Flashforward

Hey, remember that time that I said I would blog about some of the stuff I’m reading over my summer holidays and then said that I’d probably not actually get around to doing that? Consider yourself proven wrong, Dr. Beth. Proven wrong long time!

FlashforwardEven since the TV series Flashforward was canceled, I’ve wanted to read the novel on which it was based. I quite enjoyed the first and only season of that show, but it ended with a cliffhanger and then the show wasn’t renewed. I mistakenly thought that if I read the novel I could get some closure1, but it turns out that the show was only very loosely based on the novel, so the unanswered questions from the show weren’t answered.

My Review2, Such As It Is – SPOILER ALERT!

The basic premise of both the novel and the show is that there is a global blackout in which everyone on earth loses consciousness and during their blackouts, everyone sees a glimpse of the future at a specific point in time3. The fall out from this then explores the age old questions of if the future is predestined or is it changeable, and do we have free will?

What I want to write about, of course, is much more mundane that that. The novel was written in 1999, set in 2009, and the flashforwards that the characters saw4 was in 2030. One of the challenges of writing a near-future story, of course, is trying to predict what that near future will be like, knowing full well that you will be proven wrong (or right) quite soon. For example, as characters were talking about their flashforwards into 2030, they were marvelling at how they were reading newspapers on a thin screen instead of on paper like they do in 2009 – and I was reading this book on my iPad, with my kobo sitting next to me on my bedside table. Similarly, a character looks up someone’s phone number in the directory of the American Physics Society – a paper directory5. Clearly, the author did not foresee the advances that would happen in technology in a decade.

There were some predictions, however, that were pretty good. For example, the main character in the book was using the Large Hadron Collider to try to discover the Higgs-Boson in 2009 – something that actually happened just shortly before I read the story6! And it was interesting the the author chose “Pope Benedict XVI” as the reigning pope in 2009 – because he actually was the Pope in 2009, but not when the book was written7.

Overall, I enjoyed reading most of the book, but I found the ending to be kind of lame. The ending happens in 2030, when the characters catch up to the visions of the future. I found it rather rushed – the action in 2009 takes up the vast majority of the book and so you spend a lot of time getting into the characters and then they speed through the endings. For example, we spend a lot of time reading about the main character, Lloyd, and his fiance, Michiko. In their flashforwards, they aren’t together and Lloyd is married to another woman. So there’s all this angst about whether they should even bother getting married since they know it will end in divorce – assuming that the future is immutable, which Lloyd believes it is. And then in the last ~15 pages of the book we hear that Lloyd married Michiko, they had a kid, they got a divorce, Lloyd met and married Doreen, the women he saw in his flashforward, and that Doreen was his perfect soulmate, the one he was really meant to spend forever with and we are supposed to care. I mean, we get so invested in Lloyd and Michiko and we know nothing of this Doreen person, so I find it difficult to believe that Lloyd just loves her so much, but we are given absolutely no sense of why that would be. And then there’s this whole rich guy who makes some Nobel Prize winners immortal and their consciousnesses live on as robots. But it all comes within a few pages at the end – not really long enough for me to be invested in it or for the author to really do anything with it.

In conclusion, whether as a novel or a TV series, Flashforward builds me up only to let me down in the end.

Image Credit: Posted by Open Eye on Flickr

  1. Like what was the deal with the kangaroo hopping through the streets?? []
  2. I never promised a thorough review! []
  3. 6 months later in the TV show, and 21.5 years in the novel []
  4. As well as the ending of the book []
  5. I’m sure there were many more examples, but it’s been a few weeks since I read it and now I can’t remember the rest! []
  6. So this prediction was only a few years off. []
  7. I wonder how he knew that Joseph Ratzinger would chose the name Benedict? Or did J.R. read the story and then when he was elected pope think “You know what would be funny?” []