SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Calculating God > Review Excerpts
Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God
"Spectacular. Much of the novel is relatively cerebral, but Sawyer
excels at developing his protagonists into full-fledged characters,
and he adds tension to his story in several ways. This is unusually
"I always look forward to Robert J. Sawyer's books. One reason
is that Sawyer is just about the best science fiction writer out there
these days: compelling stories, believable scenarios, science and fiction
that really interact. But the main reason is that after reading and reviewing
several Sawyer novels, I know that each book he writes will be unique.
I think it is safe to say that no book of popular science
fiction exists that is remotely similar to Calculating God.
In an effort to convince Tom Jericho of God's existence, Hollus uses
scientific laws and the mathematics of probability. His arguments
are the most convincing I have seen since Thomas Aquinas maybe more so.
I have always thought that a good novel keeps readers turning the pages
to find out the fate of characters they care about. But for
fiction to be called literature, the story should stay with readers
and keep them thinking about it long after the book has been put away.
It is safe to say that Sawyer has accomplished both with
Denver Rocky Mountain News (which named
Calculating God the best SF novel of the year, and
included it on their list of the year's best books of any type)
"Prepare to have your preconceptions challenged. Genre writers
frequently ride their hobbyhorses, dragging readers behind them,
choking on clouds of dusty facts. Sawyer is an exception; he
deals with potentially hard-to-digest material paleontology,
genetics and stellar phenomena airily transforming it into
entertaining, albeit lengthy, discussions on the nature of God.
For those who like to ponder the roles of science and religion,
it is a delicious summer read: intelligent, emotionally
engaging, peopled with interesting characters and driven by a
thoughtful narrative that does not shy away from confronting
profound questions. How can you go wrong?"
The Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper
"Sawyer won the 1995 Nebula Award; his latest novel,
Calculating God, is bound for similar kudos. It's an
action-packed yet highly philosophical, theological and ethical
story. Well-melded into the fast-paced plot, a wonderful
dialogue goes on over the God question and over right, wrong and
the purpose of life. There is nothing preachy-teachy at all,
just a good yarn with some solid food for the brain. It's
guaranteed to expand the minds of believers and non-believers
Tom Harpur in The Toronto Star
"An engrossing and nuanced novel, full of food for thought and meat for
meditation, the sort of epistemological gavotte that reminds us why
God invented science fiction in the first place."
James Morrow, author of Towing Jehovah
First on Borders.com's Best SF&F of 2000 List:
"When a book begins with a UFO landing in the middle of Toronto followed
by a spider-like alien emerging and demanding `Take me to a
paleontologist,' most readers would simply shudder and return it to the
shelf in search of more weighty fare. However, in Sawyer's sure hands
this opening launches us on a profound moral and scientific inquiry into
the nature and existence of God. Sawyer spares us the acrobatics of
space opera and instead spins a provocative, intellectually challenging
and yes! entertaining sci-fi tale in the best tradition of the
Borders.com's Tractor Beam newsletter
"Engaging and stimulating, raising huge questions in accessible and
"A near-future thriller; a provocative examination of religion,
science, and cosmic disaster."
"Compelling to the final page, Robert J. Sawyer's
Calculating God is not to be missed by
fans of science fiction, religious history, philosophy
or even thriller fiction, an intelligent and challenging
work that is quite comparable to Sagan's classic Contact."
Curled Up With a Good Book
"Succeeds on multiple levels as science fiction, with a premise compact
enough to generate intriguing dustjacket copy yet complex enough to sustain
an entire novel. Utilizes dialogue to discuss theories of cosmic
significance without seeming to lecture the reader too much. Tight, quick,
The New York Review of Science Fiction
"Provides the reader with self-searching moral and philosophical
speculation, as well as solidly grounded scientific theory that
characterizes good hard-science science fiction. A delightful reading
experience because, to read it, you have to think about some pervasive
human questions that cut across a range of intellectual disciplines.
Reminiscent of the impact one could expect from early Arthur C.
Clarke or Asimov. Sawyer returns us to the sense that the universe is
huge and unexplored, and as full of hope as it is of doom. It also
arouses passion for right and against wrong, makes aliens more
sympathetic than many humans, and appeals to our basic sense of wonder.
Yet it is a simple, straightforward story, as enchanting to a teenager as
to a woman in her fifties."
"Sawyer once again demonstrates his wild talent for innovative,
iconoclastic storytelling as he relates a thought-provoking,
sobering, yet wryly compassionate tale of one man's discovery of
timelessness even as his own time is running out."
"An enthralling story. The climax is an exhilarating and touching
glimpse of transcendence."
"Exciting and emotional. Sawyer smoothly combines ethical questions
and comical dialogue in a highly absorbing tale."
"As always, Sawyer manages to deftly weave in heavy, hard science
exposition without the reader feeling a thing. Sawyer's is the
kind of expository dialogue most writers drool over the thought
of achieving, and the issues he raises will keep you thinking
a long time after you put down the book.
Calculating God is a must for any SF fan's reading
"Engaging and thoughtful. A novel full of deeply insightful
speculation on the universe at large and humanity's place in it;
an electrifying mix of old-fashioned alien contact as well as
pertinent, enthralling conjecture."
Barnes and Noble's official review,
by Tom Piccirilli
"Inventive, fast-paced, and alternately funny and touching,
Calculating God sneaks in a well-researched survey of evolution
science, exobiology, and philosophy amidst the banter between
Hollus and Jericho. But the book also proves to be very moving
and character-driven SF, as Jericho in the face of Hollus's
convincing arguments grapples with his own bitter reasons for
not believing in God."
Amazon.com's official review,
by Paul Hughes
"Elegant, intelligent leave us staring off into the middle distance,
sorting out all the new things that are wandering through our minds.
If you think science fiction is kid stuff, flying saucers and ray guns
and bug-eyed monsters, read Calculating God and think again."
Winnipeg Free Press
"Religion asks the Big Questions. Robert J. Sawyer, cutting to
the bone, likes to work with an equally large canvas: all of
time and space. Calculating God, intelligent,
entertaining, provocative SF, is where they intersect."
Terence M. Green, author
of A Witness to Life
"A new novel by Robert J. Sawyer is always a major event.
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. Calculating God
is most compelling when Jericho and Hollus debate the role of
circumstance in the origin of organic life, taking in
quantum theory, paleontology, evolution, biochemistry, and astronomy."
Quill & Quire
"Sawyer presents, in a very entertaining and interesting way, arguments
for and against God's existence. I can think of no better way to present
these topics than this lively novel, and I'll recommend it to anyone
interested in thinking about these things, no matter which side of the
fence they are on."
"Vigorous speculation. Sawyer ends with grandeur worthy of Arthur C. Clarke."
The Denver Post
"Focusing on theological and biological ideas,
Calculating God is, perhaps, Sawyer's most
intellectual novel to date. He handles the various arguments and
Jericho's attempts to deal with his doubts in a masterly way,
which keeps the book's pace rapid. Sawyer has written a book
which will lead to much thoughtful consideration of the issue
of God's existence."
Steven Silver's Reviews
"Sawyer is one of the best science fiction writers in the business,
and his novels are well-crafted ruminations on big ideas. If the
words `science fiction' conjure up images of spaceships, ray guns,
and bug-eyed monsters, settle down with this novel and
discover that, in the right hands, some science fiction can be
"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, abstractly big."
"Sawyer has once again crafted a novel that makes readers think
about things they may have never considered before, which is
definitely Sawyer's strength as a writer."
The Orlando Sentinel
"An ambitious and extremely funny science fiction adventure;
Sawyer captivates with his witty characters and intriguing plot.
Calculating God explores a vast range of current
issues. Along the way, dinosaur and fossil aficionados will have
plenty to sift through, feminist thinkers will enjoy the twists,
environmentalists will sense the urgency of an impending sixth
mass extinction, and those familiar with Ontario politics may
chuckle as the Harris government takes a few raps on the knuckles.
Fast-paced, well-researched and imaginatively conceived,
Calculating God is the most captivating work of
science fiction I've read since Carl Sagan's Contact."
Victoria Times Colonist
"As if such a premise wasn't politically incorrect enough in the
broader literary world, it's darn near blasphemy in the sci-fi
subculture. But that seems to have done nothing but liberate Mr.
Sawyer and the novel he's written as a result has more fun, more
challenging ideas and more humanity in it than a whole stack of
nanotechnology and artificial intelligence driven
"If sci-fi is literature that leaves you thinking as it
thoroughly entertains you, then Sawyer's Hugo and Campbell Award finalist
Calculating God is a paragon of the genre.
Sawyer treats with heady themes that seldom are explored so
well and so memorably. Don't miss it."
"An intellectual and emotional blockbuster from one of the
powerhouses of science fiction. Sawyer packs his latest
novel with insights about evolutionary biology that go beyond
Stephen Jay Gould, musings about our place in the cosmos
that recall Carl Sagan, all served up in an exquisitely human
tale of heartbreak and soaring spirit. One of his best!"
Paul Levinson, author
of The Silk Code
"Sawyer is first and foremost a writer of ideas, some
concept that can drive a narrative through to a grand conclusion,
one that remains true to science but often achieves that sense of
transcendence. This is Sawyer's great strength, and it's fully
present in Calculating God. As usual, the premise
is astounding. Sawyer has created a very intriguing figure in
Jericho, whose scientific mind is the battleground of ideas in
the novel. It's a tribute to Sawyer's own enthusiasm for science
that he makes the various arguments Jericho has with his new
alien friend and others so exciting. Calculating
God is a fine read, an intellectual thriller with real
Douglas Barbour in Edmonton Journal
"This is a terrific tale. Fans of cerebral science fiction will
relish the visit from a theistic evolutionary ET spider."
More Good Reading
More about Calculating God
Robert J. Sawyer's awards and honors
What's a Rob Sawyer novel like?
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