WWW : WAKE by Robert J. Sawyer

Book Quote:

“An unconscious yet conscious time of nothingness.
Being aware without being aware of anything.
And yet—
And yet awareness means…
Awareness means thinking.And thinking implies a…
But no, the thought will not finish; the notion is too complex, too strange. “

Book Review:

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes (MAY 29, 2009)

In this first book of Robert J. Sawyer‘s WWW series, Caitlan Decter is a teenage math whiz who’s getting used to her family’s new digs in Canada. They moved from Texas where she attended a school for the blind. Now she’s entering a public school as a sophomore. But she’s not worried, because she’s “made of awesome.”

With the help of cutting-edge technology, Caitlan spends a lot of time on the internet where her disability is unnoticed—until she gets an email from a Japanese researcher offering a new advancement that could restore her sight. Caitlan and her family fly to Japan where the scientist implants a device in her head that reorders the scrambled signals from one of her blind eyes. Through a monitoring and software update function of the external part of the device she calls her “eyepod,” Caitlan sees the World Wide Web.  

And now the web sees our realm, through her.

Sawyer’s treatment of the awakening of a consciousness from a man-made construct (in this case the web) coupled with the awe and wonder of a blind person’s journey to sight is brilliant. Caitlan became blind at such an early age that she doesn’t know what anything looks like. Everything is new. She sees colors in the web, but without any frame of reference, doesn’t know which are which. As she regains her sight, her journey is paralleled by an emerging intelligence in cyberspace. And to delight readers further, Sawyer introduces Hobo, the chimp who paints portraits from memory. Another kind of emergence.

Sawyer captures the complex personality of a confident, ambitious teenage girl who craves acceptance. Teenagers say what they feel, making her a great choice of protagonist. Even if she’s only “saying” it on Live Journal.

The web intelligence has all the information in the world, yet cannot comprehend it.  Because the entity is like a newborn, not understanding what it is and how it fits into the world, how can it have words for anything? It gradually grasps simple concepts and learns, but it’s not clear where it is getting its insight. The process is, nonetheless, fascinating.

Without revealing the ending, I have to say it had one. So many authors of multi-volume works don’t bother tying up enough of the loose ends to keep the reader satisfied at the end of any but the last volume. When we have to wait at least a year for the next installment, I think the author owes us one. Sawyer came through with a most satisfying ending—not even rushed. Wake also ends with a perfect last line. But no peeking!

Sawyer has won numerous awards for his science fiction both here and abroad. ABC just bought the TV series based on his novel, Flashforward. It will air in 2010 in the spot LOST now occupies. A film adaptation of his short story, “Identity Theft” is also in the works. The sequel, www : Watch is in his publisher’s hands. He’s currently working on www : Wonder.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 54 readers
PUBLISHER: Ace Hardcover; 1 edition (April 7, 2009)
REVIEWER: Ann Wilkes
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Robert J. Sawyer
EXTRAS: Ann’s interview with Robert J. Sawyer and Excerpt
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May 29, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Hugo Award, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

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