Factoring Humanity

  • by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
  • 9 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the near future, a signal is detected coming from the Alpha Centauri system. Mysterious, unintelligible data streams in for ten years. Heather Davis, a professor in the University of Toronto psychology department, has devoted her career to deciphering the message. Her estranged husband, Kyle, is working on the development of artificial intelligence systems and new computer technology utilizing quantum effects to produce a near-infinite number of calculations simultaneously.
When Heather achieves a breakthrough, the message reveals a startling new technology that rips the barriers of space and time, holding the promise of a new stage of human evolution. In concert with Kyle's discoveries of the nature of consciousness, the key to limitless exploration - or the end of the human race - appears close at hand.Sawyer has created a gripping thriller, a pulse-pounding tour of the farthest reaches of technology. Factoring Humanity is a 1999 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.


What the Critics Say

"[T]his is exciting, readable science fiction that will take you where no one has gone before - and you'll never forget the ending." (Amazon.com review)
"An intelligent and absorbing double-stranded narrative." (Kirkus)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Novel alien first contact

Sawyer has crafted a novel twist on a first contact theme. This near future tale has earth receiving for the past 10 years, alien messages (one every 30 hours). Beyond the initial set that contained formulas for chemicals, the remainder have been inscrutable.Our main characters are estranged husband and wife professors focused on quantum computing and psychology, respectively. The wife has been engaged with a world wide effort to decipher the messages and makes the seminal breakthrough after the messages mysteriously stop. While all of this is occurring, the couple is also dealing with accusations of sexual molestation by their only living daughter. What follows as a result of her "cracking" the alien messages would delight Freud and Jung, but at the same time will render her profession obsolete.

Conceptually, this work is ambitious and quite engrossing. Sawyer has identified a novel mechanism for an alien encounter that does not involve either warlike aggression on the part of the aliens, nor engender an equally militaristic defensive posture on the part of earth. Some of the actions of characters are downright petty when the full power of the alien message/gift is made clear, but then Sawyer keeps the focus on the individual. At the same time, Sawyer also glosses over the ramifications of alterations in societal organization as a result as well.

The narration is solid and inviting with a more than adequate range to handle the diversity of characters. Overall, this is well suited for a beach listen or transcontinental flight.
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- Michael G Kurilla

just a bit blah

I really enjoyed some of Sawyer's earlier work. The Neanderthal/Human/Hybrid series is brilliant - well developed characters and relationships with depth that we really came to care about, all mixed carefully balanced with clever, innovative and well developed scientific speculation and a plot that moves along very nicely and holds it all together. However, as time goes on his work becomes more and more like excerts from a science paper, and all the characters seem flat, everyone is so completely scientifically adept in the same exact way and always on the same page with each other and so quick to launch into a lecture/intense conversation about the ins and outs of the science involved. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of speculative science in my science fiction, but I like it worked into the story, not trumping the story. In this the story and characters seem more like a vehicle for a very long winded essay of some kind... or like some dream nerd scenario (and I use the word nerd with the utmost of respect) in which people sit around debate this stuff endlessly... That and the preoccupation with religion and the relentless preoccupation with Canadianism vs. Americanism (which is so prevalent in this one it becomes a bit embarassing at times) are really changing Sawyers work and style. Some might like that but it isn't my cup of tea and I really think his earlier work was much stronger and much more compelling and entertaining.
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- Grace C.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-03-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios