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Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer

01/06/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Triggers in the USA - or Buy Triggers in the UK

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pub: Gollancz. 340 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP14.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-12958-0.

check out website: www.orbitbooks.net and www.sfwriter.com

Robert Sawyer’s latest Science Fiction/thriller novel, ‘ Triggers’, is practically contemporary. A terrorist assassination attempt on the American President has him in surgery while a discovery of a bomb in the White House, gets everyone out before it explodes. The electromagnetic wave from the explosion messes with some of the people at the hospital, via a Professor Ranjip Singh’s device for removing traumatic memories, resulting in a daisy chain of people in the vicinity mentally connected to each other. This daisy chain, is just that, rather than them all as a gestalt collective, one person would have the memories of another person but wouldn’t be able to read the memories they were sharing off someone else. The worry for leading Secret Security lady Susan Dawson is that she has to lock down the hospital because there’s no idea how far this extends and one of them would be carrying access to the recovering President’s memories and secrets, like the use of nukes and another plan ready to be set in motion to stop terrorists. With my last interview with Rob Sawyer, I commented that he does tend to avoid giving nasty scenarios. I think he proved me wrong with this story, especially with the President’s plan against terrorism. There was also the problem of working out who was behind the assassination attempt.

A lot of the story deals with how the various people got used to this daisy chain and how it affects their lives. In some respects, there are some similarities to my own ‘ Psi-Kicks’ stories share ability, especially when skills as well as memories are shared, and I can hardly ignore that in this review although Rob Sawyer is applying it to normal humans with some limitations than Psionics who play mix and match with the ability.

I’m also a bit puzzled with such an electromagnetic wave from the detonation, even if it wasn’t nuclear, didn’t wipe out the memory chips of all mobile phones and computer hardware nearby as they would have been vulnerable to such a force. Something that powerful changing human brains that drastically would surely have done some damage in that direction if it could affect Singh’s device.

In some respects and I’m being careful to avoid spoilers here, the conclusion of his story tends towards everyone accepting what they have been given. Granted they don’t have much say in the matter but it would have been interesting to have seen where this would go. After all, if everyone is connected to everyone else, then this would make the Internet obsolete and education redundant because you would have access to everyone else’s knowledge or memories without needing such contrivances. You would wake to a whole new world.

Nevertheless, an interesting story and I hope Rob Sawyer considers a sequel to see how comfortable people really are. After all, there is an implication that just because you know the inner truth of everyone doesn’t mean that you’ll agree with ideals or even change your mind or their opinions. Also, with having access to so much of the world’s knowledge, would research stagnate because no one would be bothered to build on such a foundation? I have a feeling that this book would make a great film so just be careful whom you’re near when it happens.

GF Willmetts

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