Thursday, April 07, 2011

Book Rereview: Rollback

I recently listened to "Rollback" by Robert J Sawyer. I read it about four years back and only liked it. Listening to it I really loved it. That's how it is with books. Some are better listened to and some are better read.

Many people think that some day, possibly some day very soon, we'll have the technology to allow us to live extremely long lives, if not forever. Many stories address how only the rich will have it and the poor and middle class will riot. Few stories talk about the people who get the early treatments. Imagine if for only $6-10 billion you could go from being physically 80 years old to physically 25. How would your kids react to their parents being younger than they are? How about your friends? How would it feel to bury your younger siblings? Could you remain faithful to your spouse?

Forty years ago a message came to Earth from Sigma Draconis. We responded. The woman who successfully translated the main body of the message is now a very old woman. We just got another response.

A billionaire who has already had a rollback assumes that the aliens are extremely long lived. He thinks of the exchange of messages as personal communications instead of communications between species. He wants the woman who did the original translation to be around for the next message and the one after that. He wants to buy her a rollback. She agrees, but only if her husband, the main character, gets rolled back, too.

He becomes young, regrows his hair, and it more fit than he was when he was really 25. She... doesn't. An experimental cancer treatment 50 years or so ago seems to have done something to prevent the treatment from taking hold. She's still 80-something.

The story deals with the wife working on translating the new message, but the bulk of the story is the story of a man who had come to terms with his mortality and was enjoying his few remaining years who suddenly has to deal with his whole life in front of him. A life without the love of his life, who he can barely touch now. A life where his own kids are unsettled by him, where his friends who can contribute more to the world are begging for even a few more years, where he's hated for not dying in turn, where he can't work because the technology has passed him by.

Really, see if your local library has this in their audio section. It's a good listen even if you're not normally a sci-fi fan.

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