series, which intrigued me. Of course, I don’t watch TV and had no idea that a series had been based on this premise. After reading reviews, I doubt I’ll rush to the video store to rent it, but I did read the book.

Insight into the future is a cornerstone of speculative fiction. For writers that employ logical thought, it’s hard to reconcile the illogical world we live in. Using a flash forward is a brilliant way to make a statement. Speculating the world is on an unchangeable path is a pretty frightening concept, but it’s a concept, not a reality, just like so many ideas that are sometimes accepted like Armageddon. If we accept that the future is preordained, then what is the sense of life? Some sort of testing ground? Give me a brake. Fortunately, Sawyer doesn’t stick to the theory, but his main character Lloyd Simcoe had already become one of my least favorite protagonists and I really wanted to punch the guy in the nose.

A second flash forward happens 21 years later with Simcoe being one of just a few to see into the distant future. If I had liked the guy, I might have bought into his vision a little more. There is a twist, which seems hard to reconcile since the guy saw the future.

Was it a good read? In ways. I certainly like Sawyer’s style of writing, which kept me reading even though I wasn’t enamored by the story. I like that Sawyer is willing to tackle the science in terms I certainly understood, and I’m no scientist. Did I like Sawyer’s vision of the future? No. I like mine better, but I don’t speculate so far into the future because it serves no purpose. To me, man needs to concentrate on the here and now, or there will be no future to ponder.


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