Calculating God

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Calculating God

by Robert J. Sawyer

Tom Doherty Associates | March 3, 2009 | Trade Paperback

Calculating God is rated 4.5385 out of 5 by 13.

An alien shuttle craft lands outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. A six-legged, two-armed alien emerges and says, in perfect English, “Take me to a paleontologist.”

In the distant past, Earth, the alien’s home planet, and the home planet of another alien species, all experienced the same five cataclysmic events at the same time (one example: the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs). Both alien races believe this proves the existence of God: i.e., he’s obviously been playing with the evolution of life on each of these planets. From this provocative launch point, Sawyer tells a fast-paced, morally and intellectually challenging story of ambitious scope and touching humanity. Calculating God is SF on a grand scale.

Calculating God is a 2001 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 8.26 × 5.48 × 0.9 in

Published: March 3, 2009

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0765322897

ISBN - 13: 9780765322890

Found in: Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Read I really enjoyed this book. It was heavy on the science but in a good way. I really grew to like the characters. This author is very good at his craft.
Date published: 2007-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Calculating God: The aliens have landed - and they are intelligent design advocates! If Calculating God hadn’t been written by Rob Sawyer, I would be reluctant to even start it. Why start a book that addresses the intelligent design controversy only in order to end up throwing it at the wall when the author turns out to know far less than a person can find out just by reading a single chapter of what a respected ID theorist actually says. But it was written by Rob Sawyer, … so I was looking forward to it. A prolific Canadian sci-fi author, Sawyer writes science fiction that draws on science and ethics/philosophy issues taken from the headlines. His premise is usually a what if - and better still, he delights in challenging stereotypes. What if, for example, the aliens land and, instead of trying to destroy New York or conquer Washington, they send a quiet (six-legged) scientist to a museum in Toronto? What if they are actually here on Earth on a religious quest, of sorts? I knew I was going to like the book at the point where the spidery being emerges from the space shuttle at the Royal Ontario Museum and says “Take me to a paleontologist.” But of course. The alien scientist Hollus is researching mass extinctions. There have been five mass extinctions on Hollus’s planet, Beta Hydri, and also on another one - and they occurred at the same time as Earth’s five great extinctions. A coincidence? Hollus doesn’t think so. Scientists on Hollus’s planet assume intelligent design is the correct interpretation of the features of our universe. What Hollus wants to know is, what exactly is the design? Because, at a certain point, advanced civilizations - a bit more advanced than Earth or Beta Hydri - simply disappear. Where to? How? Why? Should it be prevented? Can it be prevented? You can’t choose the ways in which you’ll be tested. - from Calculating God (2000) Sawyer’s work usually features lots of heady dialogue, which is okay because he generally links it securely to an action-packed plot. For example, one problem with seeing God exclusively as a designer - as Hollus does - is that most humans want more from God. The paleontologist who starts working with Hollus, Tom Jericho, discovers that he has lung cancer - an outcome of a life lived amid the dust of ancient bones- and thus he has a very limited life expectancy. So he wants more. He wants a cure for cancer, in fact. Unfortunately, neither the Forhilnors (Hollis’s species) nor the Wreeds (the other intelligent one) know a cure for cancer, or old age either. Not wanting to die was another universal constant, it seemed. - from Calculating God (2000) Somehow, that seems intuitively right. Cancer, an abnormal development in cells, riffs off normal development. Old age is the natural outcome of the fact that we live in time and space in a universe with limited physical resources. We cannot declare war on our universe, or change it dramatically either. Against such things, even the victories of advanced civilizations must be small and temporary. When new developments in the visible universe suggest that the aliens may actually get a chance to meet God at a certain point in spacetime, Tom decides to go away with them and die there. How do you define God? Like this. A God I could understand, at least potentially, was infinitely more interesting and relevant than one that defied comprehension. – Calculating God (2000) A sub-plot revolves around a couple of fundamentalist abortion clinic bombers - a shade too dumb, in my view - who moonlight by blowing up the “lying” Burgess Shale fossils that fascinate Hollus. But could these guys blow up a beach ball? I doubt it. It’s interesting to look at the question, post-911. Nine-eleven completely changed popular culture’s idea of a terrorist bomber. No longer is he a sweaty, two-neuron rube griping about liberal values - he is an intelligent Middle Eastern suicide aspirant, disgusted by Western depravity. Rob Sawyer, a Best Novel Hugo and Nebula Award winner, and winner of an awesome string of other awards, doesn’t disappoint, because he takes the questions he raises seriously and avoids simplistic answers.
Date published: 2007-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic work of science fiction Okay, so here's the deal: aliens land, and instead of "Take me to your leader," they say, "Take me to your paleontologist." Then, after giving a crash course in various evolutionary scales on a few planets where life started and grew to intelligence, they show some startling similarities in world extinction events... and posit this proves a God. Philosophy was never handled so well, and the protagonist of this tale is a remarkable character: a man dying of cancer who has - maybe - a chance to do something beyond significant with these aliens before he dies. The interaction between human and alien is poignant, as is his interaction with his family. Indeed, this is a character driven story, not a hard science fiction tale, and as such, I imagine those not usually interested in the genre would also enjoy this book. It's wonderful - heartrending in places - reading.
Date published: 2006-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Review Of “Calculating God” This is a science-fiction novel about aliens trying “to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods”. Due to cataclysmic events occurring simultaneously on different planets and the fact that life exists, the aliens think the universe was designed. When they arrive in downtown Toronto they ask to see a paleontologist to help them gather evidence of how life evolved on Earth, to further their theological “facts”. It’s a compelling start to the story, a skill the author excels at. What I liked: * Thoughtful ideas and dialogue about religion, faith, and God. This isn’t a religious novel; it’s a science-fiction story about the concept of creatures of such intelligence and control that they can manipulate stars. The protagonist is an atheist, so he’s incredulous about the aliens’ beliefs, trying to understand how intelligent beings can believe in a God, a God that permits cancer to exist, among other tragedies. * Fast-paced, visual story. It’s easy to picture the setting and circumstances; most everything takes place in a museum with only few characters. * The ending. A lot of reviews I’ve read didn’t like the novel’s ending; and although it’s predictable, it brings closure. The book makes you question why life evolved: with the chance of it occuring being so complicated and remote, there had to be some design behind it; yet you don’t get the impression the author is pushing any view onto the reader - it’s up to you to decide how to interpret the three radically different views presented (athesism, theism, and strict fundamentalism). * Cool title. * Fun for readers familiar with Toronto, where the novel takes place. What I didn’t like: * Pop-culture and product references. You could argue it gives a sense of time and place, but I can’t help think that the author’s getting paid for those endorsements, and that sours my appreciation of his work. * Clumsy writing style, but I suspect that’s part of its success: like Dan Brown’s over-rated novels, its style has mass-appeal. Sawyer has been called Canada’s Michael Crichton; he writes fast-paced, easy to read novels that tend to grab your interest from the first page. I’ve read most of his works, and I’ll continue doing so; I like his ideas and they’re an interesting, quick read; they’re good novels for when you’re on the road. Rating: 81/100
Date published: 2006-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Calculating God Good book and a very fast read. Fans of Science Fiction should thoroughly enjoy this entry. Does contain an unnecessary sub plot that comes to a head later in the book, but thankfully the author does not pursue it too much.
Date published: 2005-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent, Philosophical Read I am in grade 11 right now, and I found Calculating God on the shelf in my library and picked it up. I thoroughly enjoyed the way it questions beliefs many of us have and then turns around and attempts to prove those beliefs. I hadn't really thought about God in this way before, but it gave me something to believe in, and a sense of direction regarding religion. I also recommended it to a couple of my friends, who thoroughly enjoyed it as well. My only concern is that some religions may find it too controversial, so I would not recommend it to someone who would find radical views on religion, particularly on the existence of God, offensive. For me, it was a very interesting piece of fiction that definitely made me think.
Date published: 2005-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent novel! This was the first RJ Sawyer book I read, and he is now on my 'buy on sight' list. This novel in particular is fantastic: it's thoughtful, philosophical, funny, and heartbreaking. A must read for anyone, sci-fi fan or not.
Date published: 2004-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Calculating God This is an excellent novel that will make you think twice about our place in the universe and how we came to be.
Date published: 2003-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Amazing book. I'd suggest it to anyone who likes to discuss God's existance or non-existance. Right from the first page you are interested.
Date published: 2002-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sawyer's Best to Date! From the mind of Robert Sawyer comes yet another stunning novel from the SF King of Canada. Sawyer's "Calculating God," brings forth a wonderful variety of alien life - with some truly touching relationships - and teams them up with the painful story of a man in the decline of terminal cancer. When aliens land on earth and attempt to prove that they have calculated that God must exist, the philosophy, emotionality, and outright humanity blend in a truly wonderful way. This is Sawyer's best to date, and I was honestly moved.
Date published: 2001-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Proof that paleontologists are useful I very rarely get to read a book that I enjoy so much that I wish I hadn't read it so I could be thrilled all over again. This was a superb book. I happen to love biology, genetics and archeology so it was even more of a joy to read because it combined exciting science fiction - aliens and all - with extremely interesting science. Sawyer, in an incredibly believable fashion, combines fiction and fact to weave a facinating story that concerns us all. Who or What is God, how did we get here and what is our purpose - do we even have one? They are the age-old questions and the answer that this author reaches may surprise you. I particularly enjoyed Hollus - Sawyer breathed such life into this alien that its enough to make you wish that somewhere out there they do exist.
Date published: 2000-09-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Waterton I found Calculating God a good reed. God as refered to in the story is different than the God in religions groups today. Robert J Sawyer keeps your interest flowing during this current day Sience Fiction tale between a Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist and life from outer space. Well worth the effort.
Date published: 2000-08-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Calculating Excellence! Sawyer offers another winner! Set mainly at Toronto's ROM, and filled with references to recognizable local social and political circumstances, this novel is a good example of Science Fiction that is accessible to readers of contemporary fiction. Like in "Illegal Alien", Sawyer doesn't let a simple "alien contact" rule the entire plot, but instead injects irony, moral debate, suspense and dusts it with a sprinkling of scientific insights. The creation/evolution debate, and the discussions between a dying man and an alien that believes in God is fascinating and fuel for hearty "after reading" discussion. This is another clear example of how you don't merely read a Sawyer novel -- you are compelled to tear through pages to find out what happens next, but never at the expense of analytical thought and reflection.
Date published: 2000-06-01

– More About This Product –

Calculating God

by Robert J. Sawyer

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 8.26 × 5.48 × 0.9 in

Published: March 3, 2009

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0765322897

ISBN - 13: 9780765322890

Read from the Book

Calculating God 1 I know, I know--it seemed crazy that the alien had come to Toronto. Sure, the city is popular with tourists, but you''d think a being from another world would head for the United Nations--or maybe to Washington. Didn''t Klaatu go to Washington in Robert Wise''s movie The Day the Earth Stood Still? Of course, one might also think it''s crazy that the same director who did West Side Story would have made a good science-fiction flick. Actually, now that I think about it, Wise directed three SF films, each more stolid than its predecessor. But I digress. I do that a lot lately--you''ll have to forgive me. And, no, I''m not going senile; I''m only fifty-four, for God''s sake. But the pain sometimes makes it hard to concentrate. I was talking about the alien. And why he came to Toronto. It happened like this ...     The alien''s shuttle landed out front of what used to be the McLaughlin Planetarium, which is right next door to the Royal Ontario Museum, where I work. I say it used to be the planetarium because Mike Harris, Ontario''s tightfisted premier, cut the funding to the planetarium. Hefigured Canadian kids didn''t have to know about space--a real forward-thinking type, Harris. After he closed the planetarium, the building was rented out for a commercial Star Trek exhibit, with a mockup of the classic bridge set inside what had been the star theater. As much as I like Star Trek, I can''t think of a sadder comment on Canadian educational priorities.
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From the Publisher

An alien shuttle craft lands outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. A six-legged, two-armed alien emerges and says, in perfect English, “Take me to a paleontologist.”

In the distant past, Earth, the alien’s home planet, and the home planet of another alien species, all experienced the same five cataclysmic events at the same time (one example: the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs). Both alien races believe this proves the existence of God: i.e., he’s obviously been playing with the evolution of life on each of these planets. From this provocative launch point, Sawyer tells a fast-paced, morally and intellectually challenging story of ambitious scope and touching humanity. Calculating God is SF on a grand scale.

Calculating God is a 2001 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer is the Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids, the Nebula Award-winning author of The Terminal Experiment, and the Aurora Award-winning author of FlashForward, basis for the ABC TV series. He is also the author of the WWW series—Wake, Watch and Wonder—and many other books. He was born in Ottawa and lives in Toronto.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Calculating God:

“An enthralling story…. [The] climax [is] an exhilarating and touching glimpse of transcendence.”
--Starlog

“Vigorous speculation…Sawyer ends with some grandeur worthy of vintage Arthur C. Clarke.”
--The Denver Post

“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 that Samuel R. Delany once said was the sine qua non of science fiction. This is Sawyer’s great strength, and it’s fully present in Calculating God….A intellectual thriller with real bite.”
--The Edmonton Journal

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