Factoring Humanityby Robert J. Sawyer
In the near future, a signal is detected coming from the Alpha Centauri system. Mysterious, unintelligible data streams in for ten years. Heather Davis, a professor in the University of Toronto psychology department, has devoted her career to deciphering the message. Her estranged husband, Kyle, is working on the development of artificial intelligence systems and
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This was my second Sawyer book, and to my surprise, the second "decode an alien message" story from him (the other being the novel "Rollback"). Both books use that puzzle to carry along other human problems, giving Sawyer ample time to develop characters that we like. "Factoring Humanity" was a very quick read, and I liked the depth his characters here had. The science was extremely mystical, however, and that cop-out has never made me happy when I've found it. If the real world winds up with all humanity wired into each other, I'll be sorely disappointed. I happen to actually *like* individuality. Anyway. The book was actually still a fun read, the characters were enjoyable, and the situation presented was interesting. Four stars.
Sci fi writer Robert J. Sawyer has won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and is nominated again this year. Factoring Humanity is the fourth book I've reviewed by this author, and each one is exceptional. Sawyer excels at putting a human face on technology and breathing soul into scientific data. This sci fi thriller is a prime example. Heather Davis is a Psychology professor at the University of Toronto. Her husband, Kyle Graves, experiments with Artificial Intelligence and quantum mechanics at the same university. Their marriage has been strained by tragedy, and shattered with their youngest daughter's allegations of sexual abuse. Both are devastated by loss and throw themselves into their work. Heather's project is particularly intriguing. Every 31 hours and 51 minutes like clockwork, a new data message is received from space. Its origin, a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. Heather and her colleagues around the world work at translating the messages without success, until one day she stumbles onto the key. Quantum physcs, mathematical equations, and parallel universes play a part in the mystery. First Heather and then Kyle is drawn into the conundrum with world changing results. Will the messages from space unlock the mysteries of the human mind? And will they be a path to healing or total annihilation of the human race? As in every novel by this author, the underlying technology is first rate and the characters well defined. Long time fans of Sawyer will love Factoring Humanity, and new readers of his work will understand why he wins Hugo and Nebula Awards.