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Calculating God Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 2001


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1st edition (July 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812580354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812580358
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,743,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Creationists rarely find sympathy in the ranks of science fiction authors--or fans, for that matter. And while Robert J. Sawyer doesn't exactly make peace with evangelicals on the issue, Calculating God has to be one of the more thoughtful and sympathetic SF portrayals you'll find of religion and intelligent design. But that should come as no surprise from this crafty Canadian: in the Nebula Award-winning Terminal Experiment, Sawyer speculated on what would happen if hard evidence were ever found for the human soul; in Calculating God, he turns science on its head again when earth is invaded by theists from outer space.

The book starts out like the setup for some punny science fiction joke: An alien walks into a museum and asks if he can see a paleontologist. But the arachnid ET hasn't come aboard a rowboat with the Pope and Stephen Hawking (although His Holiness does request an audience later). Landing at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the spacefarer (named Hollus) asks to compare notes on mass extinctions with resident dino-scientist Thomas Jericho. A shocked Jericho finds that not only does life exist on other planets, but that every civilization in the galaxy has experienced extinction events at precisely the same time. Armed with that disconcerting information (and a little help from a grand unifying theory), the alien informs Jericho, almost dismissively, that "the primary goal of modern science is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods."

Inventive, fast-paced, and alternately funny and touching, Calculating God sneaks in a well-researched survey of evolution science, exobiology, and philosophy amidst the banter between Hollus and Jericho. But the book also proves to be very moving and character-driven SF, as Jericho--in the face of Hollus's convincing arguments--grapples with his own bitter reasons for not believing in God. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Sawyer (Flashforward; Factoring Humanity), a Canadian, is one of contemporary SF's most consistent performers. His new novel concerns the appearance at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto of a spiderlike alien paleontologist named Hollus. The alien has come to Earth to study the five great extinction events that have hit our planet over the eons, the best known being the asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs. When the museum's head paleontologist, Tom Jericho, consults with the alien, he is shocked to discover that Hollus has proof that her own planet and that of another alien race suffered a similar series of five catastrophic events at virtually the same times as Earth did. More surprising still to a 21st-century disciple of Darwin like Jericho, both alien races see this synchronicity, along with other scientific evidence, as proof of the existence of God. Much of the novel is relatively cerebral, as Jericho and Hollus argue over the scientific data they've gathered in support of God's existence, but Sawyer excels at developing both protagonists into full-fledged characters, and he adds tension to his story in several ways: Jericho has terminal cancer, which gives him a personal stake in discovering the truth of the alien's claims, and lurking in the background are a murderous pair of abortion clinic bombers who have decided that the museum's Burgess Shale exhibition is an abomination that must be destroyed. Finally, there's the spectacular, if not entirely prepared for, climax in which God manifests in an unexpected manner. This is unusually thoughtful SF. (June) FYI: Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment won the 1995 Nebula Award for Best Novel.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer -- called "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by the OTTAWA CITIZEN and "just about the best science-fiction writer out there" by the Denver ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS -- is one of eight authors in history to win all three of the science-fiction field's highest honors for best novel of the year: the Hugo Award (which he won for HOMINIDS), the Nebula Award (which he won for THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT); and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won for MINDSCAN).

Rob has won Japan's Seiun Award for best foreign novel three times (for END OF AN ERA, FRAMESHIFT, and ILLEGAL ALIEN), and he's also won the world's largest cash-prize for SF writing -- the Polytechnic University of Catalonia's 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficcion -- an unprecedented three times.

In 2007, he received China's Galaxy Award for most favorite foreign author. He's also won twelve Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards ("Auroras"), an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, ANALOG magazine's Analytical Laboratory Award for Best Short Story of the Year, and the SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE Reader Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

Rob's novels have been top-ten national mainstream bestsellers in Canada, appearing on the GLOBE AND MAIL and MACLEAN'S bestsellers' lists, and they've hit number one on the bestsellers' list published by LOCUS, the U.S. trade journal of the SF field.

Rob is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences, teaches SF writing occasionally, and edits his own line of Canadian science-fiction novels for Red Deer Press.

His novel FLASHFORWARD (Tor Books) was the basis for the ABC TV series of the same name. He enjoyed spending time on the set and wrote the script for episode 19 "Course Correction."

His WWW trilogy, WAKE, WATCH, and WONDER (Ace Books), is all about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness.

Next up is TRIGGERS, April 2012. Set in Washington D.C., TRIGGERS is a science fiction political thriller about the nature of memory.

For more information about Rob and his award-winning books, check out his web page: http://sfwriter.com

Customer Reviews

First, I thought there was just too much drama in the plot.
John Howard
The plot was very interesting, the characters very well drawn, and most importantly, the ideas within incredibly thought-provoking.
Amazon Customer
That's the human story in Robert Sawyer's CALCULATING GOD, and it works wonderfully.
Davis Coil

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 65 people found the following review helpful By B Singh on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
CALCULATING GOD is a terrific book. Sawyer's research is wonderful and far reaching. He has clearly gone beyond just popular science sources. The main character's struggle with cancer is the perfect subplot, for one does wonder how such injustice can exist. All Sawyer's characters come off well, alien or otherwise. I thought at first that the two fundamentalists were going to be given an unfair treatment, but they were seen being very competent at what they set out to do. And, as a Sikh, I must applaud Sawyer's use of a Sikh character in a nonstereotypical role. Very well done! I enjoyed the aliens very much, from the affable Hollus to the almost incomprehensible Wreeds. I do not know the Royal Ontario Museum, where Sawyer sets his book, but I do know the politics of other museums and what he writes has the ring of real truth about it. A fresh and welcome contrast to the ridiculous portrayal of how a museum really works in for instance THE RELIC by Preston Child. CALCULATING GOD should be enjoyed by science fiction readers (I loved it) and by those who don't read sf (my wife loved it as well).
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48 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Eneasz M. Brodski on July 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is basically two characters talking about whether or not God exists for a few hundred pages. Unfortunately it's done extremely poorly.

The smarter character, the alien, basically recites standard apologetics for the existence of a deistic god. If you ever spent a few hours on the internet you've already heard them all. Fine-tuning argument, irreducible complexity, etc. They are presented as tested and correct by the alien's more advanced science. The author is also apparently unaware of the standard atheistic replies, displaying that he never bothered researching past the point where he could comfortably declare his own theological views justified.

The dumber character, the human, is supposed to be an atheist. He is, at best, a straw-man atheist and one is led to believe the author has never met an actual atheist in real life. His part of the conversation is to bring up the weakest possible "objections" to god's existence and then quickly capitulate that the alien is always right.

This is especially pathetic when they discuss morality, as it's glaringly obvious the author has never read a serious book of ethical philosophy in his life. Not one that was published in the last 200 years anyway. Turns out the alien's morality is always correct because they can "feel it" better than humans can.

The worst part of all this is that the atheist isn't just a strawman, he's also a Scully Skeptic. The alien (with his advanced science and measurements) basically demonstrates the existence of a god-like-being in the first 10 pages of the book. Any real atheist at this point would say "Oh, yes, the universe was created by an intelligence. This is amazing! We should try to find out more about this creator being and contact it if possible!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dory Mackenzie on May 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am always leery when I see the word "God" in the title of a science fiction book .... but I like Sawyer, so I bought this .... and like it too! The theme of evolution vs. creationism is a very touchy one .... but Sawyer handles it very very well. I liked the characters a lot too. The alien Hallus, the human being Jericho .... both were very believable and very sympathetic. And Sawyer knows his evolutionary science and palaeontology .... any book with the Burgess Shale fossils in it is fine by me! You won't be disappointed by this one.
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41 of 53 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on August 27, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Those of us who have been reading science fiction for more than a couple of decades are notorious for complaining that so few modern writers in the genre live up to the old masters. Well, I'm happy to report an exception. Robert J. Sawyer writes excellent stuff, and this book seems to be as good a place as any to start (both reading and reviewing).

I tend to evaluate SF writers/books along two dimensions -- one for the techie stuff, as measured against James P. Hogan (one of my two favorite living SF writers), and one for the humaneness of the characterization and plot, as measured against Spider Robinson (my other favorite). It's hard to find anybody who does well at both; Charles Sheffield, for example, rates pretty high on the first axis but not too high on the second, and Connie Willis is approximately the reverse.

Well, Sawyer measures up well along both dimensions. His plots include both plausible extrapolations from current science and his characters are always interesting and engaging. And he writes very well; it's hard to put one of his books down once you've started it.

This one is no exception, and it's one of his more ambitious efforts to date. The plot: a non-Terran spacecraft sets down outside the Royal Ontario Museum, and an eight-legged alien (named, as it later emerges, Hollus) walks into the museum and asks to see a paleontologist.

The paleontologist on call happens to be Tom Jericho, who happens to have cancer. And when he learns that on Hollus's planet, scientists think it's just _obvious_ that the universe was designed by an intelligent God, he finds that he has to deal with his own reasons for not believing in God. ("If there were a God, cancer wouldn't exist." The Oncological Argument?
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