on November 23, 2003
This book has an intriguing idea for an alternate history of the earth. And, true to Sawyer's roots, it takes place in Canada and mentions real Canadian locations and institutions, such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum of dinosaurs in the badlands of Drumheller, Alberta. Two scientists go back 65 million years to the extinction of the dinosaurs, to try to verify the cause. The expedition is launched from the Royal Tyrrell Museum Field Station at Dinosaur Provincial Park in an under-equipped time capsule. What they find is much more than just dinosaurs. They find an alien life-form from Mars using the dinosaurs as vehicles. The two scientists disagree on whether to bring the aliens forward in time to save them from the drying-out of Mars.
There's another twist to the tale: this is about alternate histories, after all...
As usual, Sawyer's prose is no more than workmanlike, but he keeps us intriqued with a flow of new ideas, cutting between his alternate histories, and enough personal conflict and feeling to get us involved with his main character.
Robert Sawyer restores the "science" in "S-F" as no other writer can. As he transports two men 65 million years into the past, he offers us a sampling of everything from the anthropic principle through geology to zoology. He's able to reconcile the paradoxes raised by time travel [including a nod to the most famous example, Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder"] and set them aside plausibly. Sawyer also illuminates the contribution of Canada's researchers in nearly all these disciplines with subdued fervour. And scourges politicians for their failure to support science. All this in just over two hundred pages is no small feat.
The theme of End of an Era recounts the probable cause of the dinosaurs' extinction. Sawyer uses the story to review the thinking resulting from the Alvarez proposal that a wandering asteroid so disrupted the environment that all the large sauropods died out, leaving the planet an open niche for mammalian life. If an asteroid didn't kill off the dinosaurs, what did? The most discussed option is an era of massive vulcanism which would have the same effect. But Sawyer, with his gift of imagination, introduces a new option. Again, his concept has a sound scientific base and he describes it at some length. His presentation is impressive and well delivered. And a terrifying surprise.
Along with his scientific foundation, Sawyer paints realistic characters. The protagonist is a paleontologist with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto [Sawyer's lucky, he lives close to his sources], and one can't help but wonder who the model might be. Brandon Thackeray, in the midst of devastating mid-life crises, is chosen as one of the two time travellers. His team-mate couldn't have been a worse choice for such an assignment - he's taken up with Brandon's ex-wife. Miles Jordan might be forgiven that affair, but will never live down taking packages of Twinkies into the Cretaceous. Sawyer hints that Tory cutbacks have eliminated psychological testing for this unique journey, but still, this is some pair to cram together in a time machine.
Sawyer's thinking challenges any reader unfamiliar with the science he introduces. His brief scenarios of research and theories cover much territory in a restricted space. While welcome and necessary, they don't leave enough room for plot in such a short book. Regrettably, his very skills in offering science force the story line over a bumpy path. There are parallel story lines in this book which take some unravelling. While his characters are realistically portrayed, the book might have been fleshed out a bit. Readers of Sawyer's other work know he's fully capable of expanding his persona. With a shade more depth, this book could have become a classic in speculative ["science"] fiction instead of just a very good read. Even if Sawyer's not at the top of his form here, his innovative thinking
remains captivating to the discerning reader.
on January 9, 2006
Dinosaurs are fantastical creatures that once existed. How cool is that?! Stories about dinosaurs are cool too, if told well. End Of An Era is a fun, quick read about scientists travelling to the Mesozoic, hoping to figure out why dinosaurs became extinct, when they discover that aliens had something to do with it. The story has elements of Robert Heinlein's classic The Puppet Masters, along with interesting facts about dinosaurs, and a compelling story.
All of Sawyer's books are interesting to read, and I've read most of them. My main complaint is his writing style: it's simple; he seems to intentionally write with little imagery or style, using colloquialisms and cultural references too much. Yet, his ideas are fascinating, and he knows how to get his point across. I've read most of his books more than once; they are fun to read.
on January 13, 2002
The last book I read by Robert J. Sawyer was "Calculating God", which I think was a phenomenal book. Hoping for another book on the same level, I got "End of an Era". It's quite uncommon that an author writes two superb novels in a row - however, this time Robert J. Sawyer absolutely did it! "End of an Era" was a fantastic, fabulous story and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. It contains everything a good science fiction story should have: a great idea, great writing, face pace, hard science, and themes which remain with you long after you finish the book. And believe me, you won't forget this book for a while.
As for the plot: Brandon Thackery, a Canadian Paleontologist (sounds familiar? his previous protagonist from "Calculating God" was also a Canadian Paleontologist) is being offered the chance of a life time: go back in time 65 million years, and actually witness the dinosaurs - and hopefully, see what killed them. Along with Brandon comes his best friend/nemesis (he stole Brandon's wife) Miles "Klicks" Jordan. Once they arrive to the past, they are surprised to find a few unexpected things.. First, Earth's gravity is about a 1/3 of what it should be. Second, there is a second moon to the Earth. Third, and most surprising, the earth is populated by enigmatic aliens, which apparently can control the dinosaurs. I am sure you're already intrigued, and trust me, this book promises AND delivers!
In my opinion, this book would literally appeal to everyone: for those who like action and adventure, as well as those who love serious themes. The book continues the ideas started in "Calculating God", although is a bit lighter and less serious. To summarize: terrific book - can't wait for the next Robert J. Sawyer book who has already become one of my favorite authors.
on January 1, 2002
Very interesting book for a number of reasons:
1. Rather like a short story in feeling, or perhaps 'novella' is
a better name for it since it is 222 pages long
2. Light style, humorous, but fundamentally serious in that the
consequences of the decisions that the main character was
forced to make were far-reaching and cataclysmic in nature;
the motivations of the main character are crystal clear and
3. The whole way through it was surprising and entertaining, and
thought-provoking also (don't expect its extinction theory to
be the answer to that particular question, though)-- and
despite that fact that the reader knows that the dinosaurs
are going to go extinct, the ending is unexpected
4. Excellent story telling, good pacing, good vocabulary, good
humor, real feelings, real reactions to relationships
(And as a side note, if you haven't read 'Kirinyaga' by Mike Resnick, do. It is amazing.)
on November 18, 2001
End Of An Era has it all for Sci Fi fans: time travel, alternate time lines, alien vistors, multi-planetary space wars, an explanation of the end of the age of dinosaurs, a solution to the riddle of dinosaur gigantism, fist fights, blue slime, Jamaicans and a Jeep. What more could you ask?
But what makes this book worth reading is that it isn't just another sci fi story. Sawyer lays out the plot line so that is a combination mystery, soap opera, and suspense novel. His writing style is very streamlined - no extraneous characters, words, or plot lines. It is written in the perspective of Dr. Thackery, and we share his fears, self-doubts, tortures, and conquests. In this sense, the author forces us to share in his experiences first hand.
Sawyer is also quite adept at adding humor. Some spots managed to be laugh-out-loud funny. Imagine talking to aliens who have learned your language, but cannot distinguish slang and insults from deadpan serious truth. Sawyer also pits his two main characters against each other - former best friends turned rivals in love and career.
This is a well-written story, full of humor, tension, and surprises. Truly something for everyone here. I loved it!
on November 29, 2001
Once again, Sawyer brilliantly melds a sympathetic character with an intriguing scientific premise.
If you love time travel and dinosaurs like I do, then read this book. But, more than that, if you're interested in the plight of a man who's been wronged by his wife and best friend, who is torn over the dreadful decision about a loved-one, then you really need to read this book.
And Rob's idea for the dinosaur extinction has to be one of the most fascinating and unique that I have ever read.
Unlike one of the other reviewers, I do not have a problem with the small amount of quantum mechanical "hand-waving" that occurs. After all, if you know anything about quantum entanglement or superposition, then you'll realize that quantum physics isn't very far from hand-waving itself.
Every time I see a picture of a triceratops now, I chuckle ... and wonder.
Pick up this novel. You're in for one hell of a ride.
on October 13, 2001
I've now read every book of Rob's that's available in print, as well as having met him and interviewed him for my website. He's a phenomenal writer. Anyone interested in science fiction should read his books to see how it should be done.
Most SF books have two or three innovative ideas. Rob's is full of them. For END OF AN ERA (the first book the wrote, but the second published) it's sort of like THE TIME MACHINE meets WAR OF THE WORLDS. How he can weave as many creative concepts together, while still giving a strong sense of character and plot, is amazing to me.
The basic plot is about 2 paleontologists who go back in time, through a very intriguing process called the "Huang Effect," in an effort to learn what caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. They land, discovering all sorts of unexpected things... gravity is less, the Earth has 2 moons, and ... aliens are on the planet.
on November 18, 2002
This one really got me thinking. Dinosaurs infected with intelligent viruses? Like Dinotopia meets The Body Snatchers. Time travel. This one's got just about every sci-fi gimmick imaginable. A very intriguing read, but don't expect it to be very believable. Compare another recent dinosaur saga, Dinosuar Wars, and you get a very different take on what happened at the end of the Dinosaur Era. I think I enjoyed Dinosaur Wars better for its believable return of the creatures, and the fact that they weren't occupied, as in End of an Era, by intelligent viruses that controlled their activities. It's safe to say this book is far fetched. But it's fun.
on July 30, 2002
If you are looking for a entertaining "what if" type author, Robert Saywer is the author to buy. As for this book, I was quite happy with the idea behind it and the way the story was presented. The book is page-turner right from the start. The only problem I had was the length. I wish I could have had more time in the world that Saywer created. It felt like the story was over as soon has it started. It seems like this book could have had 100 more pages and added to the story. However, this is still a great book worth reading.