With the TV show airing Sept. 24th at 8pm (or Sept 25th at 8, as ABC has decided to air the premier twice) I decided to read the book. The trailers look amazing. The premise is interesting. So I wondered where the story came from.
The book was originally published in 1999, with the original experiment that is believed to have caused the flashforward happening on April 21st, 2009. It's odd reading a science fiction book, looking to the future, about a future that's just passed. Sort of like reading 2001: A Space Odyssey in 2008 and wondering how humans failed to make all that amazing science come true.
One of the main differences between the book and the show is the time span of the flashforward. In the show it's a mere 6 months in the future that the world glimpses. In the novel it's a little over 20 YEARS. Which caused problems for me. The willingness of people to fundamentally change their lives due to a glimpse of 2 minutes of an (in my opinion) uncertain future 20 YEARS AWAY seemed rather farcical. How can 2 minutes show you enough to tell you your life will be entirely bad/good to the point that you'd need to radically change how you live, etc. now?
*** Minor Spoilers Ahead ***
With a few exceptions. Obviously if you learn that you'll be murdered, as Theo does, you'll want to learn how and by whom. But in general, the number of people going out of their way to affect their futures based on a short glimpse seemed strange. Any number of things could happen to cause those events - and people probably wouldn't consider even a small portion of them (like how you assume you know how a person is about to die in the TV show DEAD LIKE ME and then something totally ridiculous happens that you'd never could have foreseen).
One character commits suicide because he sees himself working at a restaurant in 20 years. That's it. He decides he failed in his dream of becoming a novelist and can't live with that. I was left wondering how that brief glimpse of the future proved he failed. A lot of novelists have day jobs to pay the bills. Getting published is not the same as becoming rich and famous. It seemed that most people came up with one interpretation of their visions and couldn't conceive of any others.
I was also disturbed by the scientist in charge of the experiment's determined belief that the future could not be changed. That whatever people glimpsed, that's what would happen. The idea of free will, of personal accountability, was missing. (On the other hand, I loved the explanation of WHY he was so bent on holding to that viewpoint.)
The ending left me a little bemused at how various characters lives turned out by 2030. Each seemed to get what he/she expected. Those that believed the future was immutable got the futures they saw, those that believed they could affect their futures managed to change them.
In the end, I enjoyed the book more because it made me question my own possible reaction should such an event ever occur than because the book was a scientific possibility regarding our future. In other words, it read more like philosophy than science fiction (though the scientific explanations for the flashforward were based on real science).
Based on what the book managed to do, the TV show has the potential to be a real SF hit.
Check out the official website: http://flashforwardtv.com/ where I got the information about the double airing of the pilot. It also has links to more trailers.