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Wake Hardcover – Apr 14 2009


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Wake + Watch: Book II in the WWW Trilogy + Wonder (WWW, Book 3)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Canada; 1st Edition edition (April 14 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670067415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670067411
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #302,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Burton on 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 By Lorina Stephens TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 1 2011
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Epp on Dec 18 2008
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 By L. Ferreira on 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Crewson on June 8 2009
Format: Hardcover
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 fiction: thinly veiled political commentary, using technology that is not completely understood to create a believable and unique scenario, and finally the exploration of some aspect of humanity. While not my favourite Sawyer novel [Rollback], this series could easily become my second favourite if the middle and end follow through with the setup this beginning presents.

A must read in my humble opinion.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.

Sawyer has brilliant, intriguing ideas, and he conveys them well - it's the main reason I'll read most anything he publishes. Unfortunately, each new book appears to be pandering to the masses: simple reading level, shallow characters with some gimmick to keep one's interest, cultural references that are like ad placements... this story felt like filler to a bigger story, maybe detailed in its sequels. I devoured it quickly, but it'll be forgotten quickly too.

I know Sawyer can write brilliantly - many of his short stories (from Iterations and Identity Theft: And Other Stories) are as engaging as his novels, but they're succinct and tight; and his website has wonderful essays. Maybe the novel-form gives him too much leeway for throwing in unnecessary cliches and cultural references as filler. One has to wonder if he's paid for the endorsement-like tidbits he includes.

I have little interest in reading the sequels to Wake: Watch and Wonder (WWW, Book 3). Maybe I'll pick them up if I see them in the Bargain Bin.
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