Robert J. Sawyer

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Robert J. Sawyer in 2005

Robert James Sawyer (born 29 April 1960) is a Canadian science fiction writer, dubbed "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by the Ottawa Citizen in 1999. He describes himself as a "hard science-fiction writer." His work often delves into metaphysics, à la Arthur C. Clarke, and philosophy; he very much comes from the school that says science fiction is the literature of ideas.


  • It embodies, perhaps more clearly than anything else I've written, the central theme of all my work: namely, that clearheaded, unflinching, rational thinking is the only effective way to deal with reality.
    • Introduction to You See But You Do Not Observe, originally published in Nebula Awards 31, p. 189

End of an Era (1994)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace ISBN 0-441-00114-9
Note that the chapters in the book are numbered in reverse order
  • “Good luck—and God protect.” I was sure that little reference to God was for the sake of the network cameras. Ching-Mei was an atheist. She only had faith in empirical data, in experimental results.
    • Countdown: 19 (p. 9)
  • Adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify verbs, advertisers modify the truth.
    • Countdown: 16 (p. 47)
  • It turned out that big-bucks science had been a purely mid-twentieth-century phenomenon, starting with the Manhattan Project and ending with the fall of the Soviet Union.
    • Countdown: 13 (pp. 81-82)
  • “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
    I shook my head. “Have you ever noticed how many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities come at the end of a person’s life? Count me out.”
    • Countdown: 9 (p. 111)
  • Failing to act is a decision in and of itself.
    • Countdown: 7 (p. 129; italics in the original; catchphrase repeated often in the book)

Starplex (1996)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace ISBN 0-441-00372-9
  • Throwing some light on the subject had only made the mystery deeper.
    • Chapter 3, (p. 41)
  • Jag barked dismissively. “Philosophy,” he said. “Not science. They just want to believe that.”
    • Chapter 16, (p. 164)
  • “God,” he said under his breath.
    “All the gods,” replied Jag, softly, “are a very, very long way from here.”
    • Chapter 19, (p. 215)
  • You are spoiled by being a sociologist, Lansing. In the hard sciences, we occasionally have to face the reality that some of our theories will actually be disproven.
    • Chapter 19, (p. 218)
  • “But you get along with humans now, which is something my people are having trouble managing. How do you do it?”
    Longbottle barked, “Accept their weaknesses, welcome their strengths.”
    Jag was silent.
    • Chapter 23, (p. 266; Jag is a pugnacious alien; Longbottle is a dolphin)
  • “What arrogant fools we are!” said Jag. “Don’t you see?” To this day, despite all the humbling lessons the universe has already taught us, we still try to retain a central role in creation. We devise theories of cosmology that say the universe was destined to give rise to us, that it had to evolve life like us. Humans call it the anthropic principle, my people called it the aj-Waldahudigralt principle, but it’s all the same thing: the desperate, deep-rooted need to believe that we are significant, that we’re important.
    • Chapter 24, (p. 276)
  • It had to begin somewhere—maturity, the stage after the midlife crisis, peace. It had to begin somewhere.
    • Chapter 25, (p. 278)
  • “Children play with toy soldiers,” said Keith, looking now at Jag. “Child races play with real ones. Maybe it’s time all of us grew up a bit.”
    • Chapter 25, (p. 278)

Frameshift (1997)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor ISBN 0-812-57108-8
  • There was a small crucifix above the door to his room; it had been there since he’d been a little boy. He stared up at the tiny Jesus—but there was no point in praying. The die was cast; what was done was done.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • ...but there, because there is no grace of God, go I.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 179)
  • He cursed himself for thinking anything this complex would end up not being a source of problems.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 184)
  • “‘Justice,’” he said, his breath coming out raggedly as he quoted another Nobel laureate—at that precise moment, he couldn’t remember which one—“‘is always delayed and finally done only by mistake.’”

Factoring Humanity (1998)[edit]

All page numbers are from the trade paperback edition published by Orb ISBN 0-765-30903-3, 7th printing
Nominated for the 1999 Hugo Award.
  • “Well, that can happen. Memories can be implanted, even just through suggestion and constant repetition. And if a therapist augments that with hypnosis, really unshakable false memories can be created.”
    “But why on earth would a therapist do that?”
    Heather looked grim. “To quote an old Psych Department joke, there are many routes to mental health, but none so lucrative as Freudian analysis.”
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 62-63)
  • “Cheetah is an APE,” said Kyle. “You know, a computer simulation the apes humanity.”
    “I really do find the use of the term ‘ape’ offensive,” said Cheetah.
    Kyle smiled. “See? Genuine-sounding indignation. I programmed that myself. It’s the first thing you need in a university environment: the ability to take offense at any slight, real or imagined.”
    • Chapter 29 (p. 245)
  • Kyle was both deeply great and deeply flawed—peaks and valleys, more and less than she’d ever thought he was.
    But, she realized, whatever he was now, she could accept it; the fit between them wasn’t ideal, and probably never would be. But she knew in her heart that it was better than it could be with anyone else. And perhaps acknowledging that was as good a definition of love as any.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 273)
  • The fundamental of war has always been dehumanizing the enemy, seeing him as a soulless animal.
    • Chapter 41 (p. 342)

Flashforward (1999)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor ISBN 978-0-8125-8034-1
  • He who foresees calamities suffers them twice over.
  • And Canadians didn’t like guns, either—they had no Second Amendment, or whatever damned thing it was that made Americans think they could go around armed.
    • Chapter 9 (pp. 95-96)
  • Free will is an illusion. It is synonymous with incomplete perception.
  • You’re right to be skeptical—the world would be a better place if we were all a little less credulous.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 137)
  • There may be oodles of possible humans, but it is a finite number.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 167)

Calculating God (2000)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor ISBN 0-812-58035-4
  • You humans seem to have a profound capacity for ignoring obvious evidence.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 23)
  • Not wanting to die was another universal constant, it seemed.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 70)
  • I did learn one valuable lesson, though.
    I learned that you can’t choose the ways in which you’ll be tested.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 77)
  • Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 137)
  • As one of my Jewish friends has been known to observe, the Jews who survived World War II were either now atheists or hadn’t been paying attention.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 140)
  • I do remember her favorite expression: the Lord works in mysterious ways.
    Perhaps so. But I found it hard to believe he would work in shoddy, haphazard ones.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 165)
  • I believe the creator may have a specific reason for wanting a universe that has life in it, and, indeed, as you say, for wanting multiple sentiences to emerge simultaneously. But it seems clear beyond dispute that the creator takes no interest in specific individuals.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 170)
  • I guess what it means is this: to be human is to be fragile. We are easily hurt, and not just physically. We are easily hurt emotionally, too. So, as you move through life, my son, try not to hurt others.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 204)
  • Sagan may not have believed in the God of the Bible, but he at least allowed the possibility of a creator.
    Or did he? Carl was no more obliged to believe what he wrote in his sole work of fiction than George Lucas was required to believe in the Force.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 227)
  • The Lord works in mysterious ways. Mrs. Lansbury had always said that. Everything happens for a purpose.
    Such bull. Such unmitigated crap. I felt my stomach knotting. Cancer didn’t happen for any purpose. It tore people apart; if a god did create life, then he’s a shoddy workman, churning out flawed, self-destructing products.
    • Chapter 24 (pp. 230-231)
  • Still, you must know that the fear of death is irrational; death comes to everyone.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 235)
  • “And of me you ask which choice you should make?” said the translator’s voice.
    “Yes,” I said.
    There was the sound of rocks grinding, followed by a brief silence, and then: “The moral choice is obvious,” said the Wreed. “It always is.”
    “And?” I said. “What is the moral choice?”
    More sounds of rocks, then: “Morality cannot be handed down from an external source.” ... “It must come from within.”
    “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
    The Wreed wavered and vanished.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 309; ellipsis represents a minor elision of description)
  • Must God be defined in a way that places him or her beyond the scope of science?
    I’d always believed that there was nothing beyond the scope of science.
    And I still believe that.
    Where do you draw the line?
    Right here. For me, the answer was right here.
    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.
    • Chapter 34 (p. 326)

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