Top critical review
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on January 1, 2011
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. Much of the emotional depth of that last 10% could have been infused throughout the previous 90%, and had that been achieved, the fact little new had been added to the lexicon of artificial intelligence would have been completely mitigated by a profound story about defining relationships between alien species.
But, then, maybe that's an entirely different story than the one Sawyer wished to tell.
Would I recommend Sawyer's novel, Wake? Sure I would. If you love SF and aren't interested in the touchy-feeling aspects of literature, then yes Wake is for you. If you want something else, if you're looking for profundity and provocation, then no, Wake isn't for you.