January 4, 2010

815 words 4 mins read

Review: Flashforward (book)

This fall the new series “FlashForward” premiered on ABC. I’d seen the previews of it and thought it was an interesting concept. It didn’t catch my attention as a good concept for a TV show, but more from a “What if this were real?” scenario. What would you do if you saw the the future? How would it effect you? If it was something bad, would you try to change the outcome? If it was something good, would you try to hasten it? Is our destiny predetermined?

All of these questions sprung to mind, which made me curious and interested to see how the the TV show would handle all this (and more). So far, it isn’t great, but it isn’t bad. I know the review’s aren’t terribly positive, but I’m sticking with the “wait and see”. During that “waiting” period (re-enforced by yet another mid-season break), I found out that there was a book by the same name (not that this should surprise me). Over the holidays I had time so <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Flashforward-Robert-J-Sawyer/dp/076532413X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261954787&sr=8-1&void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Flashforward (paperback)>I bought and read it on my kindle.

Overall, I’m not terribly enthusiastic about the book. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Now, the TV show is based on the book, but there are some major differences. First off, in the book the FlashFoward is 21 years, not 6 months. The second major change is that in the book the FBI isn’t involved at all, the protagonists are Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procpides, who work at CERN (just like the TV show). The third and final major difference is that there is no major conspiracy (as there is in the TV show).

(No major plot spoilers)

The first third of the book is an introduction to our characters and then quickly becomes occupied with the fallout from the “flash forward”. As with TV show, some people see some good stuff, some people see some bad stuff, and some people see nothing at all (Implying that they are dead). Again, in a similar vein to the TV show, it is proven that the future is not predetermined by means of a character committing suicide (said someone was confirmed to be in another person’s “flash forward”).

The most interesting portion of the entire book was when they discussed the fallout (typically in news headline style blurbs) of the “flash forward”. For example: young kids traumatized because in 21 years they’d be doing something gruesome (like investigating a murder), tons of patents were filled by people who saw inventions from the next 20 years, who the president was going to be (a kid in law school), what the status of the stock market was going to be and bits about natural disasters. If a “flash forward” really happened, not everyone would be awake for it, but billions would most likely see something, and putting it all together could paint a fairly detailed picture of the future. Of course, in this case, one possible future.

The middle third of the book is where it goes down hill.

The author basically spends the entire time “debating” what principles of very advanced physics could cause such an event (the “flash forward”) to happen. Also during the “flash forward”, nothing, not a single instrument, camera, recording device, anywhere… recorded anything. This little bit alone gets us into fun topics like Schrödinger’s cat, quantum superposition, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and a whole shitload of other quantum mechanics (and other miscellaneous advanced physics).

Now I actually understand a lot of this stuff, and that is part of the reason I enjoy realistic SciFi, but the author goes WAY TO FAR for WAY TO LONG. During this middle portion of the story, more often than not, I was putting the book down simply because my eyes were glazing over and I was too tired to think about topics this advanced. To me, it was sort of like reading a text book on advanced quantum mechanics, put into story form. (Editor’s Note: Johnny Quark set off on the road to learn one day…)

The final third of the book moves back into the story, and jumps to 21 years in the future, when the original “flash forward” brought everyone to. The ending was fairly ambiguous, as to what happens with our characters. I presume the author wanted to leave it up to our imaginations, but I found it a bit wishy washy. Neither of the two main characters’ storylines were really resolved; the endings were just… flat.

At the end of the day, I’d recommend this book only to people who enjoy super complicated and advanced quantum mechanics, or who are really, truly interested in the general concept. The TV show is loosely based on the book, and for good reason: it’d be canceled otherwise (not that the future is looking too good for the show as is).