A stand-alone science fiction novel.
Publication year: 1999
Page count: 319
In 2009 a group of scientists are trying to create the Higgs boson particle for the first time in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Instead, something unexpected happens: every person on Earth blacks out and their consciousness is propelled forward twenty-one years. Unfortunately, that also means that many people are killed or injured when nobody pilots planes or cars but the machines continue on their paths. Some break their necks by simply falling down stairs.
Doctor Lloyd Simcoe is in charge of the experiment which apparently caused the Flashforward. He wants to tell the world that he is responsible, in a way, but his boss is initially against that. Simcoe’s personal life has been turned upside down by his Flashforward: he’s engaged to a wonderful woman whom he loves, Michiko, but in the vision, he saw himself married to another woman. Simcoe believes future is as set in stone as the past, otherwise how could anyone have seen a coherent future? Also, he has to believe that life is predetermined, otherwise he would be personally responsible for all the deaths and the guilt could crush him.
Simcoe’s young partner, Theo Procopides, didn’t see a vision and at first isn’t worried about it. However, he and Michiko put together a website where people can record their Flashforwards and they realize that all of the visions are from the same day and form a coherent picture of the future. With shock, Theo realizes that he will be shot just a day before and he becomes obsessed with trying to find a way to prevent it.
Other people received different visions and interpret them differently. Some see them as immutable future while others see the visions as a warning to change their ways. The characters discuss free will and determination which is the central question of the book.
Most of the characters are scientists at CERN and for the most part they are very analytical about the whole thing. However, there are a couple of things which I wondered almost from the start and which are never answered. Such as, if the people in the future have already lived through the flashforward and know it’s coming, why didn’t they give advice or money tips to themselves? This is even asked in the book but no answer is given. Apparently everything is so wonderful in the future, nobody needs advice?
Also, the chaos which the Flashforward caused is only described minimally and I felt that the characters’ feeling were somewhat muted. Michiko’s daughter dies during the Flashforward but she’s back to work on the next day which I find more than a little cold. Theo’s family doesn’t seem to care that he will be murdered. The focus is on philosophical questions, not on the characters. Yet, I found the premise so fascinating that I read it in just a few days.
The premise is fascinating and I loved the TV-show but the book focuses on different things. The book was written in 1999 and the prediction made about 2009 were, er, interesting. As a translator, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Sawyer predicted that bookstores in 2009 would have automatically translated books in them for print-on-demand printing…