Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer Book Review

Review by: DancingOnRain


President Seth Jerrison is shot and then brought to a hospital where Professor Ranjip Singh was experimenting with equipment to erase traumatic memories, but before Jerrison can be treated, a bomb detonates.  He is resuscitated, but soon discovers his memories are someone else’s.  The bomb fiddled with Singh’s equipment and now multiple people within the hospital have memories that are not their own.  When they see a familiar sight to the person they are attached to, they see that other person’s memories instead.  This becomes a security threat for the president as well as the government itself so the hunt for who has acquired the president’s memories begins.


This is the interesting premise of Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer.  It’s understandable that there’s a loop of characters infected by unwanted mind connections, but exploring every character’s mind, while it could have made sense, presented too many character viewpoints to follow.  Occasionally something interesting or entertaining was revealed.  For example, there was one awkward moment where one guy now had memories of a woman who has a crush on him so whenever he sees himself; he has memories of how attracted he is to himself.  But for the most part it felt like those interesting moments were just thrown in just for shock sake or to impress the reader even though it did not necessarily add to the story or characters.


When I first read the premise, I thought that this story was going to center around the president, because the shared-memories-incident presented a security threat, especially right after a terrorist attack, but the president actually disappears after the first few pages.  Instead we are introduced to mediocre characters that I didn’t remember by the time I finished the book.


Because I was jumped around into everyone’s head for about an equal amount of time, which wasn’t long, I was never sure who the main character / protagonist was supposed to be.  I thought it was the president, but I didn’t feel we interacted nearly enough with him for that to be true. Sometimes it seemed like the main character was a secret service agent. While having two main characters is fine, I think that the book would have been more successful if it chose just to stay inside the mind(s) of one to three people and not hop around in every single minor person’s head just because that’s what the circumstances allowed.


I’m one of those people that will read a book start to finish no matter how awful it is, but, like I mentioned before, because there were too many viewpoints, I did not spend enough time with any of the characters to care about them.  In the end I didn’t feel attached to any of them.  Not even the man who died.  Something bad would happen and it would be sad, but it also didn’t matter to me.  And I didn’t care about them because I spent so little time in multiple characters’ heads instead of a lot of time in only a few points of view.  When I read a story I want to feel attached with at least one of the characters, but I didn’t feel a connection with any of them.  I suppose that given the plot, the disconnection may have been intentional by the author, but it didn’t “do it” for me.


I felt that most of the writing was fuzzy and jumbled and this was not because everyone’s memories were messed up.  This is also one of those books I often found myself skimming rather than reading.  And you probably could skim this book and still get the gist of the whole story.


I liked the idea of the ending where everyone’s mind became whole and because of the shared memories, things like prejudice and racism disappeared, but I felt that the ending was rushed and like the author was just trying to make his word count work.  I felt that the ending ultimately came up short.


I believe that Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer had the potential to be great with an interesting idea.  While the book could have been presented in a clearer, neater way, the ideas alone were interesting, but a unique idea can only get you so far.