Robert J. Sawyer appears to be my kind of Science fiction writer. He is good but challenging with the science, and heavy on the societal (is there such a word?) impact of that science.
This book is set in the near future, post 2040 although it flashes back to the distant past ( early 00′s ) when the two main characters were younger (obviously!).
The key characters are Dr Sarah Halifax and her husband Don. They are both in their 80′s and retired. The book opens as the couple prepare for their 60th Wedding Anniversary family celebration. Sarah had her moment of fame, when as part of the SETI programme she decoded a message from out there somewhere. The message was basically an intergalactic survey.
Earth answered the survey and about 40 years later there is an answer to our answer. This answer is encripted and no one knows the key. To help in the decoding effort Sarah and Don are offerred a Rollback. This is a process of treatments that roll the body back to its mid 20 condition. It works for Don but not for Sarah.
One of the things I enjoyed about the book is how the author resisted the urge to plunge into detail. This so easily have turned into a 700 page epic and that would have taken away the simplicity of the novel.
In terms of the characters the author has made them all very sweet and nice, I know no-one who would react in the same logical and basically friendly way as all the characters do in this novel.
I have only read one Sawyer novel before this and that was Calculating God. That novel was significantly deeper than Rollback, but still the author manages to include social debate that forces you to think. In this book they are alot around the abortion debate, should we shouldn’t we and who has the final say, the father or the mother.
Also was Spock correct? Do the needs of the many take priority over the needs of the few (one).
Anyway, read and enjoy it was good.