Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
Review Summary: Essentially just a quick read, and the author never bothers to go into any depth on any one topic. Unlike other “quick read” novels I’ve encountered, however, Rollback just doesn’t seem to wrap up in a satisfactory manner.
Rollback is light fare, closely (though apparently knowingly) modeled on Sagan’s Contact; communicating with aliens via symbolic logic, with a primer/encryption key to unlock a second message, and aliens sending the designs for building not a machine, but some alien “ambassadors”. Sawyer throws in some discussion about expensive genetic re-engineering – a “rollback” – that can vastly lengthen ones life, but there really aren’t any earth-shattering, mind-blowing ideas here.
It isn’t until some 200+ pages into the (313 page) book that the reader meets anyone who exhibits any true insight and character, in the minor character of Gunter the robot care-giver, ironically the most charismatic of Sawyer’s cast, if only for a couple of brief chapters. The remainder of the characters are a little flat.
Rollback‘s themes are a little shallow as well. So much more could be said and done, about Don’s moral failings, Lenore’s feelings about how she has been deceived, more expanded on Sarah’s life and perspective and feelings about her own failed rollback, more about living a second life after a rollback and how one’s perspectives had changed, more about raising alien children and their perspectives on life on earth… essentially the novel is just a quick read, and the author never bothers to go into any depth on any one topic.
Unlike other “quick read” novels I’ve encountered, however, Rollback just doesn’t seem to wrap up in a satisfactory manner.