Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Glimpse into the Future

I'm not naive. Before I decided to purchase Flashforward, I took a sneak peek on Amazon to read the first couple of pages. I knew better to than to believe that the novel written by Robert J. Sawyer would be anything like ABC's now-cancelled adaptation. But Amazon only gives you a small glimpse of what's to come in their Look Inside feature, so I wasn't completely ready to learn that most of the characters in the ABC show weren't characters birthed by Sawyer's imagination - with the obvious exception of the novel's main character, Lloyd Simcoe.

I'm debating whether or not to compare the book to the show. Isn't that what I normally do with these sort of things? 

The novel opens in the year 2009 - it was really written ten years earlier - as Lloyd Simcoe, Theo Procopides (Lloyd's partner), and Michiko Komura (Lloyd's fiancee) preparing to engage the Large Hadron Collider. Their intention is to create the Higgs boson - yeah, I was a little lost here, as well - but instead cause a world-wide time displacement, jumping consciousness all over the world twenty-one years into the future. Already, you can see how this novel greatly differs from its television counterpart. On April 21, 2009, for about two minutes, the world saw the future and everything changed. 

Lloyd sees himself, as an older man, in bed with a woman who isn't Michiko; Michiko sees herself with young daughter; while, Theo sees nothing, just a time jump to after the incident. Now each of them are sent forward, making attempts to disprove - or, in Lloyd's case, to prove - that the future is not immutable.

I'll admit this: Sawyer lost me several times in his text. The characters are flat, but that's the fatal flaw with science fiction, and the description of places tends to drag more than it should. His explanation of the science behind his novel is exceptional, but many times I found myself reaching over and Googling a few of the words and ideas. 

It wasn't poorly written, as I have read it would be. It just wasn't that much of an exciting novel. And the only reason I pursued to finish it was because I paid full price for it (well, Amazon's price rather than used). Sawyer did show his understanding of other things, however. Many times he made allusions - even though they weren't hidden - to other tragic heroes, from Oedipus to Scrooge. And his novel did revive the questions I've had since reading/watching Watchmen and viewing the television version of Flashforward. And there are a couple: Would the futures each character see - or in some cases, didn't see - predetermined even if the flashforward hadn't happened? Or are they all compelled toward them in an attempt to avoid them? If someone - say a god figure - said that in twenty-one years you would be sitting in your car driving across the nation, while listening to and singing along with Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again," would you in fact be doing that because it was supposed to happen, or because you had no other choice? 

That's pretty much the tip of the iceberg, I suppose. It's like with all philosophy - it's one question after another. And if that's what Sawyer set off to do in this physics fiction novel, then he's accomplished it. Though, I could've done without the end. Seriously. 

Until next time, keep on huntin'.

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