Who: Robert J. Sawyer
When: Published 2000
When I asked a work colleague (who has similar reading interests) what he was reading, he told me about this one. On first description I was only semi-interested, but after he told me more about it I decided that I would read it myself. I'm glad I did. I actually quite enjoyed it.
If you're a person who likes their sci-fi stories to have a footing in real science then you'll probably like it. If, like me, you enjoy toying with some of the "bigger" questions like "Is God real?", "How did we get here?" and the Creation/evolution debate then you'll probably like it. If you like good characters who you can empathise with then you'll probably like it. You probably won't like it if you prefer full-on action and battles and stuff 'cos there isn't any. It's not devoid of action, but it's more low-key. Just right for this story.
Anyway you can read the Amazon review below for more.
Creationists rarely find sympathy in the ranks of science fiction authors--or fans, for that matter. And while Robert J. Sawyer doesn't exactly make peace with evangelicals on the issue, Calculating God has to be one of the more thoughtful and sympathetic SF portrayals you'll find of religion and intelligent design. But that should come as no surprise from this crafty Canadian: in the Nebula Award-winning Terminal Experiment, Sawyer speculated on what would happen if hard evidence were ever found for the human soul; in Calculating God, he turns science on its head again when earth is invaded by theists from outer space.
The book starts out like the setup for some punny science fiction joke: An alien walks into a museum and asks if he can see a paleontologist. But the arachnid ET hasn't come aboard a rowboat with the Pope and Stephen Hawking (although His Holiness does request an audience later). Landing at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the spacefarer (named Hollus) asks to compare notes on mass extinctions with resident dino-scientist Thomas Jericho. A shocked Jericho finds that not only does life exist on other planets, but that every civilization in the galaxy has experienced extinction events at precisely the same time. Armed with that disconcerting information (and a little help from a grand unifying theory), the alien informs Jericho, almost dismissively, that "the primary goal of modern science is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods."
Inventive, fast-paced, and alternately funny and touching, Calculating God sneaks in a well-researched survey of evolution science, exobiology, and philosophy amidst the banter between Hollus and Jericho. But the book also proves to be very moving and character-driven SF, as Jericho--in the face of Hollus's convincing arguments--grapples with his own bitter reasons for not believing in God.