My rating: 3 of 5 stars
WWW Wake is the second Robert J. Sawyer novel I’ve listened to, I actually read the first half of the book and listened to the rest three years later. The book was a bit too dense for me and not in the same way that Dune is dense (where you know that every word is chosen purposefully), but dense with scientific facts and information download. Flashforward was the same way, it’s just that this book was filled with computer and math information where as the other was filled with physics.
My primary reason for picking up this book in the first place was my curiosity about how the author was going to handle the creation of artificial intelligence on the internet and its interaction with a teen girl. Of course the plight of the heroine Caitlin was very compelling and turned out to be the most interesting aspect of the story. A girl with a condition that left her blind from birth and then suddenly given the ability to not only see real life but the Internet as well… Cool! I too have the idea of trying to describe a computer from the inside, which added interest in the story for me.
The best aspects of the story are realistic descriptions of Caitlin beginning to see for the first time and how her body reacts to seeing, seeing colors, people, objects, and watching how moving from a sightless person into a seeing person effects her (talk about a life changing experience). The wonder, desire, pain, and disorientation she experiences is palpable. These moments became so believable for me that these scenes have become a model in which to compare others attempts to convey the same idea. Now when I read or see others try to describe or show a person’s reaction to seeing for the first time, the scenes fall flat for me or simply come off as unbelievable.
I think the parts that pulled me away from the story were the scenes that were not in the perspective of Caitlin or the AI. None of these POVs resolve in any way by the end of the book, the only reason they are there is to setup some unknown storylines within the rest of the series. As an experienced story reader I understand that these scenes are preparing the reader for the future, but that only works if the reader plans to pick up boos 2 and 3 right away. From being in various writing critique groups, I’ve learned that most people don’t remember much of what they’ve read last week yet alone a month or a year ago. Like with this book, I’m able to remember at least the major key points after putting the book down for 3 years and still understand what’s going on. Again, from my experience this is abnormal. As a storyteller myself I have guesses of how a Chinese blogger and a signing, artistic bonobo-chimpanzee have to do with helping to protect a newly formed AI in future books, but without reading the rest of the series, I fail to understand why so much time was spent on these scenes in this book. As I said, this was a big contributing factor that bogged down the book for me. Ironically my writer brain is what helped me to enjoy these parts of the book the second time around because my entertainment brain was board to tears.
I’ve only read two of Sawyer’s books, but I understand why brainy people enjoy his books. His books are filled with interesting questions and interesting information that come across in a much more absorbing fashion than if you read a nonfiction. His books are good for learning new things. It’s obvious that he does a lot of research for the topics he tackles, sometimes it comes across seamlessly in the narrative as a natural part of the story but other times it comes off as a side note of info dump. Especially when it comes to science, it’s difficult to share information with a reader and make it sound natural.
I am interested in reading/listening to the rest of the series, but there are so many other books on my list right now that it may take a while to get there.