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From Barnes & NobleAlien Intelligence
In the engaging and thoughtful Calculating God, Nebula Award-winner Robert J. Sawyer (Frameshift, Flashforward) gives us yet another novel full of deeply insightful speculation on the universe at large and humanity's place in it. Sawyer toys with the conventions of the hard SF tale brewed with meditations of philosophic and spiritual significance. Setting the pace and tone for a new kind of enriching blend, Sawyer's work proves to be an electrifying mix of old-fashioned alien contact as well as pertinent, enthralling conjecture. Calculating God is an offbeat and highly informative novel that shows a provocative understanding of man's need to grow closer to his creator.
When an alien ship lands in the courtyard of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and asks to speak with a paleontologist, most people believe a big budget movie is being filmed nearby. That is until the chief paleontologist, Tom Jericho, meets with a large spider-like being named Hollus and learns it is a scientist who's come to Earth to study fossils pertaining to the five great planet-wide extinctions, including the one that destroyed the dinosaurs, which helped shape the evolutionary scale of the Earth. Hollus stuns Jericho by explaining that his own distant world, as well as that of another intelligent alien race, suffered the same cataclysms during the same five time periods. Hollus believes that these universal designs and patterns irrefutably prove the existence of God.
Jericho, however, has spent a lifetime maintaining that his scientific convictions have gone to proving the case against God. In recent months, though, this has become a much bigger issue for him, more than ever before in his life: Jericho's been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given less than a year to live. Jericho and Hollus continue to disagree and argue the various points for and against a greater presence. Added to all their various data is the fact that Hollus has also discovered the remnants of several other alien civilizations, all of which seem to have vanished without reason. On one world is a deeply buried chamber that may hold part of the answer to what God is and what He wants.
The debates between Hollus and Jericho are often humorous and even poignant, with real touches of ingenuity and wit worked into the moving scenes. The reader shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that a great deal of dialogue might slow the action, because the critically perceptive arguments and points of contention actually are the action, filled with a charge born of inspired, penetrating, and weighty discussions on controversial matters. Jericho's philosophical and spiritual quandaries are no more or less "human" than those of his alien counterpart. Sawyer is wonderfully fair in his portrayal of each of the conflicting beliefs shown here, and his even-keel approach to the storyline keeps the novel perfectly balanced. Sawyer embraces dramatic tension from several sources, whether personal conflict, religious attitude, or moral dilemma.
The provocative nature of Sawyer's work is that each of his protagonists, human and alien alike, believes himself to be in a position of theological certitude over the other. Keen social observations are notable here, made even more impressive because the energy level of his prose is kept constantly full throttle for the maximum effect. The reader can't help but become wound into an intricate series of enthralling conversations and their ever-present scientific foundation, as well as the thoughtful contemplation of our spiritual belief systems. This is the impressive kind of science fiction that not only entertains as well as informs but will also move us to revisit the ideas expressed in Calculating God again and again.