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WWW: Wake
Robert J. Sawyer
Gollancz, 360 pages

WWW: Wake
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: 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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

I'm not sure if this is a young adult novel but that's where I bought it in the bookstore. The protagonist is 15-year-old Caitlin Decter. Caitlin was born blind. In spite of that, she is a math genius who can surf the net. Caitlin gets her sight back because of a computer chip implanted behind her left eye. At first, all she can see is the web in the form of circles and lines of various colors. Later on in the novel, Caitlin can see normally due to some reprogramming of the implant. But when she switches off her eyePod (as she calls the small computer she must carry with her) and looks at the World Wide Web, she discovers a consciousness out there she calls the Phantom. Caitlin begins to educate the Web's consciousness by leading it to various web sites such as Google, Jagster, and finally Project Gutenberg. This first book of a proposed trilogy ends with Caitlin talking to the Web's consciousness.

I have some trouble with the notion that, if computers get big enough, they will become conscious. The theory goes like this -- when a computer reaches a critical mass, it will become intelligent. This is a favorite trope of B-grade science fiction movies and stories. In the Terminator movies, they bypass this by basing the new computer technology on pieces of the original terminator's motherboard. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation is more than the sum of his parts. No one can duplicate him but he is conscious because of programming which he duplicates when he creates his daughter Lal. In this novel, although Caitlin leads the Phantom to specific sites she deems necessary for his education, the Phantom would have found them eventually. After all, it has nothing to do all day but search itself. I am anxious to see where Robert J. Sawyer will go with this concept in the next installment of the trilogy.

Sawyer does a wonderful job of developing the character of Caitlin Decter as well as those around her. She is an opinionated, strong willed, creative, genius who requires little help from anyone. At the same time, she's a 15-year-old girl who is interested in fashion and boys. He does a superb job of making Caitlin believable as a girl who has been blind her whole life and can now suddenly see. Expressions she thought she understood, like "sky blue" are confusing to her because she has no reference for blue. Little things like "up" and "down" throw her off. And although she can read Braille, she cannot sight-read when surfing the web. Caitlin must go all the way back to learning the A, B, C's and build up from there. Through all of this her mother, her autistic father, and the Japanese scientist who invented the process that has given Caitlin her sight are all helpful and more like friends than adults.

Sawyer also does a good job of building tension in Caitlin's life. She has a prom date that becomes a disaster as she is molested by her date, she never knew her father was autistic until she regained her sight and learned that he can't look her in the face, also the "will I or "won't I see again?" tension is very apt. So besides being a normal teenager, Caitlin has a few more issues in her life. Where the Phantom comes it and what wreckage it might wreak are still to be realized.

I enjoyed reading all the parts of this book that were about Caitlin's struggles. As far as the web consciousness goes, I didn't much care for those parts. I will be reading and reviewing the second book because Caitlin is a character I grew to care about. And that may have been the main purpose of the first book, to get us to care enough for Caitlin to read the second book and see if she is still safe. If I was writing the next book, the Phantom will cause serious trouble with the world wide web.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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