Skip to Content
TV and Film
How to Write
Red Planet Blues
End of an Era
SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Triggers > Review Excerpts
Robert J. Sawyer's Triggers
"Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer returns with a new hard science fiction novel which pulls together elements of a gripping political thriller with cutting edge psychological insights to create a story that works on many levels. Triggers has the pacing of an episode of 24 and the philosophical sensibilities of an Isaac Asimov novel, so any readers who were introduced to Sawyer through his television series FlashForward will find it particularly interesting." Andrew Zimmerman Jones in Black Gate
"Sawyer should be applauded for a wonderfully diverse cast, as readers are immediately introduced to a powerful female secret service agent, an impressive African-American female doctor who is the president's primary physician, and the interesting Dr. Singh, who is actually Canadian, which is Sawyer's own nationality. The book juggles an impressive cast of characters, which Sawyer does excellent job of keeping both straight and complex. A powerful novel." BookBanter
"A thriller's pacing and a chilling near-future world. Sawyer's strength is in the overarching ideas of his stories, and he certainly delivers here." Booklist
"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." FFWD, aka Fast Forward Weekly (Calgary, Alberta)
"It's a national security nightmare someone has access to the secrets lodged in the brain of the most powerful man in the world. There's lots of fascinating stuff here about how human memory works, and Sawyer expertly explores the personal as well as political consequences of his high-concept premise." Financial Times
"Triggers is a meditation on memory, as well as dealing with contemporary issues such as technology, science and race. An out-and-out thriller, with multiple characters, fast-paced chapters and a core mystery that needs solving fast." Fresh Air (CBC Radio One)
"Robert Sawyer's body of work, though it covers a myriad of subjects, is uniformly optimistic in tone. His latest novel, Triggers, slides comfortably into that body of work, optimistic while attempting to address an inordinate number of social and racial issues." The Globe and Mail
"If I were to treat this as a straight thriller, there were probably some spots after the first third or so of the novel where I might have said `we don't need this scene', `that's slowing us down to much', `we need another disaster right about here to ramp up the immediate tension again'.
"But it's not a straight thriller, and we do need those scenes, and the novel does maintain its tension, just not of the same kind as in a pure thriller. Sometimes it's an emotional tension, and sometimes it's the anticipation of nascent intellectual discovery. Sawyer develops his characters more, allows them (and the reader along with them) to sit and think about things a lot more, and fills in a lot more (fascinating) technical background on the scientific underpinnings than a thriller writer would.
"But just because I've been sitting here explicating where Triggers differs from your standard thriller, don't get the impression that I'm arguing against that label. I just think SF fans should know this Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell award-winner hasn't gone over to the dark side. There's still plenty of food for thought here, nestled between gun-fights and explosions." The Green Man Review
"Sawyer is at the height of his powers here. A mature storyteller, sharing his worlds with us at his own easy stride. I couldn't put it down." January Magazine (a "Best of the Year" pick)
"The Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Calculating God and The WWW Trilogy delivers a tense, race-against-the-clock adventure with a surprise ending. It should appeal to mainstream thriller readers as well as its target market." Library Journal
"Sawyer delivers another high-concept thriller built on intriguing SFnal ideas." Locus (a "New & Notable Books" pick)
"First and foremost, Robert J. Sawyer is a rip-roaring good storyteller. Triggers operates on both a global and a personal scale sometimes simultaneously. By juxtaposing the problems of the entire world with the problems of individuals, Sawyer allows each equal importance. Each of these people deals with their new knowledge in different ways and each deals with different consequences. It makes for a rich and compelling narrative.
"There are few authors writing today that bring such a strong combination of literate storytelling and complex ideas to the page. Robert J. Sawyer is one of the best in the business right now, and Triggers is him at his finest." The Maine Edge (Bangor, Maine)
"Engaging and full of fascinating ideas. Triggers uses a techno-thriller plot but the approach is more that of a philosophical inquiry." Morning Star (UK)
"No one digs into a sci-fi thought experiment with quite the zest that Robert J. Sawyer does. Sawyer doesn't stint the thriller framework, but the story's real joy is the care he takes in exploring the details of the memory-sharing." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Triggers is congruent with the best science-fiction in that it's not about blasters, but about issues and social commentary. Sawyer's novel falls right into line with the kinds of things he's always written about: it's an exploration of a part of consciousness in this case, memory packaged in an entertaining story. His prose is as clear and sharp as ever. But he also uses the book to explore issues such as empathy among humankind (a primary concern of the novel) and the brutal trauma of war. Sawyer is a pacifist at heart, and it's refreshing to hear a voice advocating peace in a genre that often glorifies war.
"Triggers is an action movie with a big science-fiction finish and an optimistic message." Mississauga Life
"A turbo-charged techno-thriller. Sawyer offers an escape from the recent run of near-future dystopias in a combination of classic and contemporary science fiction." Publishers Weekly
"I admit, I was a bit dubious when I read the book jacket teaser of Sawyer's latest, Triggers, but I should have known better. Robert J. Sawyer's greatest gift has always been his ability to incorporate the human element into stories about complex scientific ideas, and Triggers is one of his most emotional and successful to date.
"While the hunt for the person possessing the President's memories is interesting, it holds a distant second place to the enthralling exploration of how this accident has linked the lives of these people. Learning their backstories and watching the consequences unfold is a genuine treat. Despite the near-dystopian setting, Triggers is haunting in its optimism. It was a joy to read." [Five stars out of five.] San Francisco Book Review
"Triggers fully justifies the title of a techno-thriller. There are chases and stand-offs, terrorist threats, bombs and hostage situations. But they are never allowed to dominate the novel, because Triggers is also a medical drama, with many of the legal ramifications of medical accidents discussed. And it's a love story, as people learn that barriers are sometimes things that we simply create for ourselves. It's also a treatise on memory, identity, and perception. You come away with a lot of new viewpoints and ideas to think about.
"Verdict: Not to be missed." Sci-Fi Bulletin
"With a large cast of characters, Sawyer does a great job of giving each their own story and enough depth for the reader to easily keep them all straight. The drama and how relationships are formed/affected by the memory-swapping was actually my favorite part of the story. I really enjoy his writing style. Intriguing, with plenty of suspense Triggers was fast-paced and exciting. This science fiction thriller was completely riveting from beginning to its climactic end." SciFiChick.com
"Triggers is an imaginative and technical tour de force a fascinating book that makes its bizarre situation seem real and possible and the people linked so strangely and sometimes unhappily to one another quite true. It's hard to put down." Saskatoon StarPhoenix
"Robert J. Sawyer has become one of the world's most popular SF writers not just for his fast-moving and suspenseful plots, but for his optimistic vision of the future and upbeat attitude toward technology a point of view that contrasts sharply with more typical dystopic SF fare. The creation of a complex human web of individuals all sharing memories and identities is an obvious allegory for the growth of the Internet, with Sawyer's verdict tending strongly toward the cybertopian." The Toronto Star
"Robert Sawyer is a Canadian science fiction writer with a reputation for crafting exciting stories based on scientific speculation. In Triggers he gives us a nail-biting thriller based on an understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder and the implications of experiencing and treating it.
"As someone who spends his days reading and indexing literature on PTSD I try to avoid the subject in my leisure hours, but this was a book that I couldn't put down. More accessible than many science fiction novels, Triggers should appeal to anyone who enjoys a science-oriented thriller." Fred Lerner of the U.S. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (part of the Department of Veteran Affairs) in Traumatic Stress Points, the newsletter of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
"Triggers has the hard-core military/political insights of Robert A. Heinlein, and the compassion of Theodore Sturgeon." Jonathan Vos Post
"Mr. Sawyer works through the permutations with one surprise after another, including the president's deep, dark secret now in somebody else's possession that would make him a one-termer for sure. The positive side is that the president can appreciate firsthand the cost of the orders he's given. He now shares the memories of a returned Iraq veteran, called for him up by the trigger phrase `crying babies ... and the smell of smashed concrete.'
"Techno-future, telepathy: The third ingredient is a consideration of terrorism itself. Mr. Sawyer, a Canadian, remembers what Pierre Trudeau did back in 1970, when he took such drastic action following the murder of one of his ministers that terrorist cells have never surfaced in Canada again. What might an American president do? Get away with doing? Be justified in doing? And is there another way out? Triggers is constantly gripping on the surface and seriously provocative deep down." Tom Shippey in The Wall Street Journal
"Triggers has a cast of well-designed characters and one heck of a mind-bending story. The American president, brought down by an assassin's bullet, is undergoing emergency surgery at the same time as a veteran of the war in Iraq is undergoing an experimental procedure to purge his mind of horrifying memories.
"Something goes drastically wrong, and now a handful of people can access each other's memories ... and one of them can access the memories of the president himself. An SF novel posing as a thriller or it could be the other way around, depending on how you read it the book is hugely entertaining, not to mention nail-bitingly suspenseful." David Pitt in The Winnipeg Free Press
More Good Reading