Saturday, November 01, 2008

Book Review: Rollback

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

Last night---early this morning, to be honest---I finished reading Rollback, written by perhaps Canada's premier science-fiction author, the Hugo-winning Robert J. Sawyer. Here's my review.

The Setup

The bulk of the story takes place in the mid-twenty-first century. 38 years ago, SETI finally received a message from an alien civilization. The message came from the Sigma Draconis system, 19.1 light-years from Earth. A response to Earth's reply---thus, the second message form Sigma Draconis---has just arrived, but this time, it is encrypted. The woman who translated the first message, Sarah Halifax, is still alive and now 87. In order to give her the chance to decrypt the new message, and to continue humanity's dialog with the Dracons, Sarah is offered a rollback, a new multi-billion-dollar procedure to return her biological age to her mid-twenties.* The rollback does not go exactly as planned, and, further complicating matters, Sarah begins to have difficulties relating to her husband, Don, because of the effective age difference between them. Ethical dilemmas arise through the novel, and others are also discussed.

What I Liked

  • Sarah and Don are both interesting people.
  • The two main plot lines, the communication with the aliens and the ramifications of the rollback, are both compelling.
  • The story moves along quickly.

What I Disliked

  • While the ethical dilemmas and marital tension were interesting, I found myself much more excited to learn how the first alien message was translated, what it meant, how the second, encrypted message would be decrypted, and what it meant.

My Conclusions

Overall, I give Rollback 8.0 out of 10. It's quite good, and I recommend it.

* Yes, this is the second consecutive book that I've read which has a significant element of age-reduction about it.

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