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TRIGGERS by Robert J. Sawyer


by Robert J. Sawyer

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-937007-16-4
Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Sci-fi veteran Sawyer (WWW: Wonder, 2011, etc.) turns in a solid if bland techno-thriller, which hums along nicely until an absurd mystical finale.

A few years in the future, America is under siege from terrorist attacks, which have struck major cities including Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia. As the president prepares to address the nation from the Lincoln Memorial, a would-be assassin strikes, and the president is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. While surgeons work to save the president’s life, a research scientist in the same building conducts memory experiments on a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder using a radical new technique. These two events become intertwined when a bomb goes off at the White House, sending out an electromagnetic pulse that amplifies the scientist’s equipment and creates mental linkages among 20 people in the hospital. Each person can now access the memories of one other person, and the Secret Service must protect national security by discovering who is linked to the president. That quest takes up most of the first half of the book, with breaks to examine how the memory linkages have affected various other characters. The eventual answer is a little predictable and anticlimactic, however, and the book’s political-thriller aspects are unexceptional. Sawyer’s writing is functional and colorless, but his characters are engaging enough that seeing how they deal with their newfound memories is engrossing. The story barrels forward quickly with a number of mini-cliffhangers, but by the end Sawyer drops almost all of the lingering plot questions in favor of a rushed, preachy resolution. It negates pretty much all of the interesting scientific concepts he’s raised, substituting in a pseudo-religious awakening that magically solves all of the characters’ problems (as well as humanity’s).

Readers hooked by the futuristic excitement may be disappointed in the lack of follow-through.