Monday, January 11, 2010

Reader's Diary #564- Robert J Sawyer: Forever

Just a couple or so years ago, if you'd asked me to name some Canadian genre fiction authors, I'd have drawn a blank. It existed, of course, but I was out of the loop. But thanks to the miracle of blogging, I can now throw them out like candy at a Santa Claus parade (sorry, my holidays were too short): Linwood Barclay, Kelley Armstrong, Guy Gavriel Kay, Robert J Sawyer...

But naming them is just the first step. Now I have to read them. Thanks to Robert J Sawyer having the good sense to offer up a few short stories on his website, I'll start with him. If I like it, I'll bump Calculating God further up on my tbr pile (I have unread books by all the aforementioned authors sitting on my bookshelf).

I decided to go with a story called "Forever" about a species of humanly intelligent dinosaurs that has just discovered a meteor on its way to possibly destroy them all. It begins with a pseudo-quote from a scientist at a paleontologist meeting in 2018 who talks about the rather small sample of dinosaurs we're actually aware of. Even had we found all the fossils on Earth, we'd probably only know a fraction of what had actually lived as many parts of the Earth were not conducive to fossilization.

Why is it when anyone mentions that life probably exists elsewhere in the universe, most people assume it's intelligent life? And usually of human level intelligence or higher? Couldn't there be a planet full of bacteria and nothing more? How about one where the smartest animal is no brighter than a turkey? In any case, Sawyer seems to use the more popular line of thinking: if there were many other unknown dinosaurs on Earth, maybe they were intelligent! Yeah, well maybe. It is fun to consider though and if that's the sole reason for the story, it delivers.

However, try to fine something more profound, say for instance that this is a parable for modern man and how the drive for ego gratification might just save us from impending doom, and the story isn't anything special. Quite frankly, there are times when it feels like Sawyer's going through the sci-fi motions-- "I'm not completely thirty-six thirty-sixths certain, Your Highness," Cholo says at one point-- but though the story is all premise, it's at least short and entertaining while it lasts.

So does Calculating God get bumped up the tbr pile? No, at this point Barclay is in the lead. I will read a Sawyer novel eventually, but I'll be expecting more.

Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.

*In other exciting short story news, Kate has revived the A Curious Singularity website. For more details, click here.)


JoAnn said...

I need to read more Canadian authors, but a story about "a species of humanly intelligent dinosaurs..." doesn't appeal to me at all - lol!

Thanks for mentioning A Curious Singularity - have gone over and signed up. I read a story by Colm Toibin this week:

Nan said...

I read a lovely story online this Monday:

And I think I mentioned that I've joined A Curious Singularity. I love short stories and am please to find others who do as well.

John Mutford said...

JoAnn: No I don't imagine the dinosaur tale is for everybody!

Nan: Glad you're joining us at A Curious Singularity!

Teddy Rose said...

I think I will skip this story John. It doesn't sound like my cuppa. You already found my short: