Monday, July 27, 2009

Rollback - A Novel of First Contact by Robert J. Sawyer

"Rollback" by Robert J. Sawyer is a science fiction tale of first contact and a love story that asks "can love survive if one partner is restored to youth while the other remains aged?" The brilliant what-if premise combines fascinating themes of alien communication, rejuvenation, ethics and love in a highly emotional story.

Thirty-eight years ago when Dr. Sarah Halifax worked for SETI, Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence she translated and responded to the first message from outer space. There has been no communication since. As she and her husband, Don, celebrate sixty years together, another message is received. Sarah is eighty-seven but she is clearly the best person to decode the new message. A wealthy businessman offers to finance rollbacks for Sara and Don to give her more time to interpret the communication. Both go through a process that will make them young again. Don's rollback works, Sarah's does not. There's a strong bond between the couple and Don grapples with issues of guilt over his twenty-five year old body and increased libido. Meanwhile Sarah struggles to decode this new message from space so she can leave a lasting legacy to humanity.

I've heard mixed reviews of this book but I really liked it a lot. Maybe it's a story better appreciated by people of a certain age and those who enjoy character based novels. This one focused more on the relationship between the Sarah and Don than on the science fiction aspects. I thought the characters were sympathetic and believable. I would have liked to read more about the interaction between twenty-five year old Don and his fifty-something children. It would be interesting to see how they would deal with a father who was younger than they were. Sawyer does a great job of showing how his characters deal with moral issues. This is a thought provoking read about the huge ethical dilemmas that may come with future technology. I thought it was riveting from beginning to end.

Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1st edition (February 5, 2008)
ISBN: 978-0765349743
Mass Market Paperback: Pages: 320
Price: $6.99

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