Review: Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer

In most cases there are two separate types of science fiction, those stories that focus on the science and those which focus on the fiction.  Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer is a story that often difficult path between the two. It has science that is both interesting and science while focusing largely on characters.

There are two major themes in Rollback. The first is the title concept. A medical technology which allows someone to become young again with theoretical technology that costs billions. The other is a message from an alien race which was discovered over thirty years ago. These two interact because the woman who deciphered the first alien message has grown old and a new message has arrived.

Because she might be important a billionaire offers to pay for her rollback and, reluctantly, her husband’s as well. The problem is that her rollback fails while his does not. So he has grown  young again while she remains in her late 80’s. 

Much of this story is about the man dealing with the changes in his age, cultural differences between age groups and guilt. Most of which are dealt with well enough. The only real major problem is that one of the major plot points has him doing something that is at best morally questionable. He feels a bit guilty but never deals with it and in the end it becomes a major positive. And while I don’t feel that negative actions always need to lead to negative consequences in a good book it is hard to really feel for a character who acts in such a selfish way.

Overall there is a lot of interesting story in Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer and while there are a few points in the story which bother me they don’t come near ruining the story. In fact one could argue that they add to the moral complexity of a story which focuses on a subject that has a lot of moral complexity. So, if you like science fiction that is able to meld character and big ideal which remaining largely plausible in the science then you’ll likely like Rollback though I can’t say that I expect a lot of people will love it.