I think this author is always at his most clever when he takes on American politics. The story begins with an assassination attempt on U.S. President Seth Jerrison. Ironically, the President was speaking about the need to combat increasing violence, which lately had included a series of bombs emitting widely-damaging electromagnetic pulses. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia had been destroyed, as had the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and the Willis Tower in Chicago.
After being shot, the president was rushed to surgery, but during the procedure, yet another bomb went off, this one destroying the White House. The electromagnetic pulse that followed after the bomb interacted with some experimental hospital equipment in use. Most of the people in the hospital, including the President, were affected by the resulting “quantum entanglement,” which changed them in radical ways no one could have predicted.
Discussion: How can you not love Robert J. Sawyer? He has won fifty national and international awards for his fiction, and is one of only eight writers ever to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science fiction novel of the year. Additionally, he received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Letters, honoris causa) from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. His books are witty, stimulating, and overwhelmingly convey a rosy view of life no matter how dire the circumstances.
The increase in terrorism is certainly dire, and is a development that has informed other works by Sawyer as well as this one. What is the right way to handle terrorism? Do you take an eye for an eye? Do you trust in the strategy of mutually assured destruction? Or is it possible that people can actually become committed – somehow – to mutually assured survival?
Sawyer maintains that science fiction is “ a literature of ideas,” embracing “science, philosophy, history, and ethics.” Certainly, his science fiction is! And although he is very into complicated ideas from the fields of neurobiology and physics, not to mention ethics and political theory, he writes in a way that is neither abstruse nor didactic. His approach is more like Goldilocks found the third bear to be: just right!
Evaluation: I so enjoy the imaginative flights Sawyer takes us on when he contemplates different realities. The plot in this book seems – to me – a bit more improbable than in some of his other books, but I might feel that way just because the author has such an optimistic, upbeat vision of the future! (I, as you may know, am more of a glass three-fourths empty type. Okay, seven-eighths.) Nevertheless, just because Sawyer is positive and a happy-seeming person doesn’t mean his conjectures are outlandish. He is an incredibly thought-provoking, entertaining writer who rarely disappoints!
Published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 2012