Robert J. Sawyer is a Canadian Science Fiction author. His novels mainly deal with the conflict between science and mysticism/religion.
His works include:
- Golden Fleece
- The Quintaglio Ascension trilogy
- End of an Era
- The Terminal Experiment
- Illegal Alien
- Factoring Humanity
- Flashforward (which spawned a television series)
- Calculating God
- Iterations (collection of short stories)
- The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy
- Relativity (collection of short stories)
- Identity Theft and Other Stories (collection of short stories)
- The WWW trilogy
- Red Planet Blues
Tropes in Robert J. Sawyer's works include:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Terminal Experiment provides an interesting example in that the AI in question started out as human. The protagonist is a scientist who's trying to test his theories of the soul using his friend's brain-scanning technology. They scan a copy of all the linkages in his brain into a computer database and make three versions-one is unaltered from the original as a control, the second has all linkages relating to the body removed as a simulation of life after death, and the third has all linkages relating to knowledge of death and dying removed as a simulation of immortality. Eventually the consciousnesses break out into the electronic world at large. Then people negatively involved with the protagonist's life start winding up dead. Now the protagonist has to figure out which version of himself is capable of killing other human beings. It was the unaltered version that was a straight copy of his own brain. It knew it was a copy and decided since it could get away with the murders it would go right ahead.
- Big Brother Is Watching You: Presented as a good thing in The Neanderthal Parallax and the WWW Trilogy. Sawyer also believes this in Real Life.
- Brain Uploading: The premise of Red Planet Blues, Mindscan and to a lesser extent The Terminal Experiment.
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: In Rollback, Coca-Cola and Pepsi merged at some point in the mid-21st century. The protagonist is delighted he never has to hear a waiter apologetically ask "Is Pepsi okay?" ever again.
- Do Androids Dream?: Mindscan features a technology for copying a human personality into immortal android bodies. The elderly and people suffering from terminal illnesses undergo this process, being replaced with the copy before leaving for an extralegal moon base to live out their last days in luxurious retirement. However when one of the recipients finds out that a cure has just been discovered for his condition and wants to take his old life back from his copy the legality and humanity of the android duplicates is brought into question.
- False Rape Accusation: Both played straight and thoroughly subverted in Factoring Humanity. The main character is accused of molesting his daughter, and he is known to the reader (but not the other characters) to be innocent. A major plotline involves him striking up a friendship with a teacher who was falsely accused of raping one of his students. They discuss how their allegations have affected them and the older peer comforts the main character. Near the end of the story the teacher admits that he actually did it.
- First Contact Math: This fails in Calculating God. Transmissions to Delta Pavonis go unnoticed by the native aliens, because they have a brain structure that makes them incapable of doing math.
- Hive Mind: The end of Triggers features humans' evolving into one due to accidental Mental Fusion, which in a subversion is presented as Earth becoming a utopia.
- Informed Attribute: The Wreeds supposedly evolved brain structures that are incapable of comprehending numbers larger than 46, but to whom the solutions to ethical quandaries that vex humans are as obvious and self-evident as simple arithmetic are to us. When they're asked to actually answer our ethical quandaries, however, they get very squirrely.
- Intelligent Gerbil: Sawyer is the Trope Namer for this.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Subverted with the Neanderthals in The Neanderthal Parallax books, who never had a concept of an afterlife or gods to begin with due to different brain structures (though played straight with the finale of the trilogy, when a magnetic pole reversal people's minds across human!Earth by first stimulating, then eliminating paranormal, mystical or religious beliefs. With them gone, peace breaks out in the Middle East, among other improvements).
- Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: End Of An Era features time travelers who pop into the end of the Cretaceous to discover that Earth's gravity was purposefully modified by Martians in order to breed biological war machines (aka dinosaurs) against a fifth planet in the Solar System orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. In the end, the scientists cause the KT Extinction Event by turning off the anti-gravity generators, simultaneously killing off both the dinosaurs and the Martians. Essentially, phlebotinum created the dinosaurs. Taking it away killed them.
- Portal Network: Starplex features a network of portal points spanning the entire universe. All the points begin dormant but come online whenever something touches them. Sometimes they're opened by random debris, but most are activated deliberately by advanced civilizations. The points are only detectable using subspace technology, which means no race can activate its point and join the galactic community until it reaches the technical level of at least basic FTL. It actually turns out that the points are time portals, created by engineers from the future so they could visit the past. The fact that they're spatially connected, facilitating galactic commerce and infrastructure, is really just a side effect.
- Stay with the Aliens: In Calculating God the aliens take the main character, who happens to be dying of cancer, with them.
- Turing Test: Subverted in the WWW Trilogy, where an AI emergent from mutant web packets with a damaged time-to-life counter is proven to be intelligent on account of how it *fails* the Turing test.
- More accurately, it proved that it/he actually was an AI rather than a human with a really good internet connection who was up to something. The AI in The Terminal Experiment, Mindscan and Red Planet Blues pass automatically, since they are copies of human minds.
- What Measure Is A Non Hu Man: In Red Planet Blues and Mindscan the claim is made that humans who upload their minds into android bodies are not people afterward, on the belief they have no souls, which in Mindscan is answered by asking "How do you know they don't have them?" Red Planet Blues just treats this as a quaint religious idea that most people don't bother with.