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Rollback (Sci Fi Essential Books) Hardcover – April 3, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The term "rollback" refers to a complex and outrageously expensive medical procedure to reverse aging. Dr. Sarah Halifax and her husband Don are offered the procedure by Cody McGavin, a multi-billionaire robot manufacturer because he's passionately interested in SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Sarah was the one who had decoded the first ever radio message from Sigma Draconis II, 18.5 light years away. Now she's 87 years old, and a reply has just been received. McGavin is convinced she is necessary to the interpretation of this new message, and Sarah will not agree to undergo the rejuvination procedure unless her husband has it too.
Fair enough, but unfortunately, it works on Don and does not work on Sarah. When doctors work out the likely reason, they realize there is nothing to be done about it. So there are Sarah and Don, looking more like grandmother and grandson than husband and wife. Much of the story relates to this aspect of their lives, and the translation of the message takes rather more of a back seat than I would have liked.
Still, the whole social implications package of rejuvination is fascinating read, and does not proceed quite the way I might have written it. But then Sawyer is a way, way better writer than I am.
Still, I'm hereby begging for a sequel: the epilogue is a tiny taste of what should be quite a good next book.
Now I've read Rollback. All Sawyer did was take a very superficial view at a bunch of social issues while dropping as many product names and cultural tags as possible. It looks like the book was written with only one thing in mind: movie option.
The only reason I didn't give this only one star is Sawyer has a good sense of humor.
I usually think books are much better than movies. However, this is one you should wait for on DVD...
Most recent customer reviews
Sarah and Don have been married for 60 years. It just so happens that 30 years ago, Sarah while working for SETI was able to decode...Read more