And then a terrorist bomb blows up the White House.
The associated electromagnetic pulse plays havoc with the hospital’s equipment and throws everyone into a panic. President Jerrison nearly dies on the table; when he returns, the memories that flash through his head belong to someone else.
The energies of Professor Singh’s device, twisted and amplified by the bomb’s EMP, have created links between the minds of an unknown number of people. Each of these individuals can access the memories of one other individual, though the links are not reciprocal, meaning that one of these people can know anything that the President of the United States knows – and no one knows who that person is.
With a top-secret military operation mere days away, can the puzzle of who is connected to who be solved before something happens to compromise national security? Especially if more than one of the people involved has something to hide…
First and foremost, Robert J. Sawyer is a rip-roaring good storyteller. This tale of quantum psychological intrigue is no different. It’s a science-fiction novel, to be sure, but in many ways, it is also a political thriller. And like a political thriller, there’s a fairly large cast. The danger there is too many underdeveloped characters, but Sawyer fleshes out his dramatis personae quite effectively.
But again, science fiction is the fiction of ideas – and Robert Sawyer’s got some. His work often displays a fascination with the nature of consciousness, and “Triggers” is no different. What role does memory play in defining what we do and who we are? It’s human nature to keep secrets – what if there was someone out there from whom you literally could not keep a secret? And another person who could not keep secrets from you? Our minds are our safe havens; Sawyer shows us what might happen if a stranger kicked open the door and let themselves in.
“Triggers” operates on both a global and a personal scale – sometimes simultaneously. By juxtaposing the problems of the entire world with the problems of individuals, Sawyer allows each equal importance. Each of these people deals with their new knowledge in different ways – and each deals with different consequences – but while there is ostensibly a “main character,” each character’s experience is valued. It makes for a rich and compelling narrative.
One of the great things about reading Robert Sawyer’s work is what happens after you put the book down. The ideas that he explores have a habit of sticking around. Novels that inspire real introspection and yet still manage to be entertaining are rare things, even in a genre of ideas such as sci-fi. “Triggers” is one of those novels.
There are few authors writing today that bring such a strong combination of literate storytelling and complex ideas to the page. Robert J. Sawyer is one of the best in the business right now, and “Triggers” is him at his finest.