Fiction Reviews


Factoring Humanity

(1999) Robert J. Sawyer, Voyager, 5.99, pbk, 348pp, ISBN 0-00-651186-4

Heather Davis is working on a message from Alpha Centauri, but the problem seems intractable, with only the first 11 pages of text yielding to translation. In the meantime her husband, Kyle Graves, from whom she is separated, has problems of his own. He is trying to perfect a quantum computer which will only work if Many Worlds theory is true. It seems that this computer is the only hope to break the encryption of another scientist who received a signal from Epsilon Eridani. After encrypting the message, the scientist killed himself...

Now I like Sawyer's work on the whole, and he can certainly write page-turning prose, but frequently his books leave something to be desired in terms of scope of plot and, consequently, his endings are often disappointing. This book comes across as a poor-man's Contact, with wishy-washy aliens giving humanity a lesson in empathy. So, unfortunately, I can't rate this book much more highly than a beach-reader.

Tony Chester


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