NESFA Members' Reviews


by Robert J. Sawyer

Tor, ISBN 0-312-86458-2, 1998, 350pp, US$23.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1998 Evelyn C. Leeper

After the relative simplicity of his last book (ILLEGAL ALIEN), Sawyer is back to his typical high-density story. A. E. Van Vogt claimed one show write by having a plot twist every 600 words; sometimes I think Sawyer has decided to throw in a new idea every few thousand words. I mean, I would think that deciphering the messages from our first alien contact and building a machine from their instructions with the functionality of the machine in FACTORING HUMANITY would be enough without adding an entire sub-plot of artificial intelligence, suicides, accusations of abuse, and repressed/manufactured memories. Yes, they all tie together, but they make for a very busy novel. (And it's all the busier because Sawyer keeps his novels to a reasonable length. He doesn't take a thousand pages to cover all this--he does it in 350. Hang on to your hats.)

I'm sure I could work up an explanation of how this novel ties in with Sawyer's Canadian-ness and hence feelings of isolation, etc. (as Clute did with fellow Canadian Robert Charles Wilson and DARWINIA), but I don't think that has anything to do with it. I do think that this does deal with isolation, but on the level that everyone feels when they are trying to communicate with or understand someone else.

%T      Factoring Humanity
%A      Robert J. Sawyer
%C      New York
%D      June 1998
%I      Tor
%O      hardback, US$23.95
%G      ISBN 0-312-86458-2
%P      350pp

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