Tor Books

"Is our destiny sealed, or if we could change our fate, would we?"

These are some of the big questions that a group of scientists wrestle with after an experiment goes wrong and everyone gets to see themselves 21 years in the future. FlashForward is the 11th novel from the celebrated science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer.

About the book


FlashForward , Robert Sawyer's 11th novel, was inspired by a high school reunion. Upon rejoining his classmates 20 years after graduation, Sawyer realized that and his friends all had very different lives from the ones they imagined as teenagers. He began to wonder what their 18-year-old selves would have made of their current lives. So he decided to explore the idea in fiction.

FlashForward tells the story of a team of scientists working on an experiment to simulate the conditions on Earth moments after the Big Bang. But when they run the experiment for the first time, something goes terribly wrong. Instead of discovering a new atomic particle as anticipated, most people get a glimpse of their life 21 years in the future.

Sawyer's novel then follows the characters at CERN and those around them as they try to deal with the chaos this "Flashforward" has caused around the world. They look to science to discover how this extraordinary experience occurred. And they attempt to come to terms with some of the big questions that the Flashforward raises: are these visions of the future fated, or can we change our destiny?

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Author Biography

Born in Ottawa in 1960, Robert J. Sawyer is the most successful writer of science fiction in Canada. The author of 19 novels in 25 years, he has been called "the Dean of Canadian science fiction."

Robert Sawyer earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson University in 1982 and embarked on a six-year career as a freelance journalist. During this time he was also writing science fiction in his spare time.

As he approached the age of 30, Sawyer decided that if he really wanted to be a science fiction writer he'd have to devote himself full time to the craft. He finished his first novel End of an Era and acquired an agent in the U.S. Even while his agent was shopping around the first novel, Sawyer completed a second. Golden Fleece was his first published novel, in 1990.

Sawyer kept producing novels annually and met with moderate, though patchy, success in the United States. Deciding he needed to produce a breakthrough work, he dedicated himself to crafting The Terminal Experiment, a character-driven work of speculative fiction that probes contemporary moral quandaries such as abortion and euthanasia. That novel won the Nebula Award, the top international prize in science fiction.

Robert Sawyer is one of only seven authors -- and the sole Canadian -- to have won all three of the world's top science fiction prizes: the Hugo, the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Sawyer's work has been translated into 14 languages. In 2008, he was one of only three authors named to Quill & Quire's list of the 30 most powerful people in Canadian publishing (the other two were Douglas Coupland and Margaret Atwood). His other novels include Far-Seer (1992), Fossil Hunter (1993), Foreigner (1994), Starplex (1996), Factoring Humanity (1998), Calculating God (2000), Rollback (2007) and Wake (2009).

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"A creative, soul-searching exploration of fate, free will, and the nature of the universe. Sawyer shifts seamlessly among the perspectives of his many characters, anchoring the story in small details. This first-rate, philosophical journey, a terrific example of idea-driven SF, should have wide appeal." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit)

"If you had the ability to go back in time and change an aspect of your personal fate, would you? Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer takes that premise and flips it over in the thoroughly entertaining new novel FlashForward. Like all good science fiction novels, Sawyer gives us characters to care about by painting their humanity in ways the reader can relate to. FlashForward is a quick, fun read. The characters and story keep you turning the pages to see how this future turns out." -- CNN

"An intricate examination of fate and free will. The core of the novel turns on the consensus among most physicists that past, present and future all exist simultaneously. The future, therefore, may be glimpsed but not changed. Sawyer's ingenious response to that conundrum and his deft handling of his characters' differing viewpoints make FlashForward a provoking read." -- Maclean's

"A novel full of very human pain and confusion on several levels, from the emotional ones of grief and love to the intellectual ones of theoretical physics and philosophy. If you've enjoyed Sawyer's novels before, you'll have fun with this one." -- Analog

"The novel evokes the sense of wonder that we all hope to find when we pick up a hard SF novel. FlashForward proposes an extremely interesting situation, and then explores that situation through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters." -- The New York Review of Science Fiction

"Toronto's science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer has made a name for himself by finding intriguing premises and relentlessly pursuing their repercussions. With FlashForward he does this again and does it well. Sawyer is deft at creating interesting and believable characters. The premise here is provocative and Sawyer skillfully speculates on the impact of this sneak peek into the future." -- Quill & Quire

"FlashForward has an innovative core concept, and Sawyer fully examines the double-edged sword of foreknowledge. Readers who like full closure will enjoy FlashForward's stunningly neat wrap-up. The idea behind this book is unbelievably cool, and the science is well handled." -- Sci-Fi Weekly

"Sawyer compels us to think in a concrete way about concepts that we usually dismiss as being too metaphysical to grapple with. As he is clearly aware, the essence of science fiction isn't starships, robots or virtual reality, but a unique philosophical inquiry into the evolution of the human spirit." -- The Toronto Star

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The Science of FlashForward

Robert J. Sawyer wrote FlashForward in 1999. Although the 2009 setting was imagined 10 years ago, none of the science is imaginary. Here's a brief primer to flesh some of the scientific references in the novel:

CERN -- The European Organization for Nuclear Research is the setting for most of the action in FlashForward.

ALICE is the acronym for A Large Ion Collider Experiment. It's the experiment that Lloyd and Theo are in charge of at CERN. Currently, CERN employs more than a thousand physicists from more than 30 different countries to run ALICE on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). ALICE simulates conditions moments after the Big Bang in order to study quark-gluon plasma.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a particle accelerator that spans the border between Switzerland and France a hundred metres underground. In FlashForward the main characters Lloyd and Theo are in charge of running experiments using the LHC.

Higgs Boson -- The particle that the team at CERN is in search of when the Flashforward occurs.

Minkowski's Block Universe -- The theory Lloyd uses to explain why the future that is glimpsed in the Flashforward is immutable.

Frank Tipler and the Omega Point -- Although their visions show that they will no longer be together as a couple in 2030, Michiko tries to convince Lloyd that the future is changeable by referring to Frank Tipler and his theories about the Omega Point.

An Introduction to Quantum Physics -- If you want to know more about quantum mechanics, or just want a more comprehensive overview, check out the this site.

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FlashForward on Television

This fall, FlashForward becomes a television series on ABC. The show stars Joseph Fiennes and features John Cho, Jack Davenport, Zachary Knighton, Brian F. O'Byrne, Courtney B. Vance, Sonya Walger and Christine Woods. Robert Sawyer is a consultant on the series and is writing an episode. He also makes a cameo appearance on the show's pilot.

The television series takes up the central theme of the novel -- the impact on people of glimpsing their futures -- but a few elements are different. The action takes place among police officers in Los Angeles, and the main character is Mark Benford, an FBI agent. And the characters experience a flashforward of six months rather than 21 years.

The series launches on September 24 at 8 p.m. ET on A Channel.