From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Sawyer (Mindscan
) once again presents likable characters facing big ethical dilemmas in this smoothly readable near-future SF novel. Astronomer Sarah Halifax, who translated the first message from aliens and helped prepare humanity's response, is 87 when the second, encrypted message arrives 38 years later. To aid the decoding, a tycoon buys rejuvenation treatment for Sarah and Don, her husband of 60 years; however, only Don becomes young again. While coping with the physical indignities of old age, Sarah tries to figure out the puzzle of the second message. The bond between Don and Sarah continues, even while Don is joyfully and guiltily discovering the pleasures of living in a young body again. They want to do what's right for each other and the rest of humanity—for the aliens, too—if they can figure out what "right" could be. By its nature, a story about moral choices tends to get talky, but the talk is intelligent and performed by sympathetic and believable people. Sawyer, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards, may well win another major SF award with this superior effort. (Apr.)
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Sawyer's latest concerns the reply to a message sent 38 years previously, responding to an alien radio transmission. Sarah Halifax worked on the team responsible for translating the original received message, and clearly she may be vital to the second. But she and her husband have just celebrated their sixtieth anniversary, and neither expects to live much longer. A hyperwealthy benefactor offers to pay for her to have a rollback, a somewhat experimental rejuvenation process, and agrees to another for husband Don, too. The process works for Don but not for Sarah. While Don struggles with second youth, Sarah continues translating the message. Sawyer's investigation of rejuvenation--especially difficult for a man with the body of a 25-year-old married to an octogenarian--and of massively time-delayed communication with aliens loads a fascinating story with difficult issues. Don makes mistakes, yet he and Sarah are good people and thoughtfully constructed characters. Rollback
exploits two staple sf tropes to produce a nicely executed, human-scale story. Regina SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved