NESFA Members' Reviews


by Robert J. Sawyer

Tor, ISBN 0-312-86325-X, 1997, 347pp, US$23.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1997 Evelyn C. Leeper

The only problem with Robert Sawyer's novels is that they're busier than Shinjuku Station at rush hour. This one has a scientist working on the Human Genome Project, driven by the fact he has a fifty-fifty chance of developing Huntington's disease, mugged by neo- Nazis who may be connected to the Treblinka guard Ivan the Terrible. Meanwhile the scientist and his wife arrange to have a child by artificial insemination by donor, and this child may or may not inherit some of the wife's telepathic powers. There's also the question of whether the scientist can get health insurance and how the insurance companies try to get around legislation protecting people from being excluded due to genetic pre-dispositions toward disease.

All of these are important, and all of these are interesting, but all of these in a 347-page book makes for a lot of coincidences, strange connections, and red herrings (and one whopper that's all three).

I found the parts about the genetic testing to be the most relevant. (Of course, whether relevance is important is a subjective decision on the part of the reader.) I understand why the rest was there, at least in some sense, and Sawyer does connect it thematically. But as in THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT, I found myself wishing for more concentration on, and examination of, fewer topics.

This probably all sounds negative, but given that I plan on nominating FRAMESHIFT for the Hugo this year, perhaps I should say something positive. Okay: Robert Sawyer is the one of the two authors I first think of when I think about who the successors to Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and the other Golden Age authors in this "literature of ideas" are. (Greg Egan is the other.) So maybe my complaints about too many ideas seem a bit odd. If what you are looking for are ideas, and consequences of science, and all that sort of stuff, Sawyer is definitely high on my recommendation list.

%T      Frameshift
%A      Robert J. Sawyer
%C      New York
%D      May 1997
%I      Tor
%O      hardback, US$23.95
%G      ISBN 0-312-86325-X
%P      347pp

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