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Wake [Hardcover]

Robert J. Sawyer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 14 2009 0670067415 978-0670067411 1st Edition
Caitlin Decter is a typical teen--smart, pretty, and wired ... but she's also blind. She undergoes an experimental procedure to regain her sight and the results are unexpected. She "sees" but not just the way we do--for her the world wide web is a riot of colours and shapes, its own dimension. While exploring it, she finds an "other" lurking there--and it finds her, seeing what she's seeing and learning as she learns. But that's not where it ends ...

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Wake + Watch: Book II in the WWW Trilogy
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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Admirers of his previous fiction might be forgiven for feeling that, with his new novel Wake (the first in his much-ballyhooed new contract with Penguin Canada), Toronto science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer has turned an unfortunate corner. While his impressive oeuvre has established Sawyer as one of our most visionary writers (with 41 awards, including a Hugo, a Nebula, and a Campbell, to prove it), Wake reads more like second-rate Michael Crichton. Fifteen-year-old Caitlin Decter has been blind her entire life, and has developed an impressive facility with navigating both the physical world (her room, her school) and the virtual one (she has an online prowess that would leave most sighted webheads in the dust). Having recently moved with her family from Texas to Waterloo, Ontario, Caitlin is gradually settling into her new life when she is contacted by a Japanese professor with an irresistible offer: he has been working on a computer-based system that might restore her sight. The implant doesn’t allow Caitlin to see the physical world, but plunges her into a surreal universe that she quickly realizes is a visualization of the Internet. She is not, however, alone in this universe: something is coming to life within the Web, building not only awareness and intelligence, but sentience. As Crichton did, Sawyer has a gift for synthesis. The science underlying Wake includes cutting-edge biology, theories of consciousness, linguistics and mathematics, computer and evolutionary sciences, and so on. There are times when the sheer amount of information is daunting, but Sawyer carefully leads the reader through the connections he has imagined. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Crichton, the science frequently overwhelms the story, and at such times Wake adopts the tone of a reader-friendly lecture, rather than a satisfying work of fiction. Sawyer also shares Crichton’s tendency to use characters as mouthpieces for his concepts (and his personal grievances: the anti-CanLit and “sci-fi should get more respect” hobby horses are frequently trotted out), rather than as fully developed individuals. Minor characters (such as a friendly, not-so-bright blonde named Sunshine) are little more than clichés, and even Caitlin herself is half-formed. The Crichton comparisons falter, however, when one looks at the narrative itself.  Despite overwhelming amounts of scientific information and weaknesses in characterization, a Crichton novel always succeeds as pure storytelling, with a keen sense of pacing and an inexorable drive. Not so Wake, which is a largely passive work. Yes, things happen, and on a global scale, with secondary storylines including a bird-flu outbreak in China, a Chinese government crackdown, and the developing intelligence of an ape in the U.S., but incidents do not a story make, and Wake is largely moribund on the page. All of this should be a concern for us Sawyer fans. It’s certainly a departure from his usually impressive work, and one has to bear in mind that Wake is the first novel in a trilogy: there is much ground to be covered and foundations to be built. As a novel, however, it should still be able to stand on its own. I’m willing to give Sawyer the benefit of the doubt, based on the quality of his body of work, but I’m concerned about the next two books in the trilogy.

Review

"Almost alone among Canadian writers, he tackles the most fundamental questions of who we are and where we might be going — while illuminating where we are now." -- National Post

"Sawyer continues to push the boundaries with his stories of the future made credible. His erudition, eclecticism, and masterly storytelling make this trilogy opener a choice selection." -- Library Journal

"Sawyer's take on theories about the origin of consciousness, generated within the framework of an engaging story, is fascinating, and his approach to machine consciousness and the Internet is surprisingly fresh." -- Booklist

"WAKE is, in the words of its heroine, made out of awesome." -- McNally Robinson Bookseller review

"Wildly thought-provoking...The thematic diversity—and profundity—makes [WAKE] one of Sawyer's strongest works to date." -- Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert J Sawyer is always a great read Dec 18 2008
By J. Epp
Format:Hardcover
Analog magazine has been printing a serial of this novel in the past couple of issues. I have read the first two parts and I eagerly await the rest. Robert J. Sawyer is always a fantastic read and this book is definitely going to continue the trend. If you like Sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to pick up a RJS book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Left hungry Jan. 1 2011
By Lorina Stephens TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Much of what goes into a review, if we're honest, is about personal taste and preference, bringing to that our own world view. In a way, it's that latter point that underpins Sawyer's much-acclaimed novel, Wake.

I have to admit I wanted more. And by more I don't mean quantity. Not even do I necessarily mean quality. What I wanted was more depth. But, again, that's a point of personal preference.
Still, it was that superficiality, that lack of depth, that kept me from completely engaging with the story Sawyer crafted. There were pages, even whole chapters, spent on geek-speak, which for geeks is great (I am reminded of the quartet of Big Bang Theory), but which for me caused a complete arrest of the plot, action, and character development, to the point I found myself skimming. Again, I must mitigate that statement with the caveat this is purely personal taste. I know, simply from the astonishing sales numbers for the novel, there are thousands out there who would disagree with my point of view.

This is my review, however, and so I can only bring to that review my own perspective.

Having said all that, I found the underlying concepts of the story - an awakening artificial intelligence, and the moral issue of allowing artificial intelligence to propagate - concepts which have been dealt with previously. And so, if I'm going to read about something that has previously been explored, I'm hoping for something new to be introduced to the discussion. Again, that lack of depth, that lack of uniqueness, left me hungry.

It wasn't until the last 10% of the book I found myself absorbed by relationship dynamics and characterization, and the tension around that relationship.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Coul not put it down April 3 2013
By Wingard
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved the 3 books, it's anticipation at it's best, and has that human touch.

working in projects I realize how much organization helps avoid pain and efficiencies make people happier with the same resources.
If you can add morals and ethics to that you should have a winning combination.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Canadian Author March 30 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am not a great science fiction fan - but I love everything Sawyer has written. This book is part of a trilogy and I recommend you read all three. My young adult children have enjoyed this set as well as hubby (who NEVER reads this genre).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sawyer is a remarkable writer Feb. 10 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sawyer is a remarkable writer. I used to read classical SF and I stop for many years. Sawyer brought back my attention to Science Fiction.
He is mixing delicately the reality with elements of SciFi. Also his imagination still keeps a contact with now a days facts, science and social changes. I like the introspective thinking of all characters. He also brings to front page nowadays researches and hot subjects from science and social/behaviour changes in our society. I like him because he talks about future but he talks mainly from human and moral thinking perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! May 21 2009
Format:Hardcover
The last time I did a book review was in high school, and if I'm not mistaken, it was likely for THE CHRYSALIDS; which was a brilliant science fiction novel by the way!

With that said, I am going to try to do justice to the latest book I've read: Robert J. Sawyer's WAKE - the first in his WWW trilogy.

Here is a blurb from Robert's site about the book:

'Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math ' and blind. Still, she can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind. When a Japanese researcher develops a new signal-processing implant that might give her sight, she jumps at the chance, flying to Tokyo for the operation.

But Caitlin's brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. Once the implant is activated, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the World Wide Web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something ' some other ' lurking in the background. And it's getting smarter ''

In addition to Caitlin's story are a couple of seemingly unrelated events in other parts of the world. In China an outbreak of the bird flu (H5N1) is handled by the Chinese government by culling the humans that are infected as well as shutting the country off from the rest of the outside word by cutting its internet and phone connections to hide their transgression. Elsewhere, in a research facility, a Bonobo/Chimpanzee hybrid that can use ASL (American Sign Language), produces art that defies what they are 'supposed' to be capable of. Youtube videos and political strife follow. Thirdly, a growing intelligence on the world wide web begins to take form.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the next one! July 11 2009
Format:Hardcover
It's impossible to get anything done around the house when there's a new Robert J. Sawyer book out. Absolutely engaging from start to finish. I feel for the characters, I am moved by the events that take place, & even though I will not be writing any math papers anytime soon, I always feel smarter after I've finished a Sawyer book. I loved all the Canadian "nods", & the easy, seamless way the story flips back & forth between China, California, Japan & Ontario...& how Sawyer can write so effortlessly from the point of view of a teenaged blind girl is beyond me!

Robert J. Sawyer is made of awesome.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars wake, an optimistic beginning
Like all of Mr. Sawyer's books, this one is a joy to read, full of interesting ideas and written with far more human insight and foresight than is common to the genre. Read more
Published on March 24 2011 by Howso
2.0 out of 5 stars Sawyer dumbing-down his writing again
I'll read most anything Sawyer writes because his ideas are fascinating and original, but I'm beginning to lose my enthusiasm after reading this. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2011 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun book
When I read the back of this book which told of a girl somehow connecting to the consciousness of the Internet I was somewhat skeptical. Read more
Published on May 22 2010 by Columbus
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concepts, Mediocre Writing
This should be a great book, but it's not.

I really enjoy near future science fiction and while the premise of an emergent intelligence based in the internet isn't new,... Read more
Published on May 12 2010 by Christopher Urbinsky
2.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy writing abounds!
Warning: This review is heavy on spoilers.

Can you think of any cultural, intellectual or behavioral differences between a Japanese academic and a blind teenage girl... Read more
Published on July 13 2009 by R. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars A great beginning
Like most of Sawyers works this book is filled with extra nods to Canadians.

And like most of his works contains elements which should never be left out of science... Read more
Published on June 8 2009 by C. Crewson
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