A Review Of “Calculating God” By Robert J. Sawyer

Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
Rating: Rating: 8 out of 10 stars (8/10)

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 (atheism, 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.