Robert J. Sawyer
Rollback Cover

Intriguing Concept, Unlikeable Execution


This is the only Robert Sawyer novel I've read, though there are a number on the WWE site. As far as first-contact stories go, this one isn't bad. The content of an inter-species communication is encrypted in a way that only a relatively intelligent species could interpret it, and the reply it asks for involves a survey of humanity's ethical beliefs. But the novel isn't truly about first contact as much as it is about genetic engineering and medicinally-induced immortality, and the potential effects thereof.

Sawyer seems particularly interested in morality or ethical quandaries, but I did not find his thoughts to be very illuminating. His characters place a great weight on one's own personal ethical code, regardless of how well those codes line up with anything in traditional morality. I guess that's the point, but I was not impressed, and a bit offended. (The worst offender was the protracted adulterous affair a “rolled back” man has with a much younger woman, and the excuses he makes for himself.)

I will probably read more of Sawyer's novels in the future, but not any time soon.