[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
ROBERT J. SAWYER
Hugo and Nebula Winner


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Reading Group Guide

FRAMESHIFT

by Robert J. Sawyer

Many reading groups and book clubs have enjoyed novels by Robert J. Sawyer. The following questions may help stimulate an interesting discussion about Frameshift. (These questions might also suggest essay topics for students studying the book.)


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Note that these questions reveal much of the novel's plot; to preserve your reading pleasure, please don't look at these questions until after you've finished reading the book.


  1. The case of John Demjanjuk really happened as outlined in Frameshift. With the exception of Avi Meyer, all the characters portrayed in the Jerusalem trial scene are real people, saying things they actually said during the trial. Is it appropriate to blend fact and fiction like this? And are the parallels Sawyer raises between the Demjanjuk trial and both To Kill a Mockingbird and Judgment at Nuremberg fair? Likewise, how appropriate was Sawyer's invoking, elsewhere in the novel, Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech?

  2. The novel makes the case that it is in fact cruel to diagnose someone with the gene for a serious genetic disorder that hasn't yet manifested itself if there's nothing that can be done to prevent the onset of the disease. Would you in fact want to know if you had the gene for Huntington's disease?

  3. Sawyer seems to believe strongly that socialized medicine is the only solution that makes sense in the genetic age. Do you agree or disagree with him? Why?

  4. A few critics have suggested that Sawyer is unfair to men in this book, since the isolated glimpses of some of their minds that we see through Molly's telepathy are quite distasteful. Does Sawyer's take on men's private thoughts about women ring true?

  5. The novel's structure is unusual: it starts with neo-Nazi Chuck Hanratty's attack on Pierre Tardivel, and then about half the book is a series of flashbacks, going as far back as 1944, leading up to that event. Was this an effective way to structure the book? In interviews, Sawyer has said he tried drafting it three different ways: (1) in straight chronological order, starting with the Treblinka scene, and without the Hanratty attack occurring until its natural point in the narrative; (2) with the Treblinka scene as a prologue preceding the attack by Hanratty; and, (3) as presented in the final book, beginning with the attack, then flashing back to Treblinka. Did Sawyer choose the most effective sequence? On a related note, there are chapters that were cut from the novel detailing Pierre and Molly's lives before they met; the full text of these chapters is on Sawyer's web site at www.sfwriter.com/frlc.htm. Was he right to cut these chapters?

  6. Frameshift has several different plot elements: the Treblinka / Demanjuk arc; the Klimus and Amanda-clone arc; the insurance-company arc; Pierre's Huntington's disease; Molly's telepathy; and the discovery of a new layer of information coded in our DNA. Do you think they intertwine well? Were all of them necessary? (Hint: see the Frameshift structural analysis on Sawyer's web site at www.sfwriter.com/frstruct.htm for the author's own take on this question.)

  7. Molly wanted to marry Pierre despite knowing that he would become extremely disabled in only a few years. Would you have made the same choice Molly did?

  8. The novel touches on some of the moral quandaries raised by human cloning, in particular the question of who owns a clone. What impact do you think the ability to create clones will have on society? Should human cloning be banned?

  9. Many readers assumed that because Pierre is a geneticist, he will find a cure for Huntington's disease before the novel is over, thereby saving himself. This doesn't happen. Did Sawyer make the right decision? Is the end of the book a downer or is it uplifting?

  10. There's a religious subtext to the novel, especially in the notion that the broad strokes of humanity's development had been planned out by a creator. Can the hard scientific worldview portrayed in the novel ever be reconciled with matters of faith?


More Good Reading

Download this Reading Group Guide in Adobe Acrobat Format
More about Frameshift

Reading Group Guide Index
Reading Group Guide for Quantum Night
Reading Group Guide for Triggers
Reading Group Guide for Wake
Reading Group Guide for Rollback
Reading Group Guide for Mindscan
Reading Group Guide for Hominids
Reading Group Guide for Calculating God
Reading Group Guide for FlashForward
Reading Group Guide for Factoring Humanity
Reading Group Guide for Illegal Alien
Reading Group Guide for The Terminal Experiment
Reading Group Guide for End of an Era
Reading Group Guide for Golden Fleece


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