Thanks to Tor Books I won a copy of the novel FlashForward through a contest on Twitter. I’ve also been watching the series on TV (actually on the ABC site as Thursday nights have way too much on at the same time! I’m a week behind everyone else to boot! Hopefully nothing happened this past week that was too important. Heh heh).
I thought it might be fun to discuss the book and also do a comparison to the TV show.
The novel is by Robert J Sawyer and has won the Aurora Award for Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I’m not entirely sure how to categorize the novel. It is definitely science fiction, but seems to tread the line into Hard SF, though the emotional and social aspects might not make it seem that way.
On a personal level, I had a lot of fun with this book because it was like an evening of discussions in an old gaming group. The book ends up covering two of the most discussed and still debated topics in science in the past and still today.
But before I get to that, let’s do a quick “what is it about?” bit. The FlashForward novel deals with an ‘event’ where everyone in the world loses consciousness for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. When they came back to themselves and the pieces start getting put together, people realize that they viewed events 20 years in the future. The book follows the fallout from the FlashForward, and how these visions have impacted several key individuals who believe they might just be the cause of the event in the first place.
So two main topics discussed by individuals, which also throw in actual current scientific theories, are:
1)How time works – is it static, can the future be changed, are all moments in time ‘now’, freewill vs. predestination. (People can go hours and hours on this one! Been there, done that! Lol)
2)And the power of the observer. Does the consciousness of a scientist doing an experiment actually affect the experiment’s result? (Another big topic button in the gaming group! Lol.) This also leads to discussions on humanity and its consciousness as a whole and what effect it might have on our universe.
Much brain fodder to chew on.
There’s also the emotional questions that tie back to these two issues as our principals have seen futures they both do not like. I loved that Mr. Sawyer brings in stories from the Old World into it, tales and fables of the ancient Greeks, as they felt and dealt with some of the issues brought up by this event. And of course all the repercussions of people/countries knowing what has been seen in this future and how they decide to deal or not deal with what was seen.
Mr. Sawyer takes us through all of that. As a writer, I was especially thrilled to see where he saw the future of bookstores going. Hopefully some of them will take the hint and push in that direction. Heh heh. I think it would be cool and we’re headed in that way anyway.
I also learned some stuff, too. Somehow I had missed hearing about Brown Holes before. So I found the topic totally fascinating. And in a total clash of coincidence, I had a friend tell me about Felicia Day’s “Behind The Scenes: When Galaxies Collide” and had just watched it Thursday morning right before I got to the part of the book that mentioned the phenomenon as well. (Video is a lot of fun by the way, and quite educational to boot! Go Felicia!)
The book was definitely an interesting read on many levels and I enthusiastically give it a 4 out of 5 stars!
Now for fun, let’s do a comparison to the TV series.
****POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!!!!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED*****
In the book, the ‘event’ occurs on 4/21/09 and gives (those who get one) a FlashForward glimpse of the year 2030 lasting for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. The TV series has the ‘event’ happen in 2009 for six months later showing them a glimpse of 4/29/10.
A neat split about the visions between the two versions is that in Mr. Sawyer’s book, those catching a glimpse had no context of what their future selves were feeling, while in the TV version, those who piggy backed into their futures knew the emotional states of their other selves thus getting additional clues from their feelings at those times. Both sets had no control over their future bodies, and only saw and heard whatever their other selves were paying attention to or where around at the time.
The principals of the book are located in Geneva at CERN, a scientific center housing a Large Hadron Collider. The TV series has our principals centered in LA.
Interestingly, Lloyd Simcoe, a main character in the book and physicist, who also is inadvertently responsible for the ‘event’, is played in the series again as a catalyst, but seemingly a knowing one. In the book the FlashForward occurred due to a number of circumstances coming together in a focal point, which produced the event – a miraculous happenstance not foreseen by anyone. But in the TV series, it is an actual feat that has been done on purpose! And not for the first time!
With the new twist, Agent Mark Benford is introduced, so we have a spear for the action adventure we expect from our TV offerings. His wife’s FlashForward actually very much resembles the one had by Simcoe in the book. (Or so it seems!) Shoe on the other foot type of thing. So it tickled me a lot because in the TV show Simcoe is the one having the affair there as well.
Another cute twist sits with Agent Demetri Noh. In the TV show he becomes the duplicate for Lloyd Simcoe’s scientific partner Theo Procopides. Theo, like, Demetri, also had no FlashForward vision and also comes to find out that he was murdered, with three gun shots to the chest. Unlike the FBI agent, he has no idea why anyone would ever want to murder him. Theo has a brother, Dimitri, who takes matters into his own hands to force others to find out if the future is changeable or not, so could be possible Agent Noh’s first name might be another indirect plug at the book with Demetri/Dimitri. (That or I’m just reaching!)
Agent Benford has a young daughter, and Simcoe’s fiancé had one at the time of the event as well. Except Michiko’s daughter was one of the casualties of the event, while Benford’s daughter lives.
Mosaic exists in both places for the same purpose, but one was created and maintained by the CERN folks and the other by the FBI.
I’m very much looking to see how the show explains the event to compare against how Mr. Sawyer set his up.
Reading the book has definitely enhanced the TV show for me. Giving me more angles to look at things and comparing how the TV writers and the SF author do different takes on the same concept. Should be a blast to see how it all continues to develop! Looking forward to it!