I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.
Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible—change human nature—before the entire world descends into darkness.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, there is a good, tense plot. On the other hand, there is an awful lot of philosophizing. Now, I’m the girl who sat through two lectures in a university philosophy class and then dropped that thing like a hot potato. It seemed to me like a bunch of pointless wrangling over things that a person should be sensible enough to know to do or not do without some complex philosophical position. I’ve since learned that not everyone is that sensible and that some people really do require being told to do the right thing.
So if you are interested Utilitarian philosophy and in exploring questions about how many people have a conscience & how many psychopaths wander through our world, and you also have an abiding love of quantum physics, this will be a 5 star novel for you.
Me, I appreciated some of the details outside the main plot points. I live in Calgary and we currently have the first Muslim mayor in Canada, Naheed Nenshi. He’s a pretty popular mayor (and his religion was never an issue during elections). Sawyer is writing about the near future (2020) and has Nenshi becoming Prime Minister of Canada, something that I could truly see coming true. Heck, I’d vote for him. And Nenshi is an avowed nerd, so I would imagine that he has read this book.
The political background to the action was fun—how many books do you read where the United States invades Canada? And then Russia’s Putin and the American president (tactfully not named after any current figures) get into a power struggle, with Putin being willing to “liberate” Canada? Pretty ironic, after Crimea, yeah?
I often feel like I’m being held at emotional arms-length by Sawyer’s writing. Rob Sawyer is an intellectual guy and I completely appreciate the amount of research he did (how many novels have a bibliography at the end?) and the complex issues being dealt with, but I never really found myself caring a great deal. Finishing the book was driven by the mechanics of the story, not by an emotional need to see how things ended.