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Calculating God Mass Market Paperback – Jul 2001

14 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, Jul 2001
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan; First Mass Market Edition edition (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812580354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812580358
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.1 x 17.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,286,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer has been described as Canada's answer to Michael Crichton. Critically acclaimed in the US he is regarded as one of SF's most significant writers and his novels are regularly voted as fan's favourites. He lives in Canada.

Product Description


"It's hard to think of a modern science-fiction author with dreams as vast as those of the internationally acclaimed Robert J. Sawyer."--"The Toronto Star" "Is Sawyer Canada's answer to Michael Crichton? Very possibly yes."--"Montreal Gazette"

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Dec. 2011
Format: Audio Download
An alien space shuttle lands in front of the Royal Ontario Museum and a large, spider-like alien climbs out. It negotiates the stairs and the front door and walks unhurriedly up to the information desk. In articulate, unaccented English, the alien asks to speak with a paleontologist. The security guard on duty directs the alien to the office of Tom Jericho, paleontologist. And so it begins...

The alien, Hollus, is from the crew of a spaceship traveling to several worlds in search of answers. Why are some habitable worlds empty, seemingly abandoned by races that once lived there? Why have massive "extinction events" occurred simultaneously in the histories of Earth and the home planet of the visiting aliens? Hollus looks for part of the answer in Earth's fossil record.

As they work together, Hollus and Tom learn about each other. To Tom's astonishment, Hollus believes firmly in God, persuaded by the "argument from design" accepted by many Earth theologians. There must be a creator because the universe seems so carefully designed. Tom and Hollus debate this issue while they work. This part of the book presents a balanced review of creationist versus evolutionist thought. Hollus's creationism is a scientific position, leaving the debate untainted by our society's social baggage. Tom's atheism is well-argued, and flavored with personal observations and admissions. The author plays fair by not giving the aliens any argument-trumping new knowledge supporting their views.

As the story nears its conclusion, the nature of God becomes a more immediate and personal issue. I won't spoil the plot by saying more.

I enjoyed the book immensely, and recommend it to fellow science fiction fans.
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Format: Paperback
While Sawyer has a number of novels published, this is my first exposure to his work simply because it is a Nebula award-winner. He has been compared to Michael Crichton, of whom I'm not a great fan of even though I've read Congo and Andromeda Strain. On a similar note, there are Nebula award-winner books, too, which I didn't care very much for including The Lefthand of Darkness and Timescape. Yet, the bait lured for me on the back cover reeled me in, which read, "Take me to your paleontologist."

Initially, the reading is brisk as the story is entertaining in a way which, as far as I know, hasn't been explored before; that situation being the light-hearted approach to `first contact' with an alien species and its reciprocal nonchalant attitude to having the privilege of being so. So the first third of the book (roughly 110 pages) is fluffed up with this unique juxtaposition and the dialogue therein. All throughout the remainder of the novel is a hearty helping of, what feels like, the abridged best-of information grabbed from Science News magazines from the last two decades. This is all included in the dialogue between cancer-patient human Thomas Jericho and alien counterpart Hollus, so the scenes tend to be quite thick, which would satisfy most hard-sci-fi readers out there. Yet (and it's a big yet) the science and Creationism-vs.-Evolution debate takes center stage and also takes the limelight away from the alien-human relationship aspect of the novel., which I found extremely well written. Sawyer's exploration of the alien species, their language, their anatomy and their evolution of culture from these factors is gripping! Consider it on par, if not better, than the specifics on Motie anatomy and culture in Niven & Pournelle's Motie books.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 17 Feb. 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is speculative fiction at its very best. Sawyer addresses fundamental questions with a clarity rarely approached by today's fiction writers. Why are there 'forces' in nature which exceed all logic? We've accepted gravity and electromagnetism for centuries. The strong and weak nuclear forces have been deduced. None of these forces truly make sense. They can be measured, but they can't be known. Atomic nuclei should fly apart and the issue of light as wave or particle remains unresolved. So why do these abnormal phenomena exist? Whell, it turns out that's what the Sprite used to make Nature work.
Sawyer has updated the old philosophy of Deism. Concerned by their inability to reconcile Biblical dogma with what was being observed in nature, 18th Century thinkers simply pushed the Judeo-Christian god further into the background. The god had wound up the clock of the universe, then sat back observing what transpired. Sawyer has adapted this idea to accommodate the findings of modern scientific revelations. It's an impressive achievement.
His research is visible on every page - either he has a stunning library, or owes a bag of money to the local public one. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Timothy Ferris are all here along with Gregory Paul and Earl Cox [Beyond Humanity - read it]. Even Terry Pratchett puts in an appearance. Sawyer's science is solid - it's clear he's no amateur. He doesn't have to make anything up - the realities of Nature are bizarre enough. He merely stirs in some fresh ideas about possible alien life forms and life styles. And what they might be like if the whole shebang was actually initiated by The Sprite instead of a random singularity.
There's some heavy irony and a few anomalies here.
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