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WWW: Watch
Robert J. Sawyer
Gollancz, 354 pages

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: 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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Blind from birth, 15-year-old Caitlin Dector underwent an experimental procedure designed to grant her sight. It worked, in a fashion; with the aid of a device she calls her "eyePod" she can receive and decipher the same visual cues as everyone else. She can also see the data flow of the Internet, visualizing its existence like no one else. This made her uniquely suited for first contact with the so-called Webmind, a spontaneously emerging consciousness existing only on the Web. Even as Caitlin learns to see the world around her for the first time, the Webmind, which can see and hear what she hears through the eyePod, is learning alongside her.

As more people learn of Webmind's existence, some accept it with trepidation and optimism, others with fear and worse. How will they deal with an alien mind capable of knowing our secrets, able to spy on us and manipulate the Internet, existing everywhere and nowhere? The Webmind can't stay a secret for long, and the time for it to choose its purpose for existing is approaching far too quickly. Is it here to help, or harm?

Like the first in the trilogy, WWW: Watch unfolds through a variety of narrators, including Caitlin and Webmind, but also spilling over to more peripheral characters such as the government agencies who stumble across Webmind's existence, and a primate researcher engaged in interspecies communication. Everyone has their role to play in this story, and the threads all begin to connect, showing us how we're all connected. From America to Canada, Japan to Israel, the pieces come together as Webmind's intelligence and experience grows in leaps and bounds, and its sense of self solidifies.

There's no middle book syndrome here; Robert J. Sawyer packs as much thought and development into this volume as he did into the first, turning out a compelling, thought-provoking entry in one of his best series to date. He's one of those few writers who can be equally at home dealing with characters' personal lives and tackling the hard science in an accessible way. Sure, there's a lot of infodumping between characters, and some of it ranges all over the place -- he hits upon game theory, morality, religion, George Orwell, Star Trek, autism, Japanese military history, and so much more -- but these discussions rarely feel out of place. I suppose it's because Sawyer's careful to populate his books with intelligent, articulate characters who can talk about those sorts of things like some of us would discuss sports, but under the circumstances, it works.

WWW: Watch is probably as accurate and sophisticated an exploration of emergent consciousness on the Web as we're ever to find until the real thing happens. Grounded in the pop culture and online trends of the moment, it feels authentic. It's optimistic, intelligent, and I can't wait for the third in the series.

Copyright © 2010 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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