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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tyrannosaurs and . . . Twinkies??, 6 Mar. 2004
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: End of an Era (Paperback)
Robert Sawyer restores the "science" in "S-F" as no other writer can. As he transports two men 65 million years into the past, he offers us a sampling of everything from the anthropic principle through geology to zoology. He's able to reconcile the paradoxes raised by time travel [including a nod to the most famous example, Ray Bradbury's The Sound of Thunder] and set them aside plausibly. Sawyer also illuminates the contribution of Canada's researchers in nearly all these disciplines with subdued fervour. And scourges politicians for their failure to support science. All this in just over two hundred pages is no small feat.
The theme of End of an Era recounts the probable cause of the dinosaurs' extinction. Sawyer uses the story to review the thinking resulting from the Alvarez proposal that a wandering asteroid so disrupted the environment that all the large sauropods died out, leaving the planet an open niche for mammalian life. If an asteroid didn't kill off the dinosaurs, what did? The most discussed option is an era of massive vulcanism which would have the same effect. But Sawyer, with his gift of imagination, introduces a new option. Again, his concept has a sound scientific base and he describes it at some length. His presentation is impressive and well delivered. And a terrifying surprise.
Along with his scientific foundation, Sawyer paints realistic characters. The protagonist is a paleontologist with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto [Sawyer's lucky, he lives close to his sources], and one can't help but wonder who the model might be. Brandon Thackeray, in the midst of devastating mid-life crises, is chosen as one of the two time travellers. His team-mate couldn't have been a worse choice for such an assignment - he's taken up with Brandon's ex-wife. Miles Jordan might be forgiven that affair, but will never live down taking packages of Twinkies into the Cretaceous. Sawyer hints that Tory cutbacks have eliminated psychological testing for this unique journey, but this is some pair to cram together in a time machine.
Sawyer's thinking challenges any reader unfamiliar with the science he introduces. His brief scenarios of research and theories cover much territory in a restricted space. While welcome and necessary, they don't leave enough room for plot in such a short book. Regrettably, his very skills in offering science force the story line over a bumpy path. There are parallel story lines in this book which take some unravelling. While his characters are realistically portrayed, the book might have been fleshed out to give them a bit more depth. Readers of Sawyer's other work know he's fully capable of expanding his persona. With a shade more depth, this book could have become a classic in speculative ["science"] fiction instead of just a very good read. Even if Sawyer's not at the top of his form here, his innovative thinking remains captivating to the discerning reader. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Saurian novel for the Intelligent, 15 April 2010
This review is from: End of an Era (Paperback)
This novel is certainly not well-served by the garish and somewhat juvenile cover of my paperback copy, on which technicolour Troodons (one presumes they look a bit like raptors) rampage across a technicolour primeval landscape.
It's actually an intelligently written and interesting piece which features complex characters as a refreshing change, although they could have been explored a little more.
Brandon and Klicks, two professors of Natural History are chosen to be sent back in time to a period just before the extinction event sixty-five million years ago.
The two men, one English/Canadian, the other West Indian, used to be best friends until Brandon's divorce after which his wife took up with Klicks.
When they arrive back in the time of the dinosaurs, their working relationship is put under a strain. It's not long, however, before the two discover that a Martian intelligent virus has taken control of dinosaur bodies. Knowing that they are extinct in the future, Klicks wants to take the Het (as they call themselves) back with them, but Brandon is more cautious.
Meanwhile, back in the future, Brandon has discovered an electronic diary which he has no recollection of writing, a diary which details his adventures with the dinosaurs. He has no memory of the trip and the woman who designed and ran the Time Travel project gave up working in that field years ago. He is also not divorced and is shocked to discover the reports of Klicks and his wife Tess.
There's some odd predictions, such as when Brandon recalls taking Tess to see the sixth Star Wars film, and one that thankfully didn't come true; when Brandon is watching movies and finds Macauley Culkin to be a surprisingly good 007.
The novel is maybe rather too brief. I'd have liked some additional suspense and character development, but on the whole it's a tidy little novel that makes some thought provoking points about viruses, and is very knowledgeable about dinosaurs.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another world’s scientific renaissance., 16 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: End of an Era (Paperback)
Robert J Sawyer's engaging style and inventiveness come to the fore in this book. We follow the story of a Reptilian Astronomer’s discovery of his world's position in its solar system. Our hero's story is reminiscent of the adventures of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin and even Columbus. As with the more readable histories of our own world's scientific discoveries, this is a cracking adventure, encapsulating not only the sheer excitement of breaking into the unknown, but also the politics and pressure of prevailing beliefs and the "old guard".
For those of you who are familiar with our own “scientific history” and the trials and tribulations of the main characters in their attempts to understand their observations this book will be familiar (though very enjoyable) ground. For those of you who know less about this subject, this book is never the less a good read in its own right. Mr Sawyer gives us drama, a spattering of (reptilian) love interest and above all an unravelling mystery which keeps you turning the pages.
Our hero's world is similar, but certainly not the same as ours. The question is will you be able to work it out before he does.
Highly recommended.
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End of an Era
End of an Era by Robert J. Sawyer (Paperback - Oct. 2001)
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