SFWRITER.COM > Novels > What's a Sawyer novel like?
What's a Robert J. Sawyer
Don Sakers in Analog Science Fiction and Fact:
"For many years now, Robert J. Sawyer has been turning out
imaginative, thought-provoking science fiction novels set in the
present day and dealing with the impact of science and technology
upon relatively ordinary people. A typical Sawyer tale brings
together multiple diverse elements from popular culture,
psychology, physics, and philosophy; stirs together plausible
advances in science with appealing characters; adds some
realistic depictions of actual scientists at work and a generous
helping of old-fashioned sense-of-wonder; and filters the whole
mix through a distinctly Canadian filter."
Stanley Schmidt in Analog Science Fiction and Fact:
"Robert J. Sawyer has a way of taking familiar ideas, looking at
them from new angles and in greater depth than almost anybody
before him, and tying them together to create extraordinarily
fresh and thought-provoking stories."
Don Sakers in Analog Science Fiction and Fact (again):
"A new Robert J. Sawyer book is always cause for celebration."
Don Sakers in Analog Science Fiction and Fact (again):
"Like all of Sawyer's work, Quantum Night is a compelling read, intensely thought-provoking, filled with real human characters learning new things about their world."
Asimov's Science Fiction: "Robert Sawyer seems to be
intent on revisiting all the classic themes of science fiction,
often with new twists that arise from a genuine rethinking of
their premises a writer whose willingness to give us new
takes on the central questions of SF make him a valuable barometer
of the genre's health."
Bakka Books: "Sawyer returns us to the Science Fiction
of ideas and does so with a clarity of prose seldom seen these
Barnes and Noble: "Robert J. Sawyer consistently makes
intelligent, mind-blowing science fiction accessible to the
mainstream reader with his efficient, easy-flowing prose, his
exciting ideas, and his superior character development."
Barnes and Noble (agan): "For those of you science
fiction fans who have yet to experience Robert J. Sawyer, you're
missing out on one of the most though-provoking writers in the
genre. His narrative is a unique fusion of highly intelligent
scientific speculation; emotionally-powered, character driven
storylines; and offbeat humor mixed with subtle pop culture
Booklist: "Sawyer has a gift for casting jarringly
original ideas in lucid, sharp-edged prose that mainstream-fiction
as well as sf readers should appreciate."
Booklist (again): "Sawyer not only has
an irresistibly engaging narrative voice but also a gift
for confronting thorny philosophical conundrums. At every
opportunity, he forces his readers to think while holding
their attention with ingenious premises and superlative
Books in Canada: "A sense of wonder that hasn't
prevailed in American SF since the days of Heinlein."
The Canadian Encyclopedia: "Reviewers praise Sawyer for his
concise prose, which has been compared to that of the science-fiction
master Isaac Asimov. Sawyer welcomes the opportunities his chosen genre
provides for exploring ideas; he prefers the label
`philosophical fiction.' His mission statement for his writing is
`To combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic.'"
The Canadian Press: "Sawyer is a literary debunker of
The Canadian Press (again): "Science-fiction author
Robert Sawyer takes his science seriously. If he writes about
it, it has either already happened or is theoretically possible
given current scientific knowledge. Sawyer's novels are always
part science and part philosophical exercise, raising questions
of morality and ethics in the future that resonate in the present."
"As Canada's foremost science-fiction writer, Sawyer explores the
impact of technology on humans and a global society, while
simultaneously developing intimate characters from every walk of
Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game:
"Sawyer writes with near-Asimovian clarity, with energy
and drive, with such grace that his writing becomes
invisible as the story comes to life in your mind."
Cinescape: "There's something special about
Robert J. Sawyer's novels. You just can't put them down.
Sawyer's novels are not, by any means whatsoever, 'beach reads.'
On the contrary, they usually deal with pretty heady stuff: the
conflict between science and religion, race relations, the
biological factors behind behavior, etc. And yet, even though
some deep thought is going on, the books are still simple,
old fashioned page turners. The kind of books that keep you
up at night, promising yourself you'll 'only read one more chapter,'
then finishing that chapter and deciding to 'only do one more,
for real this time.'"
Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, Missouri):
"There are many good science fiction authors today who are familiar
with the most cutting-edge science and could provide us with
accurate views into the future. Robert J. Sawyer is one such
author. Many of his novels merge high-tech concepts with more philosophical
topics such as identity and awareness."
The Denver Post (Denver, Colorado): "Sawyer writes
books with truly original ideas. He is adept at presenting novel
scientific possibilities that resonate with the lives of his
The Davis Enterprise (Davis, California):
"Whenever I hear the adage that science fiction one day will
become science fact, I think of Sawyer's novels. He explores the
hard science behind some of our most sought-after advances, and
he also discusses what they'll do to our psyches and morals."
Prof. Paul Fayter (York University): "Sawyer is
recognized internationally for his liberal humanity, his
stimulating ideas, and his deft and sensitive characterization."
The Financial Post (Toronto): "Sawyer is
preoccupied with momentous SF issues, albeit filtered through a
The Gainesville Sun (Florida): "Sawyer is a
brilliant stylist who depicts daily-life events with a shattered
The Globe and Mail (Toronto): "What sets Sawyer's
work apart is the rigour of his research, the shapeliness of his
arguments, and the plausibility of his predictions and
The Globe and Mail (again): "Sawyer sells so well in
Canada because of his celebration of our culture; citizens seek him out for both a good story
and affirmation of our identity. By writing about us, he has pried himself
loose from the SF purgatory and onto the bestseller lists."
The Globe and Mail (again): "Robert J. Sawyer is by
any measure one of the world's leading (and most interesting)
science-fiction writers. Sawyer's fiction is a fascinating blend
of intellectually compelling big ideas and humane, enduring characters."
Terence M. Green, author of
Shadow of Ashland:
"Robert J. Sawyer is a master at tackling the Fascinating Big
Idea, shaking it, twisting it, and then extrapolating it into
all its myriad tributaries. If you want a vision bigger than
yours, bigger than your neighbor's, read Sawyer, sit back in
wonder and pleasure, and enjoy the ride."
James Gunn, author of The Listeners:
"Sawyer's work is sophisticated in SF terms
because it displays an awareness of everything that has gone
before while building engaging new scenarios with believable
The Halifax Mail-Star: "Sawyer's novels
intelligent, literate, and immensely readable explorations of the
biggest ideas there are prove that science fiction is now
LabLit.com: "If this doesn't sound like your father's
science fiction, it isn't. Sawyer's novels are thought-provoking,
literate, erudite and often thrilling. They manage to appeal to both
the heart and the mind. Those are considerable accomplishments, and
not something your average adolescent-aimed space opera or even
Crichton-esque thriller can hope to achieve. This is lab lit
writ large and executed with style."
Mississauga Life: "The best thing about reading
a Robert J. Sawyer novel is how much
smarter I feel after I'm done. Sawyer is a writer of hard
science-fiction that is, his novels are full of rigorous
scientific detail. He spends months researching before he starts
Mystery News: "Sawyer is on a par with giants like
Asimov and Heinlein and, perhaps more than any other
science-fiction writer working today, he understands that it's a
genre about ideas."
New Scientist: "[Sawyer's work is] scientifically
plausible, fictionally intriguing and ethically important."
The New York Review of Science Fiction: "Sawyer is
well-known for careful background research on his novels."
The Ottawa Citizen: "The hallmarks of a Sawyer
novel are the sheer fun and big ideas of the Golden Age of
Science Fiction combined with modern, literate, flesh-and-blood
John Robert Colombo in
The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature:
"Sawyer binds together concerns about technology and compelling
storylines in masterful ways."
Clifford A. Pickover, author of Surfing Through Hyperspace:
"Sawyer's books always rich in
science, action, and profound thinking never
fail to surprise, delight, and cause us to
transcend our ordinary thinking. I've read
Crichton, Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, King, and
Koontz and Sawyer outdoes them all."
Prince George Citizen: "[Sawyer's] prose is clear,
conversational and confident."
Publishers Weekly: "Sawyer's writing vies for
timelessness by plumbing eternal philosophical and ethical questions,
albeit in a futuristic setting."
Quill & Quire: "A polished, exciting writer.
Sawyer writes with the scientific panache and grandeur of
Arthur C. Clarke [and] the human touch of Isaac Asimov."
Quill & Quire (again): "Sawyer's strength as a
science-fiction writer is the way he can synthesize complex
scientific ideas in an accessible manner and extract philosophical
meaning from them."
Quill & Quire (again): "A blurb on the jacket of
the latest novel from Robert J. Sawyer, suggests
that he be considered 'Canada's answer to Michael Crichton.'
Talk about damning with faint praise. While the financial implications
of the comparison are attractive, Sawyer utterly outstrips Crichton
with the richness of his imagination, the breadth of his
research, and his skills as a writer."
Raven Lunatick: I loved [Quantum Night]. Loved it. It
had all the things I've come to expect in a Robert Sawyer book well
researched high concept science fiction, interesting characters, Canadiana,
philosophy jokes. If you've liked his previous work, you'll like this one.
If you haven't read anything by Robert J. Sawyer, why the hell not?
Reading his books is like riding a water slide; you jump in one end and
whoosh through the twists and turns until you pop out the other side."
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado): "Here are
a few of the things I like about Robert J. Sawyer: His novels are
fast moving and tightly constructed; his characters are
developed so that I care what happens to them; the science in
his science fiction is intrinsic to the plot but not so arcane
that readers have to be nuclear physicists to understand it; and
he doesn't imitate others or himself."
Robert J. Sawyer, quoted in
a cover-story profile in
Quill & Quire, May 2007: "My job is to
carve away the jargon and leave behind the awe."
Sacramento News & Review: "Like all great science fiction,
Sawyer's work ultimately stirs up philosophical questions."
John Scalzi, author Old Man's War: "Cracking open a new
Robert Sawyer book is like getting a gift from a friend who visits
all the strange and undiscovered places in the world. You can't
wait to see what he's going to amaze you with this time."
SFScope: "Sawyer's story-telling style is almost invisible
to the reader; he doesn't get in the way of his own story, and
writes short, punchy chapters that keep the reader saying `just one more.'
([He writes] the type of book I love when I've finished, but hate while I'm
reading, because I can't put it down.) His characters are fully
realized, and I always finish his books wanting more."
Susan Schneider, University of Pennsylvania, in
Science Fiction and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell):
"If you read science fiction writers like Stanislaw Lem, Isaac Asimov,
Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Sawyer, you are already aware that
some of the best science fiction tales are in fact long versions
of philosophical thought experiments."
Science Fiction Quarterly: "Sawyer's novels tend to
address directly contemporary issues, and though he never shies
away from controversy, his approach is never less than evenhanded."
Science Fiction Weekly: "Over the past decade,
Robert Sawyer has developed into one of science fiction's most
reliable authors, producing a long series of superior novels.
His books generally feature compelling plots and likable characters
in believable near-future venues, with interesting new technologies
and engaging themes about what it means to be human, all written
in prose of near-Asimovian clarity."
Adam-Troy Castro in
Sci Fi magazine: "When people call science fiction a
literature of ideas, they mean Robert J. Sawyer. His works don't
just introduce the idea and get out of the way so a plot can be
hung on it; they hinge on the idea, exploring it from every angle,
through the medium of characters who are perfectly willing to
discuss its ramifications at great length, while we watch. It's
heady stuff. But Sawyer provides plenty of food for the heart
SciFi Dimensions: "Robert Sawyer's novels have
always been accessible tales that deal equally with ideas and characters."
Sci-Fi Bulletin: "Robert J. Sawyer may now be best known
as the author of the novel that inspired FlashForward, but he's
been writing for many years, garnering numerous prizes along the way.
His stories are accessible, combining thriller elements with scientific
discourse there can't be many writers around today who use the
climax of Star Trek: The Motion Picture,
Gerry Anderson's Captain Scarlet, the Planet of the Apes saga,
and the 1983 movie WarGames as reference points in their novels."
Seattle Weekly: "Sawyer's science-fiction novels are about what happens when you introduce one high-concept sci-fi element to an otherwise ordinary world. He then spends the rest of the book examining the ramifications of that collision. His newest, Quantum Night, uses experimental psychology and quantum physics to explore human nature."
SFFaudio: "Sawyer is a fantastic structural writer, a craftsman
capable of laying out the ideas in just the right order. We get meaty
philosophical thought experiments and thus pure HARD SF."
SFFaudio (again): "Sawyer uses science fiction to create
circumstances that make us readers think about important ideas in
different ways and from different perspectives. That's exactly the
kind of science fiction I love to read, and why I'll keep coming
back to Robert J. Sawyer for more."
SFRA Review: "Sawyer writes sharp, clear,
seemingly effortless prose."
SF Signal: "There's something about Robert J. Sawyer's novels
that strike a pleasing science fictional chord. They encompass all
the things I like about science fiction, like cool `What if?'
extrapolations, portrayal of technology that leads to thought-provoking
ideas, strong characters and engrossing plots."
Rodger Turner on SF Site: "Robert J. Sawyer writes
my favorite kind of science fiction. Interesting characters,
fast-paced plotting, science threaded elegantly into the prose
he does it all with grace and style. I am constantly amazed by
the depth of Sawyer's characters their humanity, their
failings and their instincts."
SF Site: "When it comes to blending cutting-edge science
with complex philosophical
ruminations, there are few authors more talented than
Robert J. Sawyer. Sawyer is one of those rare SF authors who is able
to approach complex scientific concepts and humanize them with
believable characters, rich dialogue and all too real moral and
philosophical dilemmas. Sawyer's work is a rich, intelligent and
entertaining form of contemporary literature."
SF Site (again): "Sawyer is one of a handful of Science
Fiction authors working in the field today who is able to blend
together a myriad of philosophical, moral, and even legal concepts,
with futuristic extrapolations based on real scientific principles.
In essence Sawyer's writing does what the very best Hard Science
Fiction should do: it uses complex technological concepts to show
us what it means to be human. In short, in all of Sawyer's vast body
of work, the science as entertaining, and thought provoking as it
may be is always a secondary consideration after his well crafted
characters and careful study of humanity itself, and it is this
purposeful balance that elevates Sawyer's work from Science Fiction
escapism into the realm of high literature. In Hard SF in particular
it is difficult to create believable characters that the reader
cannot help but sympathize with, but Sawyer manages to do it
yet again with a skill and clarity that most mainstream
literary writers would envy."
SideTrekked: "Reminiscent of Heinlein at his
Talebones: "Robert J. Sawyer's books do what I wish all
SF did: include good scientific extrapolations without sacrificing story."
Toronto Life (1997): "Robert J. Sawyer is very good at
what he does. His novels, informed by a probing intelligence,
are seamless blends of SF, mystery, and argumentative essay. He
is right to demand serious attention to his work."
Toronto Life (2000): "Sawyer is a master of his craft.
He's deft with the science, has a light touch with the big questions
and is even occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. His books do what good
science fiction should: force you to think laterally,
Toronto Life (2010): "Sawyer's fast-paced prose blends
adventure and philosophical exploration, riveting readers to implausible
narratives populated by talking space dinosaurs; dimension-shifting,
bisexual Neanderthals; and six-legged aliens (who infiltrate the ROM).
They're also meticulously researched examinations of modern culture
in the face of world-altering progress. He pits spirituality against
pragmatism and shows characters at their most vulnerable, usually within
recognizable Canadian settings. It's like CanLit on meth, and he has
made addicts out of thousands of middle-aged sci-hards."
Philip Marchand in The Toronto Star:
"Sawyer knows what all sitcom writers and too few novelists know,
which is that the interplay of plot and subplot provides half the
spark of a good read. If an author is to present imaginative and
speculative scenarios based on real science, he must convince the
reader he knows what he's talking about, and this Sawyer
certainly accomplishes. [Sawyer's work] demonstrates beyond
a doubt that the human appetite for transcendence, for a way
around our obvious physical and mental limitations, is as great
among scientific rationalists as it is among traditionally
Henry Mietkiewicz in The Toronto Star:
"Sawyer hasn't locked his gaze single-mindedly on the starships
and aliens of the far future. For him science fiction is
a practical, hands-on way of speculating about the way today's
breakthroughs may affect us the day after tomorrow.
Henry Mietkiewicz in The Toronto Star
(again): "It's hard to think of a modern science-fiction author
with dreams as vast as those of the internationally acclaimed
Robert J. Sawyer. He possesses an uncanny knack of injecting
freshness into timeworn material."
Henry Mietkiewicz in The Toronto Star
(again): "Sawyer compels us to think in a
concrete way about concepts that we usually dismiss
as being too metaphysical to grapple with. As he
is clearly aware, the essence of science fiction
isn't starships, robots or virtual reality, but a
unique philosophical inquiry into the evolution of
the human spirit."
Minister Faust in VUE Weekly (Edmonton, Alberta):
"A key but oddly rarely-mentioned element of Sawyer's canon
is its pacifism. It's easy for any writer to fry up clean-your-plate,
finger-licking-good stories when all it takes is dousing the meal in
violence-sauce; Sawyer's literary project argues not only that violence
isn't the solution in life, but that it needn't be the solution in
Andrew Weiner, author of
Getting Near the End:
"Sawyer's strong grounding in science allows him to write convincing
'hard' science fiction in the classic tradition of Isaac
Asimov and Robert Heinlein. At the same time, he writes
fluent, literate prose about believable and interesting
characters. There are many SF writers who draw on science,
many more who write and characterize well. But the
combination of the two qualities is extremely
unusual in modern SF; in the Canadian SF field, it is
Here's what one reader had to say about Rob's books in an
unsolicited e-mail in December 2002:
The last SF book I read was required reading in my college
Popular Literature course. Whether because it was SF or just
because it was required reading I hated it and
haven't read another SF book since.
I heard you a few months ago on CBC Radio discussing
Hominids. It sounded interesting
and since I live in North Bay, reading a book set in Sudbury made
me even more curious. But what really got me was when you
encouraged everyone, especially those who either had no interest
in SF or had already decided they didn't like it, to pick up a
book and read it. Not necessarily yours, you said, but any good
To put this to the test, I did not choose
Hominids because it already sounded
interesting. Instead I picked up
Illegal Alien. Hell, Aliens are in
the title so I knew I'd hate it. But you were right. I'm
hooked. Hominids was next and I've
read a couple of others since.
What I really like about your books is that they aren't really
what I have always considered Science Fiction. They're fiction
that happens to contain science. That may be only a subtle
difference, but it's enough.
Now I've got my wife interested and she would never pick up a
book that we would normally consider SF ("No really. You'll like
it. It's not like it's all about aliens and stuff. Well, OK,
there are aliens in one of them and Neanderthals in another ...
no, it's not anthropology ... look, it's just like the thrillers
you read ... and one of them is set in Toronto so it's kind of
cool when he mentions streetcar stops we know ... except the
streetcars hover ... and another is in Sudbury ... and another
place that isn't Sudbury but is in the same location except in a
parallel universe .... Look, just read it OK?).
Thanks for converting me.
More Good Reading
Humor in the SF of Robert J. Sawyer (MP3)
Robert J. Sawyer's awards and honors
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