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Reading Group Guide
by Robert J. Sawyer
Many reading groups and book clubs have enjoyed novels by Robert J. Sawyer.
The following questions may help stimulate an interesting
discussion about Rollback. (These questions
might also suggest essay topics for students studying the book.)
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Note that these questions reveal much of the novel's plot; to
preserve your reading pleasure, please don't look at these questions
until after you've finished reading the book.
- Don mentions his old list of ten things he once wanted to do before
he dies. What would be on your own list of such things? Why do
you think Don has such a list but Sarah apparently doesn't?
- Sawyer asserts that rather than exchanging scientific knowledge,
aliens will really be more interested in exchanging culture. Do you
agree? There's a reference in the text to Carl Sagan's quip about
not sharing Bach, because "that would be bragging." What human
works do you think would be of greatest interest to aliens? What
sort of thing would you like aliens to send to us?
- The premise of Rollback is tragic: both members of
a happily married couple are supposed to be rejuvenated, but only
one of them is. How would you react if the treatment had succeeded
for you but failed for your spouse? What about if it had failed for
you, but succeeded for your spouse?
- Do you believe Sarah when she says she would have left Don if their
situation had been reversed? Are there any circumstances under which
it would have been right for Don to leave Sarah? What would you do
under similar circumstances?
- Did Don really need to break up with the young grad student, Lenore,
or could he have kept the affair going dealing with a legitimate
physical need? Did Don break up with her because he's from an older
generation that is more uptight about sex? Does morality actually change
from generation to generation, or is it just that most people go through a
liberal-to-conservative transition as they age?
- What did you think of Don's relationship with Lenore? Can a
relationship that has such a disparity in life experience ever
be one of equals? Was it on a more even footing by the end of the book?
Did you like Lenore?
- Gunter's caregiver role in the novel could have been played by a
real human being. Why did Sawyer choose to make Gunter a robot? Why
do you think Gunter showed more loyalty to Sarah than to his creator,
- Much of the novel explores whether there are ethics that transcend
species boundaries. Do you think there are absolutes in morality,
and, if so, what are they? Can we at least agree that something as
straightforward as the golden rule do unto others as you would
have them do unto you is probably universally shared?
- Rarely, if ever, are adulterers portrayed positively in
fiction or in real life. Does Sawyer succeed in making Don
a sympathetic character? Are there things Don does in the book that
you can't forgive him for?
- Do you feel that SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is
a worthwhile investment of time and money? Sawyer argues that SETI is
a wonderfully altruistic undertaking, because it goes counter to our
usual desire for immediate, short-term gratification. Do you agree with
him? If not, what things, if any, do we do as a species that are altruistic?
- Sawyer jumps decades ahead in the epilogue. Were you pleased to
see this glimpse of the characters' future, or would you have rather
it had been left as an exercise for the reader's imagination? What did you
think of the world of 2067 Sawyer (briefly) portrays.
The final assessment
of Sarah given at the end of the book is from Lenore. Should she have had
the last word, or should it have come from Don, or someone else?
More Good Reading
Download this Reading Group Guide in Adobe Acrobat Format
More about Rollback
Reading Group Guide Index
Reading Group Guide for Wake
Reading Group Guide for Mindscan
Reading Group Guide for Hominids
Reading Group Guide for Calculating God
Reading Group Guide for FlashForward
Reading Group Guide for Factoring Humanity
Reading Group Guide for Frameshift
Reading Group Guide for Illegal Alien
Reading Group Guide for The Terminal Experiment
Reading Group Guide for End of an Era
Reading Group Guide for Golden Fleece