But Caitlin's brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. So when she receives an implant to restore her sight, 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 more and more intelligent with each passing day.
©2009 SFWRITER.COM Inc.; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"The thematic diversity - and profundity - makes this one of Sawyer's strongest works to date." (Publishers Weekly)
I was very impressed with this book - surprisingly so, in fact. My general encounters with science-fiction books have fallen into two categories - things written by Iain M Banks, and things I hated. So I was taking a risk here.
The review deserves two parts - one for the book itself and one for the production of the audio-book, which is interesting enough in it's own right. To cover that, I love the idea of varying the narrator according to the context of the story. This is a story that links together many stories and themes, and to give each of them their own voice makes it both more interesting and easier to follow. I tend to listen while driving which means occasionally I have to focus on other things - having an audio reminder of roughly what's going on is very helpful.
The story is complex and, in the beginning, far from obvious. Stuart's review noting that there seemed to be no link between the threads is fair, but it becomes clearer later on. This is a book about consciousness, about separation, acquisition and loss of senses, about the very idea of what is to be. Inevitably an ambition like that is going to lead to some confusion at first, and I got the impression perhaps to a few half-formed ideas getting dropped along the way. The thing about China does make sense, but you have to think about why - nobody gets spoon fed their explanations here.
The point about the maguffin not really making sense - without wishing to spoil things, the idea of lost packets leading to greater things - is correct. It doesn't make sense. I think the best approach here would have been to adopt the approach Star Trek's producers took when asked how the intertial damping works - they said 'very nicely thanks' and left it at that. The story is really about what it is to be and about varying perceptions of different entities - I don't really care about TCP/IP packet loss.
Overall - great book, interesting ideas and even a few funny jokes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book for several reasons. I did enjoy the technical aspects of the story and the way they are explained in the flow of events. Above all though, my enjoyment was greatly enhanced by the cast of narrators. I have listened to a lot of audio books in the past few years and would say that the narrators here would be hard to beat. I enjoyed the way in which the different strands of the story where being told by different people. The person covering the central characters was superb. She was able to lend an emotion to the storytelling which indicates a rare talent. It is a tremendous performance and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Have already purchased the other books in the series. Money well spent.
I enjoyed this book very much and the narration (esp. the choice of different voices) helped in the characterisation. As the author notes at the beginning, the perspective of someone who has never seen is an interesting one, and the changes that happen as the story evolves only serve to accentuate that. It became the audio equivalent of a page-turner for me, and I am eagerly looking forward to 'WWW: Watch'.
One thing that did appeal is that the approach Sawyer takes to the book is very different to that used by most sci-fi authors. As someone reasonably well read in sci-fi world, I have become somewhat bored by the constant reworking of similar ideas and plots. The characters Sawyer portrays are believable and of sufficient depth (while not being so deep that we get lost in descriptive text), and though the plot is relatively simple it is not too predictable either.
Minor Spoiler Alert:
The only disappointment, from my perspective as someone who understands how the net works very well, is that the way the net intelligence is supposed to have evolved didn't make sense. In some ways I would have preferred not having that explanation - just 'somehow it happened' - although a more believable version would have been even better! The author's description of automata is essentially Conway's 'Game of Life', which is well known and indeed capable of quite amazing things given the simplicity of the rules. However, Life does rely on condition rules - if this then that - and to my knowledge, this doesn't happen with packets on the net as described here.
However, and despite the above disappointment, a good listen.
Well written and expertly presented in this audiobook format with original music and perfectly chosen voices.
A book of subtle beginnings leading the listener into conclusions that the author is just about to layout for you. At times emotional and at times Hard SciFi. A must for the SciFi fans and those wishing for more of a personal book.
Highly recommended to all.
Fantastic story, curious how all the characters paths intertwine. Narrators are great, Especially the older lady. her voice is so warm and rich I want to give her a big hug!!!
Being blind myself I was curious to see how this would be handled, and there are differences between the book and real life for me.
I'm looking forward to the others in the series, The one distracting thing I found was the toing and froing between points of view for just a sentence or so, then flipping back. Thankfully there wasn't too much maths, which I was worried there would be, but hearing binary rendered as audio was just plain tedious. That's a downside of the format though as audio rather 'than the actual book's fault.
Great read. Unusual, and quite outside my comfort zone. .
This is a thoroughly entertaining read. It's not going to boggle your brain with endless details about science, but there is enough there to keep things interesting. As a former maths student I found the brief forays very entertaining without being at all heavy. The main story makes clever use of a couple of tangential story lines which never quite knit in as I had expected but are still made very relevant in the main plot. I also enjoyed the way the author gives you a first person account from the AI's point of view as it becomes conscious. Very nicely done. A thoroughly enjoyably holiday read perhaps. I'm looking forward to the next one now!
Possibly as I enjoyed Flashforward however I listened to Hominids but didn;t enjoy that so depends upon whether the synopsis looks intriguing.
Interesting concept being able to see the web and restore sight to the central character. Least interesting was the amount of waffle from the online entity which didn;t add anything to the story
When the eye-pod finally works
Maybe as it could be condensed and pared down to a more manageable size
An interesting set of parallel stories which are metaphors. I got quite caught up with the main character, a young blind girl. My only quibble with the book is that a couple of the stories lines are left (to my mind at least) incomplete. I hope the author writes a follow up.
Forced myself though most of this book. I've only got an hour to listen to. I care so little about the story that I can't even be bothered to find out how it ends.
I found the voice of the main character (the girl) to be very annoying after a while.
Feels real and believable, and as you read the next two books in this series you’ll get more and more drawn in to the lives of the characters in these books. I won’t say too much about the story, I don’t want to spoil any more of the story than is in the description. But the book is quite heavy on the science behind its claims without bogging down the story with useless facts. Just enough to make the whole premise of this emergent AI seem not only plausible but quite likely. A great take on AI Sci-Fi, the likes I have not read since “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein.
"A Great, if Incomplete, Concept"
Wake marks my first encounter with Robert J. Sawyer, ad I've come away from the novel thoroughly impressed. I'm legally blind myself, though I do have some residual vision, so I immediately identified with protagonist Caitlin Decter, and I felt that she was a pretty believable blind character. The concept of visualizing the web was also intriguing, as was the premise that the web has some sort of underlying consciousness.
My only complaint about the book is that, even for the first novel in a trilogy it feels incomplete. One of the plotlines is simply dropped midway through the book. I understand that these plotlines will be picked up in the sequel, but an adept author should be able to bring about at least smaller resolutions within the overarching story at the end of each book, and I don't feel like Sawyer accomplished this.
To end on a positive note, the Audible Frontiers production is fantastic, with strong voice acting from all the narrators.
Robert J. Sawyer is my favorite science fiction author, hands down. He delivers a kind of science fiction I've always enjoyed - one that breaks past the science in to psychology, sociology or morality, but is still grounded in excellent characters with whom the reader can easily connect.
In WAKE, we meet Caitlin, a young woman with a congenital blindness and a gift for mathematics. Her voice rings true, and when she is given a chance at sight via a new technology, she finds herself capable of "seeing" the internet. At the same time, other events conspire to bring a glimmer of consciousness to the net itself, and the two stories - Caitlin's sight, and the nascent entity's growth - parallel in a marvelously paced story that kept me going.
As the first book in a trilogy, there's ground work being built, and I was definitely left satisfied with the individual novel, but looking forward to where the story will head in the next installment, WATCH.
If you do enjoy listening to books, this one just bumped "Memoirs of a Geisha" from my #1 Listening Experience position. The multiple reading voices really added a performance depth to the reading that took something already great and made it all the more enjoyable. Bravo to the whole cast!
"A thoroughly enjoyable listen!"
I see so far that the reviews have been a bit "hate it or love it" I will not comment on the underlying premise of sentient web mind. It's the basic assumption of the book, I didn't question it, I just sat back and thought "Okay, that's the assumption" and then sat back and listened.
And enjoy I did. A mix of different story lines, a good presentation, and it ended all too quickly with me wanting more of the story. Realising that the next book in the series is not available was is just a big tease! I will be downloading it as soon as it's available!
Overall I give it high marks.
At first I thought this was going to be a YA book, then I thought it was a YA book for Girl Math Geeks. I honestly don't know who this book was meant for. I am married to a Math Geek, but I can not recommend it to her, as there really isn't that much math in it. There is a mischmatch of sciences in the book, yet not done well enough to catch the attention of the average reader. Sawyer is obviously a genius and he loves computers, unlike Orson Scott Card or Ray Bradbury who well tell you a sentient being has become aware on the Net or in the Telephone Lines, Sawyer takes you through the process of how. A long drawn out process that you lose interest in after several chapters. Perhaps if it was not so important to have the old Sci-Fi Trilogy, he could have put all this in one book and made it a lot more interesting and not drawn everything out so much.
I still say Sawyer has not written a bad novel, although this is the worst of the seven novels of his I have read. I loved Flash Forward and Calculating God and liked all the others. I am looking forward to Illegal Alien and Factoring Humanity, which I have in my library, but I will stay away from this trilogy, until there are no other Sawyer books to be read.
The production and narrators are excellent, the whole audio is well done.
"Canada's Ray Bradbury"
Sawyer's novels remind me of Ray Bradbury's writing for some reason. His novels work around a fantastic premise and then he builds in very human characters with their own flaws and shortcomings into the scene. His facts are incredibly well researched, rivaling or even outstripping Michael Chrichton in factual detail. He certainly beats Chricton in character development. I find myself learning a little something about the universe every time I read Sawyer.
In this book, Sawyer, is also (perhaps unwittingly) updating and reliving the premise of an old Bradbury short story called "Dial Double Zero", where an intelligence is spawned within the phone system.
In Sawyer's version, a "bicameral" intelligence spawns within the internet, a product of a Chinese telecom blackout -- and like Bradbury's "Dial Double Zero", this intelligence contacts a solitary human being. The irony in this story is that the 'web mind' can see, but can't hear, while Katlyn can hear, but is blind except for a new, web connected electronic eye implant and finds out that this growing web mind shares her one eye - perhaps in future novels we're lining up a modern day threesome of Greae Sisters from Greek Mythology? We shall see. There's still one loose plot thread for the next novel.
Unlike others, I thought the narration was excellent. This is a multi-narrator reading, which is not to be confused with a full cast reading or an audiodrama. The woman reading the voice of a 16 year old girl is also reading the voice of a Japanese coding expert, a middle aged Texas born mother and a quiet, yet kind father with his own issues. I found her voice both warm and endearing to the main character's personality, while quite capable of modulating the other character's voices quite clearly. The other narrators were also similarly skilled. The voice of the web mind could win an award for his performance.
"Weak characterization and weaker science"
Overall I found this novel quite weak. While the narration was excellent, the characterization of the main protagonist seemed simplistic and bland. I found the story itself slow moving and mostly uninteresting. There have been many very good stories involving emergent computer based intelligence and there is little that is both new and worth reading in Wake. The novel had virtually no action at all, and almost no fresh concepts are presented.
Although I have no problem with the possibility of web based artificial intelligence, I found the science in Wake annoyingly weak. There was a little mathematics that was not complete hogwash, but the rest of the story was pretty silly. I won’t be reading the rest of the series.
This might be more appropriate for a young teen reader, but I wouldn’t have recommended Wake to any young reader with any interest in science. The best thing I can say for the novel, other than the narration, is having a blind female being mathematically inclined would be good for some young female readers.
"A Tightly Woven Plot"
This book engaged me in ways I have never been engaged in any science fiction type book. Part of this is that I, as a blind person, related on a deep level to Caitlin, the main character. That said, beyond the plot, which managed to be interessting, humorous and awe-inspiring, I found that the narrators did a superb job. I have never enjoyed multiple narrator audiobooks that I can recall, but this book and the lovely narrators were wonderful! I highly recommend the book and can't wait to see the next book!A
"Boring and infested with puns"
This book got such great reviews, I was shocked at how little I liked it. So, I thought I should post a review just to provide a counterpoint.
The story (the most important part, to me) was just not very interesting. It was very slow paced with a lot of useless side-plots, not much in the way of conflict (a key to good story), and just not a lot happening. It is of course book 1 of a trilogy, so despite my powering through it just so I could finish it, it didn't provide any satisfaction. Overall, I thought the story was just quite boring.
The actual writing style was, I suppose, your typical overly-literal sci-fi nerd voice. I'm not a big fan of that style. What I really disliked, though, was the constant use of puns which everyone seemed to find hilarious (including a teenage girl... apparently teen girls love cheesy puns, who knew). Generally speaking the attempts at humor were cringeworthy. If you're not funny in real life, you shouldn't try to write characters who are funny.
The audio production was good -- the voice acting was good, and I liked the way they approached the production.
In his author's note, the author comes across as an affable guy and so I actually feel guilty writing this very negative review. But I felt compelled to weigh in to warn potential readers that I found this to be a very tedious and un-entertaining book.
"Firmly grounded in accurate science"
On the premise of WAKE and the science behind it:
(1) see the article in the May 2, 2009, New Scientist entitled "Could the net become self-aware?" (also online at their website), which quotes among others Ben Goertzel, who is in the acknowledgments of WAKE;
(2) one might also find edifying the nonfiction book "The Web's Awake: An Introduction to the Field of Web Science and the Concept of Web Life" by Philip D. Tetlow, from IEEE Press;
(3) check out the acknowledgments in the printed version of WAKE for the list of experts who consulted on and/or reviewed my manuscript, including top people from Google, Sun Microsystems, and IBM (acknowledgments also online on my website);
(4) check out the June 2009 issue of the "Communications of the ACM" (publication of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific computing society), in which I have a commissioned piece on the science behind WAKE;
(5) visit my website soon for the podcast of the invited talk entitled "Webmind: When the Web Wakes Up" I gave about the science behind WAKE on May 6, 2009, at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania;
(6) have a look at my editorial on robotics/AI in the November 16, 2007, issue of SCIENCE, the world's leading science journal; and
(7) be cognizant of the fact that prior to book publication, WAKE was serialized in ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT, the top-selling English-language SF magazine, and the world's leading hard-SF publication, a place where stories not firmly grounded in accurate science simply don't get published. -- Robert J. Sawyer
"Audible, sell these at a trilogy price, please!"
The author is very good at mixing scientific concepts with a fairly decent story about a young girl who regains her sight with an aid of an 'Eyepad' and how this starts to affect the ghost within the internet and awakens him to consciousness.
I like that the author is always educating the reader with science, information theory or stories about Helen Keller and relating that to the story at hand. The story has enough science for me to be fully interested and at the same time gives enough of the drama so that my wife enjoys it. A good story to listen to with some one else.
Come on Audible, for a trilogy like this one, why don't you give all three books in the series for the price of one. I'll buy and listen to the other two stories as it is, but you guys really should reduce the price since the price for the paperback new are no longer premium prices. For me, I love stories about AI and can't resist this story and will pay full premium prices to listen to the rest of this story.
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