by Robert J. Sawyer
I won a copy of this book from @torbooks on Twitter in a giveaway they did around the time the TV show based off of it premiered. Overall, I thought it a fairly good read. It did what I like to see science fiction do: use the premise of some science-fictiony event or discovery to explore human psychology and philosophy. The premise in this case being that the entire human race blacks out for two minutes and each person sees a vision of themselves 21 years in the future (and for the record, I think the 21 years gap works a lot better as a story vehicle than the 6 months used in the TV show). Then the world has to deal with what to do about these visions, what they mean, whether they are real, etc. For me the most interesting parts of this story were the worldwide and individual reactions to what happened, and on the individual note I thought it fell just a tad shy of the mark it could’ve hit. Parts of this book focused far too much on the science rather than plot or characters, and it may very well have been valid science and served as an extended explanation, but for me as a reader, that wasn’t what interested me. When it did focus on characters, it was only sometimes believable. Michiko’s reaction to her daughter’s death in the Flash Forward, and Lloyd’s role in that, was completely believable. Lloyd’s reaction to his vision was not as much. And sometimes I thought characters were being unduly stupid. Theo, for instance, the character that learns he will be murdered by three shots to the chest a month before the visions in the Flash Forward – I was tempted to scream at him, “Just wear a bullet-proof vest that day, you idiot!” And don’t go anywhere alone, as he stupidly and inevitably does. He worries and obsesses about it for 20+ years and then just ignores everything he learns? I don’t think so.
The ending was interesting. I’m still on the fence as to whether I liked it or not. It was at once both surprising and not surprising, disappointing and satisfying. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just say that despite the stupidity mentioned above, I ended up liking Theo’s character more than Lloyd’s, and ultimately finding him more believable.
I’ve been watching the TV show based on the book, and so far I like that better overall. It does a much better job of characterization (with a superb cast!) and plot, and they haven’t even gotten to what might have caused the Flash Forward yet, so no chance for it to have gotten bogged down in science speak. It is only very, VERY loosely based on the book though. A few character names are similar (just names, not the characters themselves), and of course the main event of the Flash Forward, but everything else is different.
I give the book 3/5 stars
I give the show 3.5/5 stars (subject to change as the season continues)