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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Flashforward - Robert J. Sawyer The TV adaptation of Flash Forward became something of a phenomenon a few years ago. Clever marketing campaigns hyped it up beyond belief (at least in the UK), and all my friends were talking about it. I never watched a single episode, but a friend did tell me about it in great detail – everyone in the world blacks out for two minutes. During this time, almost everybody gets a detailed view of their lives twenty or so years into the future. If they'll be alive in the future, that is...For the human population, the black-outs are completely devastating. Millions of people are killed or seriously injured in traffic pile-ups or from broken necks after tumbling down flights of stairs, among many other casualties. And this is how our novel starts off, people!Well, not quite. We're introduced to our main character, Lloyd, a Canadian scientist working at CERN in Switzerland. After turning on the Large Hadron Collider, the flash forward occurs. But not for everybody. Dr. Theo Procopides, one of Lloyd's colleagues, only saw darkness during this time, and perturbed, the scientists set up a webpage called The Mosaic Project, for people to share their experiences of the flash forward. Theo is surprised to be contacted by a woman in South Africa who saw his death in the headline of her newspaper in the future. He's also contacted by the mother of a little German boy, who will grow up to be the detective investigating his murder. And I think I'll stop spoiling it there, but rarely have I been fascinated so much by a novel.The idea keeping the story going is simple, but really effective. What would humanity do if they saw their futures? Well, the Japanese stock market comes close to shutting down after a vision that the Yen will become worthless in the future, solicitors are inundated with requests from people to make amendments to their wills, new religious groups based around the flash forward come into being, UNICEF has to take care of the massive number of orphans the flash forward created, and various charlatans and other people lying about their visions begin appearing on television. That's just to name a few of the key media events which are featured at the beginning of some of the chapters. To make a small criticism, I expected humanity to be a lot crazier, rioting in the streets when the CERN scientists held a press conference to explain the fact that there may have been a relationship between the LHC and the flash forward, but it was kind of skimmed over. Everyone just seems so calm and the issue just wafts out of the room like a bad smell. The same thing happened when the CERN scientists went to the United Nations to ask if they could try to replicate the flash forward and a few nations protested it then... kind of got used to the idea and allowed them. What the hell?Of course, time travel is featured heavily in this novel. Normally, I'm really not a fan of stories where the complexities of time travel are explored in painstaking detail, but I'm not a fan of stories which completely gloss over the complexities of time travel (I'm looking at you, Tempest). Flash Forward has the perfect balance, and some interesting references for those of us who are not scientifically-minded (like me). Everything from Schrödinger's Cat to Minkowski space-time theory to science fiction fantasy parables is used to help the reader understand, and it was really interesting.And then the next part of the novel gets really sludgy in its use of the complex mechanics of time travel. A lot of it really went over my head, because paragraph upon paragraph was dedicated to characters talking about physics and space and space-time and particles and neutrinos and... for someone as unscientific as me (all I remember from high school physics classes is learning how to change a fuse and wire a plug), it really killed the wave of enthusiasm I had for this book.That being said... once the book is again propelled into the future, it gets really, really good again, and actually quite thrilling, culminating with the reason for the Flash Forward, everything tying up nicely together, and a fairly awesome chase scene through the huge underground tunnels where the Large Hadron Collider is located.I may not have seen the show (my brother told me it was rubbish anyway), but the book was fantastic. Clunky at times, yes, and with a tendency to gloss over any 'issues' in one or two pages, I'm still going to give this book a 4/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/flash-forward-by-robert-j-sawyer.html)