What I’m Reading: Flashforward

FlashFowardIf you’ve been watching ABC at all lately, you likely have seen ads for a new show called Flashforward. It seems, in the first episode, the entire human race blacks out for about two minutes, during which time everybody on Earth has a premonition of the future. It’s an interesting premise, and from what I understand the show will be the sort of long-form science fiction series I particularly enjoy — shows like Lost being the obvious example. Although I don’t want to get sucked into the show before it begins, only to be disappointed, I have to admit this is certainly the new show for the 2009 fall season that I’m most anticipating.

Then, earlier this week, I was told that the show is in fact based on a 1999 novel by Robert J. Sawyer. Intrigued, I decided I wanted to read the book before the premiere of the TV show, but how? What with the play and my class and school, I didn’t have any time to make a bookstore run.

Oh, I love owning a Kindle.

I downloaded the book and read through it in a couple of days. The tale mostly follows a group of scientists working on an experiment with a supercollider that apparently causes the entire human race to experience a flashforward of events 21 years in the future. Some people are overjoyed at their visions, others depressed that their dreams are unfulfilled so far in the future. Still more experience bizarre dreams, assuming themselves to be asleep at that point in time, and others experience nothing at all — a chilling indication that their lives will end before the point of the flashforward. One of the scientists, Lloyd Simcoe, is forced to face the fact that his present fiance does not appear to factor into his future life. His partner, Theo, not only experienced no vision of his own, but begins receiving messages from people whose own visions included information about Theo’s murder. As the world reacts to the visions, Lloyd finds his belief that the future is immutable is beginning to shatter his relationship and Theo becomes obsessed with solving his own murder, a crime that won’t happen for another two decades.

This is a really strong book, although I have to say I like it more for the ideas presented than the story itself. sawyer really brings some incredible ideas to the table. Is the future set in stone? If you knew your current relationship wasn’t going to last, would you end it even though everything is great now?  What if, by attempting to prevent your own death, every thing you did instead caused you to march inexorably towards that very point? There’s amazing story potential in every one of those questions, and Sawyer plays with all of them.

The story structure, however, is a little weak. Lloyd, ostensibly the protagonist, doesn’t really factor into the climax at all, instead spinning off into a minor subplot. One of the major questions (is the future immutable) is answered relatively early, taking away some of the dramatic punch at the end.

Despite that weakness at the ending, though, I found I enjoyed this book a lot. If you’re interested in reading it before the TV show comes on the air (don’t worry about spoilers, it seems clear that outside of the basic premise the show will bear almost no resemblance to the book), you’ve got until Thursday. I think it’s worth it.

2 Responses to “What I’m Reading: Flashforward”

  1. 1 bigwords88
    September 20, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I’ve looked at that particular book once or twice, and… Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to read another scare story about the LHC, even if it doesn’t play a big role in the novel. It’s used as a McGuffin, but there are better ways to kick things off.

    If one more person says that a black hole is suddenly going to swalow up the Earth I’m gonna vomit blood in exasperation.

    The premise of the television show seems fresh enough to survive the vagaries of television executives, but I doubt I’ll watch until (at least) a third season is in the can. I hate getting involved with the lives of characters only for cancellation to cause everything to be rushed for the sake of completing the threads.

    Memories of Firefly and even Babylon 5‘s final season-and-a-bit are enough to make me wary about this. I’ll wait and see…

  2. September 21, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Sawyer has always been one of my favorite authors. His novels, The Terminal Experiment and Frameshift are especially good. I haven’t read FlashForward, but I picked it up today and hope to have it done in time for the show. I have noticed he strengths lie in focusing on one main character rather than an ensemble. But I am looking forward to reading this book, and am happy to see one of his Novels, in idea form at least is going to reach a wider audience.

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September 2009

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