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WWW: Watch
Robert J. Sawyer
Multi-voice production, adaptation
Brilliance Audio, 12 hours

WWW: Watch
Robert J. Sawyer
The winner of the Nebula Award in 1995 for The Terminal Experiment, Robert J. Sawyer has also won several Aurora Awards, Canada's award for excellence in science fiction. His novel Starplex was a finalist for both the Hugo and the Nebula and Hominids won the Hugo for best novel. In addition, he earned the Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada.

Robert J. Sawyer Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Starplex
SF Site Review: WWW: Wake
SF Site Review: WWW: Watch
SF Site Review: FlashForward
SF Site Review: WWW: Wake
SF Site Review: Mindscan
SF Site Review: Relativity
SF Site Review: Hybrids
SF Site Review: Hybrids
SF Site Review: Hominids
SF Site Review: Flashforward
SF Site Review: Frameshift
SF Site Review: Calculating God
SF Site Review: Factoring Humanity
SF Site Review: Illegal Alien
SF Site Review: Frameshift

A review by Gil T. Wilson

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Born blind, Caitlin Decter receives a retinal implant that allows her to see. In the process, her doctor accidently gives her the ability to see webspace as well as the real world. With her online vision, Caitlin notices a presence in the background of the web and begins to explore. She soon finds that the presence is an accidentally created artificial intelligence which she dubs Webmind.

Caitlin inadvertently helps bring Webmind into being when she tries to communicate with the being. They maintain an online relationship as it learns about the world, which is limited to text, so all it knows is what it reads. Granted, it has read the entire Internet, but Webmind asks Caitlin to get her doctor to try and develop an algorithm that will enable it to view graphics and videos. In order to do this, Caitlin must tell her parents about the entity, which brings Webmind to the attention of others.

The U.S. Government begins to discover the workings of the emergent A.I. and, under command of the President, tries to destroy Webmind before it can destroy the world. It's at this point when references to Terminator, The Matrix, and other such movies start to arise. Caitlin is even reading the George Orwell book 1984, which is when notions of Big Brother begin to be discussed.

Webmind wants to go public, so Caitlin's family devise a plan to help Webmind introduce itself to the world -- it destroys all spam e-mail. This alone would have me sold, but that's just me. The government realizes this is a perfect example of how Webmind can encroach upon privacy issues and decides to increase attacks on Webmind and try to end its existence. WebMind and Caitlin team up online in a battle to determine whether Caitlin's Big Brother is tougher than the government's Big Brother.

On a side note, there is a really interesting subplot in the book about a Chimpanzee/Bonobo hybrid that has been taught sign language. The trainers and a zoo are battling over who should have custody over the ape and it becomes necessary to prove that the ape has a conscience. This brings up some great references to the Planet of the Apes movies.

The use of multiple voices for this production was impeccably orchestrated and, although there are multiple narrators, this isn't an audio drama type of performance. Instead, different voices read different sections. For example, one voice reads sections involving the government agencies, while another reads sections involving the subplot. Also, the main characters, Caitlin and Webmind, have their own narrator. Each voice was perfectly cast and definitely keeps the listener fully engaged in the story.

This is the second title in the WWW trilogy and I think I may have listened to one of the most fun, nerdy, geeky, and adventurous audiobooks I've ever heard. Focusing on the concepts of sentience and humanity, the premise of the story is a bit out there, yet in some ways, almost a reality. In addition, the characters have depth and are all believable. And the pop culture references are timeless -- yeah, I know, timeless pop culture? This audiobook should be on your "must read" list.

Copyright © 2011 Gil T. Wilson

Gil T. has spent a quarter of a century working in radio and has lots of spare time on his hands and reading or listening to books takes up all that time. Check out his blog to find out what he's up to at any given moment.


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