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Review: Wake & Watch by Robert J Sawyer

During the summer, Robert J Sawyer was in town to do a reading at Indigo Books. He read from Watch which is the second in his WWW series. So I bought that along with the first in the series WakeReading these books was the start of a little reading binge for me in June & July. I hadn’t been reading much, but these books got me going again and I read them both within a week.

The WWW trilogy is about the web gaining consciousness. The web gets a mind of its own! I’d never really thought about consciousness before, but I guess there is a theory that early humans didn’t even have consciousness. The protagonist of the story is Caitlyn who is an American teenage girl blind from birth and she has recently moved to Canada with her parents (her dad got a job at the non-fictional Perimeter Institute).

In Wake Caitlyn undergoes a medical procedure that puts an implant behind one of her eyes so that her brain may start to understand the signals from her eye. Yet, at first she doesn’t see the world, but an arrangement of lines and dots which turns out to be the web. Caitlyn sees the web! And then, she sees, that the web sees her too! Since Caitlyn is the only one who knows Webmind (as the web calls itself) exists, she’s the one responsible for teaching it (though, being the web, it’s pretty good at teaching itself too.)

In Watch, Caitlyn isn’t the only one who is aware of the conscious Web. What would you do if you knew something, or someone, was watching everything you do online? I think most of us wouldn’t like that. In Watch the folks in the government really, really don’t like it and now it’s Caitlyn’s and Webmind’s turn to be watched.

I really enjoyed both of these books. I found the pacing to be just right for me, and I did enjoy the multiple points-of-view. In conversation with a Twitter follower, I discovered there were a couple things about the books that some found more annoying than I did. For example, in Wake there is a portion that takes place in China from a Chinese man’s perspective, but that ends, rather abruptly. For me, it was fine that Sawyer did this since it did lead up to more later on in the books. For that Twitter friend it seemed pointless and an easy way, a cop-out even, to explaining certain plot points. I can see how he may have felt that way, but the way I figure it is that there’s always stuff going on all around the world and indeed we never know exactly what one action may cause  – y’know sort of like chaos theory (the way a layman thinks of it).

What I didn’t enjoy was Caitlyn’s incessant whining about Canada. Yes she’s American and America is (apparently) so much cooler than Canada, but seriously…annoying! Maybe Sawyer was trying to make this feel more like a Young Adult novel, or maybe he wanted to reach out to his American fans but it just didn’t feel right. I mean, when I was a teen I had friends & acquaintances who moved here from the U.S. and they never whined half as much! Being a big whiner myself, it takes a lot of whining for me to even notice!

Anyhow, that aside, both these books get four stars from me. Now, I just have to wait til spring 2011 until Wonder, the last in this trilogy, comes out. The rest of Sawyer’s talk that day was really interesting too – if you ever get the chance you should go hear him speak. This particular talk was interesting since he talked about the Flash Forward tv show – it’s beginning and end and how he was involved in the process of bringing one of his books to the small screen.

About Jen

An instructor, a reader, a dog-owner, and advocate; that's how I define myself and these aspects directly impact my interests and conversations.


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