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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,440 ratings  ·  333 reviews
Dr. Sarah Halifax decoded the first-ever radio transmission received from aliens. Thirty-eight years later, a second message is received and Sarah, now 87, may hold the key to deciphering this one, too... if she lives long enough.

A wealthy industrialist offers to pay for Sarah to have a rollback—a hugely expensive experimental rejuvenation procedure. She accepts on condit
Hardcover, 313 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,440 ratings  ·  333 reviews

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Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've enjoyed a number of Robert Sawyer's books, my favorites of his being the trilogy beginning with "Hominids." He is a concept guy which I appreciate as I like the ideas he presents. This book, "Rollback," was one I read for a science fiction book discussion group. It certainly gave us a lot to talk about.
The story is about Dr. Sarah Halifax, who decoded the first radio transmission from space. It takes 38 years for the second message to arrive. But, now, Sarah is 87, and may not be able to d
About halfway through "Rollback" by Robert J. Sawyer, I had a scathing review all ready to go. I hated the first half. There were way too many brand names used. There were way too many Star Trek references. There was this horribly long exposition about the movie "Contact" starring Jodie Foster. The couple around whom the story centers were born a year before me and I had a hard time relating to their thought processes. If I were reminiscing about a pizza dinner from 40 years earlier, I certainly ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is up for the Best Novel Hugo this year and it deserves it, although I'll reserve final judgment on that until I've read the other four in the category. It is a STRONG contender, though.

The year is 2048. Sarah Halifax, a SETI researcher, who cracked the first alien transmission to earth in 2009 and who helped craft the reply, is 87 and living in quiet retirement. On her 60th wedding anniversary, the aliens have responded with an encrypted message. A wealthy industrialist, convinced she
Megan Baxter
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
It's been over a week since I finished this book, which is definitely going to slightly change how this review will come out. If I'd written it as soon as I had finished, this would likely be a lot more ranty, and I am still annoyed, but the anger has lost its heat. It's too bad, because I was pretty worked up about this book, and, in particular, how it treats the female characters and what story it centers and how it's a retread of a theme that has come up in other Sawyer works but does nothing ...more
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a hard-science first-contact novel, with a very interesting look at communication and aging and finding the time to achieve life-long goals... with some dandy pop-culture references for Trekkers. Sawyer always provides challenging and thought-provoking plots, and this time he integrates enjoyable and engaging characters as well. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
this is an extremely character-driven book, to the degree that i wished for a little less dialogue. and certainly less posturing or lecturing, because boy is this book full of discussions where people preach the merits of this position or that. the fact that i shared some of his characters' beliefs? maybe that made it worse, i don't know. but it seemed heavy-handed.

there are some cool ideas, but the particular way he blended pop culture references in was somehow annoying rather than charming. e
Jason Pettus
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Regular readers know that July has been somewhat of a special month for me, in that I was accidentally able to get ahold of eight out of the twelve science-fiction novels nominated this year for either the Hugo or Philip K Dick award, and have been reviewing all of them here throughout the month; toda
The other John
Mar 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, sf
An interesting tale about an 87-year-old man who receives the "gift" of rejuvenation. The biggest problem was that it really wasn't intended for him. The year is 2048. Thirty-eight years earlier, Earth had received the first ever radio transmission from another world. Many folks puzzled over the message, trying to figure it out, but it was Dr. Sarah Halifax who made the breakthrough and allowed Earth to understand the message and respond. Now the second message has arrived and the main financier ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
I was favorably impressed by the Neanderthal series, but hadn't read any more of his stories until much later. This was a large failing of mine. Mr. Sawyer deserves all the credit he has garnered over the years and I'm looking forward to the rest of his novels soon! I really appreciated the study of ethics and responsibility with the tale. It was also nice to have a hollywood ending. I know it isn't for everyone, but sometimes it is absolutely called for. ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
First contact is made with an alien race on a star far away. Scientist who made the discovery is given an age rollback to make her younger so she won't die before second contact is made. The treatment doesn't work. Things get sticky after that. It was OK. Lots of cuddly human interest wrapped into what could have been a harder SciFi treatment. ...more
Storyline: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 2/5
World: 2/5

I think that Sawyer can best be appreciated by a very particular audience: Canadians that watch a lot of television and who do not have much science fiction reading experience. Take the Canadian thing first. It is obvious that Sawyer thinks Canada is great and wants everyone to know it. It is not a bad book strategy, that appeal to the vanity and familiarity of readers. I know I get a particular delight from reading about places that I’ve
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was a fun, easy read. Nominally sci-fi, it reads more like mainstream fiction. True, there are aliens, but they are 18.8 light years away. This book is about ethics. SETI finally recieved a radio message from the stars in 2009. Sarah was integral to decoding that message then, at age 49, and sending Earth's reply. Now in 2047, we've finally received a reply that nobody can figure out. Sarah, unfortunately, is in her late 80's now and knocking on death's door. But a super-rich SETI-love ...more
Jun 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
For brevity's sake, I've cut and pasted a synopis from the site from Publisher's Weekly: Astronomer Sarah Halifax, who translated the first message from aliens and helped prepare humanity's response, is 87 when the second, encrypted message arrives 38 years later. To aid the decoding, a tycoon buys rejuvenation treatment for Sarah and Don, her husband of 60 years; however, only Don becomes young again. While coping with the physical indignities of old age, Sarah tries to figure out th ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book has a fascinating premise: An astronomer decodes a message from an alien race who live on a planet 18 light years away. She sends a reply and 36 years in the future another message is received. However, she is now in her 80s. A rich supporter of scientific efforts to contact alien species offers to fund a "rollback": give the astronomer her youth again so she can continue to communicate with the alien species (at one point, someone says she is their penpal). She will only have the roll ...more
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was intrigued enough by the premise on the back of this book to buy it, but sadly it wasn't worth the money. It takes way too long for all the events described on the back of the book to actually happen and it's boring to wait for them to happen since you already know from the back of the book that they will happen. The book is set in 2048, was published in 2007, and yet the pop culture references within (Seinfeld, the movie Contact) already feel dated.

Once the "Rollback" occurs, I found the
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Hm. Not as good as Flashforward or Mindscan imo. But then, maybe I'm saying them because I read them all so close together? I dunno, but in this one I wanted more science, and more of other characters' points of view. This was almost entirely about Don, and he's still not quite real to me - I'm informed he's likable, even lovable, but I didn't much care for him. I really like Gunter and Sarah, though.

Anyway, it's not a bad book, and if you read SF for the What If ideas, you'll probably like it.
James Aura
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a bit lightweight for Sawyer, but I enjoyed it. The human interest he develops between the elderly couple and their scientific misfortune is very nicely done. The aliens are rather remote in this story (literally) but his portrayal of first contact was logical. I prefer Sawyer on the harder side of the SciFi scale, but it was entertaining.
May 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: liberal sci-fi fans (but not conservatives or religious)
First, what I liked:
The book had an interesting premise: it's about both first contact and aging (or the lack thereof - almost like time travel). Some of the concepts the explored about extra-terrestials were quite novel, blowing away some of the widely-held beliefs that were put in place by the likes of Carl Sagan.

However... there was a lot that I didn't care for in the book.

The first was the author's idea of what things might be like 30-40 years from now. I'm not talking about "futuristic" th
Cynthia Nomanee
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
After several months, I finally settled to finish the last pages of this book yesterday. After reading Illegal Alien by Sawyer (which I actually liked), I expected this book to be as equally thought provoking and enjoyable, but no.
I expected it to explore the scientific and philosophical concepts that were portrayed in the premise. The bio-engineering, the alien life, the ethics, the regaining of youth, the capability of human emotions by robots and all that other jazz. What I got instead was a
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Awesome story. Robert Sawyer has long been my favorite sci-fi author. His stories involved good science and futuristic thinking, but they also always involve very interesting human stories. In this case, humans have finally had contact with aliens. Over a long period of years due to the distance the information has to travel, a SETI researcher communicates with the aliens. This is the story of Dr. Sarah Halifax, who decoded the first communication from the aliens. After another 3+ decades, a sec ...more
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-read
Some people believe that good sci-fi might simply read like good fiction. If that's your take, Robert Sawyer's Rollback is for you.

Sarah Halifax is a scientist affilated with SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). When a message from Draconis Sigma is received, Sarah is the one who decodes it, and is one of 100 people whose response is included in the message sent in return. Because of the distance, the roundtrip for each message is 40 years. When a second message is received, Sarah i
Katya Epstein
Jul 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm in chapter 15 and I've decided not to finish reading it. The main character/narrator, Don, is just dull, in both senses. The interesting actions in the book are taken by the people around him; things happen to him. When he finally does make a decision for himself, it's so despicable and utterly thoughtless that I have no interest in finding out if he redeems himself. The part of the book that actually interests me, the mysterious message from outer space, is largely ignored; it seems to be t ...more
Someone in my bookclub suggested this book, and as far as books for bookclubs, this one should generate very interesting discussions when we do meet. To be fair to Robert J. Sawyer, it already has created an array of discussions around the kitchen table with my husband and kids. But, in many ways I feel it was not executed with the mastery it deserved. The author utilizes dialogue as a form of explaining ideas to no end, making the reading a bit tiring. The ending is too nice and the characters ...more
Diane V-R
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
I'm becoming a fast fan of Robert J Sawyer and this book has certainly cemented the relationship. Amongst many other things, it explores the relationship between a couple married for 60 years and the stress on their relationship when the husband (Don Halifax) has his age physically rolled-back to age 25 (or thereabouts). Sarah Halifax (the wife) remains 87 years old after her rollback is unsuccessful.

Sawyer raises many angles to this complex issue. Such as how would Don's 50 year old children re

3.5 stars

Octogenarian Sarah Halifax decoded the original message from Sigma Draconis. Now, the second signal comes in, and a billionaire eager to read it pays to rejuvenate Sarah and her husband. The rejuvenation process works for Sarah's husband, but not for her.

I've only read one other Robert Sawyer book (Illegal Alien), and didn't care for it much. But I saw this at a discount store, and the concept looked interesting. I'm glad I picked it up.

Much of the book is crowd
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwe2015
I make it no secret that I don't really enjoy Robert J Sawyer's books. So I'll pre-empt this all by saying that if you already didn't like a Sawyer book, you probably won't like this one either, though depending on which of his other books you disliked, this one will probably make you roll your eyes slightly less violently.

The problem is that he starts off with a science premise that sounds fascinating.

Ex: What if we were communicating with an alien race 18.8 light years away and we had a way to
Brent Werness
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
I hated this book. The jacket makes it sound like it's going to be about a brilliant female scientist communicating with aliens via radio lightyears away. No. It's a creepy old man's fantasy of being young again and sleeping with a hot young woman, with a tissue-paper thin veneer of "science fiction" about aliens and what would possibly make having a 'rollback' procedure be theoretically anything but gross narcissism. It's the kind of fantasy someone - some unimaginative white dude - would think ...more
Aug 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
A sweet little confection. The book is all set up to work through the philosophical implications of a radical life-extending medical treatment so expensive that only a handful of people on earth can afford it. Thrown into the mix are marital infidelity, the death of a longtime partner, and an alien radio transmission that amounts to a survey on species ethics.

This is a fun read, though the treatment of these topics turns out to be a bit shallow. Sawyer has lots of good and interesting ideas, but
Wes Metz
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hugo and Nebula winner: I have really gotten behind in reading quality science fiction; this was a good place to resume, as I have enjoyed his work in the past. He's noted for writing 'hard' science fiction, with considerable scientific content, but this one is really fairly soft. It deals with first contact with an alien race, and with the consequences of life extension technology. Altogether an enjoyable read. ...more
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Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada's best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.
Robert Sawyer grew up in

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