Monday, May 3, 2010

Calculating God

Title: Calculating God
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2000

Recommendation: Interesting read on theological arguments for and against God's existence wrapped in a character-oriented story.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: An alien shuttle lands outside of Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Hollus, an alien from Beta Hydri III, walks into the museum and asks to see a paleontologist. He makes first contact with Thomas Jericho and together they begin to explore the questions of evolution and whether God really exists.

Reactions: I did not enjoy the last book I read by Sawyer (Flashback), but the premise of this book seemed promising and I decided to give it a chance. And I am glad I did since for the most part it was a fascinating read with enjoyable characters.

The two characters that the novel focuses on are Thomas Jericho, a head of paleontology department at ROM and Hollus, a visiting alien from Beta Hydri III. A third alien race is also introduced, but never ends up playing as large of a role within the book.

Hollus is interested in examining the collection of fossils at ROM and together the scientists develop a theory on how life on different planets evolved and prospered. The two visiting alien races are convinced of God's existence, but not in a traditional context, but following the creationist arguments. The dialogue between strongly atheistic Thomas and believer Hollus was the most interesting and enjoyable part of this book.

At the same time there are several other plot threads that develop towards the end of the novel. Several rather unusual events occur closely together, and to me the final events of the book seemed unnecessary and overdone. It's like the author decided that he needed more plot at the last minute and after months of discussions and character development it's suddenly all action and explosions.

I didn't particularly enjoy the ending or thought it made a whole lot of sense. It seemed somewhat forced and I didn't care for the conclusion. But since the first 3/4 of the book were very enjoyable, I finished it up with an overall favorable impression. I would certainly recommend the book as a good read.

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