4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Wake (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. It strains to come to terms with itself and its surroundings, yet it begins to evolve. And, like Annie Sullivan, reaching down into the depths of Helen Keller's mind, Caitlin makes a connection with this web-based entity and strives to teach it.
I consumed this book. Like with his Neanderthal Parallax novels, I completely empathize with these characters. They lift off the page and pull you along with them, particularly Caitlin. Her ability to 'see' through people and her edgy humour are brilliantly achieved and you can't help but admire her strength of character and resolve. The use of biological terms and technology are meshed throughout the story in a way that it isn't dumped on you. (It should be noted that I have a biology and information technology background, so I felt like this book was written for me. But with that said, the way he reveals the information would easily engage anyone without this knowledge.)
There are wonderful parallels and references to Helen Keller and her rise to awareness from the dark place in which she once lived as well as timely topics and subject matter that is deftly interwoven in the story. He engages in real world debates (i.e. the intelligence of apes and their ability to use sign language, the cross-breeding of species, the potential self-awareness of the internet, etc.) and employs throughout some some witty references and poignant gibes. It is obvious that Mr. Sawyer took his time to research well before writing this and it is no wonder he was won such honours as the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
This is a fantastic beginning to a much anticipated series. It ends well, but leaves you hungering for more. I very much look forward to what will come in the next novel and how Mr. Sawyer is going to engage me further in the coming books, WATCH and WONDER. Whether you are a science fiction aficionado or not, add this book to your Must Read list. It will not disappoint.
Hominids: Volume One Of The Neanderthal Parallax