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Calculating God | [Robert J. Sawyer]

Calculating God

In this Hugo-nominated novel, an alien walks into a museum and asks if he can see a paleontologist. But the arachnid ET hasn't come aboard a rowboat with the Pope and Stephen Hawking (although His Holiness does request an audience later). Landing at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the spacefarer, Hollus, asks to compare notes on mass extinctions with resident dino-scientist Thomas Jericho.
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Publisher's Summary

In this Hugo-nominated novel, an alien walks into a museum and asks if he can see a paleontologist. But the arachnid ET hasn't come aboard a rowboat with the Pope and Stephen Hawking (although His Holiness does request an audience later). Landing at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the spacefarer, Hollus, asks to compare notes on mass extinctions with resident dino-scientist Thomas Jericho. A shocked Jericho finds that not only does life exist on other planets, but that every civilization in the galaxy has experienced extinction events at precisely the same time. Armed with that disconcerting information (and a little help from a grand unifying theory), the alien informs Jericho, almost dismissively, that the primary goal of modern science is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods.

BONUS AUDIO: Author Robert J. Sawyer explains how the creationism vs. evolution debate informed the writing of Calculating God.

  • 2009 Audie Award Winner, Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • ©2000 by Robert J. Sawyer; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Is Sawyer Canada's answer to Michael Crichton? Very possibly yes." (Montreal Gazette)
"Jonathan Davis...is one of our very best narrators and this is a fine performance. I was rapt the entire time, and even near tears at one moment in the book." (sffaudio.com; named an SFFaudio Essential)
"Jonathan Davis portrays a thoughtful and quietly introspective Jericho....As the conversation with Hollus continues, Davis keeps a steady pace and reflects the intellectual engagement of both characters. He presents the alien's speech as lightly studied, a fitting style for a non-English speaker who coordinates his speech between two mouths." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (2509 )
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4.2 (1854 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Dann Los Angeles, CA, United States 02-25-11
    Dann Los Angeles, CA, United States 02-25-11 Member Since 2009

    My preference for a good story is something totally unusual and not run of the mill stuff. Give me something I haven't heard before.

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    "Good story"

    Interesting story. Well written with a lot of good visuals. I read the authors' comments before I listened to the book - which I wouldn't recommend. It kind of tainted it for me. But if you look at this as a fictional story then it's interesting.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ali Shafai Mascot, Australia 08-11-14
    Ali Shafai Mascot, Australia 08-11-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Argument from authority"
    Would you try another book from Robert J. Sawyer and/or Jonathan Davis and Robert J. Sawyer ?

    Don't think so.


    Has Calculating God turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Not at all


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    disapoointment


    Any additional comments?

    I was expecting a lot more, but all the book does is giving you hundreds of examples of argument from authority. The fictional alien believes in a God, therefore there must be one...

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 06-12-14
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 06-12-14 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

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    "Deus Ex Machina"

    Imagine an argument with great links missing from its logical chain. Then imagine simply inventing links of fact to fill the gaps... Links fit into place with welds blended and blurred by strong emotional distractions.

    A deus ex machina is a literary or sophist trick... an ancient device that Wikipedia defines as a seemingly unsolvable problem which is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object.

    Robert J. Sawyer does that here in Calculating God... quite enchantingly. He "proves" the case for diesim by... well I use the word enchantingly in a couple of its meanings. It is much like a fascinating fairy tale that absorbs and charms you. And it is also a magical yarn that fits as well into the realm of fantasy as sci-fi. Indeed, it's an ingenious blend which proves nothing yet, seems to. Uh-huh, here the "calculations" and the "proof" are just like a guy suddenly and abruptly whipping a rabbit from a hat.

    He does it so well, you forget that he's contrived to bring both a certain kind of hat, baggy-sleeved jacket, and well... his own unexpected rabbit.

    Sawyer's good. And while you're enjoying this "calculatiion" ignore the man behind the curtain. There's nothing to see there... Just move along past :-)

    Oh, and Jonathan Davis, or whoever... reads the book ... um... enchantingly.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jen 04-26-14
    Jen 04-26-14 Member Since 2007
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    "A Book Most of Us Could Benefit From."

    This book is completely out of my normal genre. I loathe futuristic just a tad less than books about aliens. Somehow the synopsis rang to me and I am the better for it. I LOVED this book and I am the better for having read it.

    The characters were rich and complex, the drama often left me on the edge of my seat and listening longer than I should have. It brought a lot of thought to me in my reading and I am sure would make a fantastic group discussion. Though I found Thomas Jericho to be overly self-centered, he stirred compassion within me. What a wrestling match!


    Nothing beats a Johnathan Davis narration.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josh Sacks 04-25-14
    Josh Sacks 04-25-14 Member Since 2010

    quirkyllama

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    "Implausible philosophy dialogue disguised as SciFi"
    What would have made Calculating God better?

    I stopped listening about halfway through, so maybe it got better, but I found it too boring to continue.

    SciFi is often structured around mysteries. CG starts off with an interesting premise about implausible coincidences, but then quickly devolves (pun intended!) into a long-winded philosophical dialogue also involving quantum mechanics and morality. There's no real mystery- Sawyer seems to be spelling everything out. As I said, I didn't make it all the way through, but the side-plots seemed trite and derivative.

    I didn't care at all about the protagonist- there's nothing interesting about him, no conflict, no background that makes you care about him. So he's dying of cancer and has an implausibly young kid. His character is paper-thin.

    The philosophy is pure bunk- CG doesn't ever tackle to the hard epistemological questions, like "who created god?" which make theism so useless.

    The physics is also worse than useless- why have characters spout-off physics nonsense for 5+ pages? Just have the authority say "it is so" and make your plot point.

    The Morality discussion is also the worst sort of clap-trap. I don't need another scene where aliens are shocked (shocked!) at human-on-human violence. Please. It's the worst sort of kinderschool-style morality. Read Jon Haidt if you want to have a better understanding human morality.


    What could Robert J. Sawyer have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    The first few chapters are really good. The alien intro is really well done. The introduction of a core mystery showing evidence of an implausible coincidence is classic SF and also well done (if introduced a little abruptly). But from there it goes nowhere for 100+ pages.
    We spend way too much time in a Socratic dialogue with the alien. A dialogue which introduces nothing more interesting than the original implausible coincidences.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric San bernardino, CA, United States 07-26-10
    Eric San bernardino, CA, United States 07-26-10 Member Since 2003
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    "Old tired Arguments in a new wrapper"

    First, the Author's preface is insulting. He hopes that the reader will have an open mind and not reject the (totally laughable) arguments out of hand as those Close minded atheists who require evidence for things do.
    Then he proceeds to set his token (straw-man)atheist/scientist up in a "fox hole" of cancer, and trot out a bunch of refuted and tired arguements for hte existance of some undefined form of god (please note that the god mentioned in the story by the aliens is Absolutely NOT any god that is worshiped by any mainstream religion.
    The Flagellum is a motor argument (irreducibly complex) was totally disproven at the Dover Case. Devolves into an "argument from ignorance", (I can't think of a way that it happened so it must have been god) which is backed by a populist argument (We all believe you must be wrong because there are more of us)
    When he went to the Cosmological constant tinkerer argument I wanted to scream at the book (especially since he wrote several other stories that deal with the Multi-verse hypothesis ans should know better)
    Problem of Evil, he seriously trots out the "Best of all possible worlds" argument (this must be the best world that there could be since god wouldn't make it otherwise)
    Mr. Sawyer should stick to science fiction in which he does his research. This book was just a sad attempt to bolster a non-existent argument with really bad arguments.


    If you want a better example of Sawyer's writing then listen to the Neanderthal Parallax. That was actually thought provoking and a fun listen.

    If you want good Sci-Fi by a Canadian Author then listen to Spider Robinson.

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlos F Peza 09-29-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Enjoyable"

    I really enjoyed it. :-)

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lehua Volcano, HI, USA 05-14-09
    Lehua Volcano, HI, USA 05-14-09 Member Since 2002
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    "Treasures within Treasures"

    In addition to finding that all the praise this novel has received is well deserved, I was surprised by the rich humor and tenderness I found. Herein are the biggest questions of all, and I've never seen any other writer compete with Sawyer's absorbing and engaging presentation/journey. This is one of the very rare books that I would call a "must read."

    11 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D.James 02-08-09
    D.James 02-08-09 Member Since 2004
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    "Calculating? God"

    Jonathan Davis and the author, Robert Sawyer do an excellent job of reading. All three books in the Neanderthal Parallax (also by Sawyer) are far better than this one. Calculating God", in short, is science fiction for creation "scientists," although I doubt very much that any believer in the biblical account of the creation of the universe would relate to the version of god presented in this novel. My main problem with the book with respect to its vision of a created universe, is that Sawyer employs all of the standard arguments of the creationist camp and fails to employ the strongest arguments against the existence of a creator. If you really want to learn something about the subject of this novel, listen to and then read Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion." You'll need to at least read Dawkins' book although the reading performance is worth hearing. Then, if you're feeling up to it, listen to this one. It's well written but weak in the respects noted above.

    38 of 64 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Reno, NV, United States 05-09-12
    Mark Reno, NV, United States 05-09-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Immediately bought it as a gift for my dad"
    Any additional comments?

    A very involving book that I bought for my paleontologist father before I even finished it. Among the thought-provoking parts: It gives the best arguments for a created universe, it makes you view death and God from new angles, and it creates aliens whose outlooks on life are shaped by how they evolved. Also, the action sequences are parceled out just often enough to keep the philosophical stuff from overwhelming the story. The narration was seamless with the story, as it should be. Oh, and in case there's any confusion, this book in no way supports Intelligent Design as pushed by those trying to get it taught in schools. (Anybody else hate how Audible now tries to make you respond to questions that get in the way of what you want to say?)

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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