Quite possibly this country’s finest science fiction author, Robert J. Sawyer is the only Canadian to have won all three of the big SF awards for best novel of the year — the Hugo, the Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award (only eight other authors worldwide have accomplished this literary hat trick). He has published 23 novels translated into 18 languages, winning over 42 awards internationally; he has taught writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College and The Banff Centre; and his novel, FlashForward, was made into a television series.
An optimist at heart, Sawyer’s great talent is framed by a determination to never surrender to cynical posturing about the human condition.
Following the success of his bestselling “WWW Trilogy” (Wake, Watch, Wonder), Sawyer’s latest novel, Triggers, is a considerable stylistic departure.
“With the show FlashForward... there was a focus on action that Brannon Braga, the writer for the TV series, did with my full support, and I wanted to bring that action to my new project, which became Triggers,” says Sawyer. “I am not a man who likes writing trilogies. That being said, I have done three of them, and it was hard to keep my interest.
“I was very anxious to be able to write something that would include explosions and car chases,” he says with a laugh.
Triggers drops the reader into an assassination attempt, the discovery of a bomb at the White House, and a world ravaged by large-scale terrorism. As a multinational push-back against a terrorist group is launched, the president of the United States is shot. While attempts are made to save his life, a bomb detonates and affects a nearby experiment being conducted to erase traumatic memories. As a result, the memories of the president — classified information, included — are transmitted to a random group of people.
Sawyer’s novel not only posits new ideas on the workings on the mind, but also offers a unique viewpoint on the roots of terrorism; not to mention a possible solution.
“We are still coming to grips with any plausible responses that would succeed,” says Sawyer of post-9-11 policy. “Our response lately has been the exact opposite of what we need. Globally there has been a horrific cutting back in foreign aid as a knee-jerk reaction to take care of ourselves and not look after others.... It costs us more by not helping others. Globally we are the one per cent, and that foments resentment. Envy is the very basis of terrorism.”
Without giving anything away, Triggers proposes a new way of staunching bloody conflicts inflamed by worldwide terrorism. As for his new thrill-ride approach to pacing, his fans are responding positively — and Sawyer’s gratitude is palpable.
“Years ago, I spoke with Isaac Asimov, and he said his approach to writing was to always create something that was new and exciting to [him]self and then for [his] audience, in that order,” says Sawyer. “I hope that is what I have been able to do here.”