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ROLLBACK by Robert J. Sawyer


by Robert J. Sawyer

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2007
ISBN: 0-765-31108-9
Publisher: Tor

Meditation on familiar Sawyer preoccupations (Mindscan, 2005, etc.): immortality and alien contact.

When SETI veteran Sarah Halifax decoded in 2009 a message from Sigma Draconis, it turned out to be a sociological survey asking for opinions on a range of controversial or problematic subjects. As requested, Sarah sent back 1,000 responses, one of which was her own. In 2048, a response arrives. The message is encrypted—but what’s the decryption key? More puzzling yet, why would the “Dracons” send a message that no one can decipher? Wealthy businessman Cody McGavin offers to pay for a super-expensive “rollback” for octogenarian Sarah—a full rejuvenation that would give her the body and metabolism of a young person. Sarah refuses unless her husband Don also gets the treatment. With little choice, McGavin agrees, but while the treatment succeeds for Don, it fails for Sarah. Both struggle to adjust. While rounding up documents to assist Sarah with her decryption efforts, the newly youthful Don meets and falls in love with attractive graduate student Lenore Darby. McGavin, meanwhile, provides the increasingly frail Sarah with a domestic robot to help out. She realizes that the message is aimed specifically at her, and this gives her the clue she needs to decipher it. While Don wrestles with his own demons, Sarah—now fully aware of what the Dracons have proposed—must find a way to prevent benefactor McGavin from seizing control of the entire project.

Heavy with sociological what-ifs, light on plot and narrative tension: one for dedicated Sawyer fans only.