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 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.
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.
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 will start in saying that I have not finished this book. I found the characters 2 dimensional and the first half of the book (which is did listen to) there is very little links between the three stories that the author has created and I found switching between them made me feel (so what). There was no clear indicator of what the main character (Caitlin Decter) has in common with a monkey named hobo, or the bird flu outbreak in china.
I found no drive to find out the conclusion and thought that in the end do i really care. It felt that there was no goal or aim other then an emerging intelligence on the web.
Granted I did not finish the book and am sure that they stories would link together but after 5 1/2 hours on the first part that I found very dull I couldn't bring myself to finish the final 6 1/2 hours of part two to find out what happened.
Also I found one of the male narrators very bad. He was the one that describes all the issues with the chinese government. There was zero emotional content in the characters and no attempt at creating an accent (not really important granted). On the other hand the narrator for Caitlin Decter was great, she really gave every character feeling and even did an ok job at an Japanese accent. Shame.
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 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.
"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.
"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.
Yes, it's young adult fiction, so you need to understand and accept some things from that perspective. One review faulted the book for the slang, innuendo and the product placement....but story is told from the perspective of a nearly 16 year old girl. Spend some time with a group of 16 year olds and you will hear all of that and more! I found the narration to be pleasant and the story to be interesting and well told. I liked how Sawyer brought in other authors, books as well scientific and mathematical ideas into the story to substantiate the premise. It gives you something more to research if you are interested in the theories he presents.
"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
"Great for kids but....not mine I guess."
SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW! WARNING! I'm writing this for parents who want to get this for their pre-teen and teen children.
The story of WebMind was great. The characters were well thought out but in some cases sterotypical. The kid who tries to take advantage of Kaitlyn and then bullies Matt is one such case.
That said, the story revolving around WebMind is fantastic and extraordinary. I also enjoyed Hobo the chimp/benobo although his making a choice not to be violent was too far fetched for me, at least in this story.
Now on to the elephant in the room. Regardless of what a perfect world is or how the characters think it should be; parents encouraging their 16 year old daughter to first sext her bare breasts to her new boyfriend and then just days after first kissing a boy (not just this boy, any boy) they let their daughter her have sex with him, is not the mindset I want to instill in the world I live in.
The mother finding the sexting bare breast picture on her daughter's phone and sees the sext she sent to her boyfriend but when she shows the father, he is not only not upset, but he tells her there is nothing wrong with it. That is crazy in my book, sorry for the pun. Sure, they didn't tell her directly "Hey Kaitlyn, sexting is fine and by the way, having sex is great and we think you should have it now too" but their actions (and lack of action) spell it out very clearly. They knew full well that their daughter who was born blind and had just gained sight, had her very first kiss and sent naked pictures of herself to said boy. They also knew that just days after gaining sight, etc. she was going to have sex. They accepted it as a forgone conclusion.
I think the sexting and Kaitlyn losing her virginity added nothing to the overall story other than an irresponsible influence on many pre-teen and teen children who will read this book. I don't think books should be censored or banned. I read many, many books per year, sometimes two or more per week and I run across many situations like this but this one is different in that it is a book specifically geared for young girls. I don't know how to handle it other than by writing this review.
The above is why I dropped 2 full stars from the overall and 3 from the story, If those two situations were handled differently I would have given this book a full 5 star review. It was that good. It is not something I normally read but someone recommended the first book and I was pulled in. :)
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.
"Wow - very refreshing"
I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, so this book (and the entire series actually) was a pure joy to read. It wasn't all sunshine and roses, but there were enough of each to stock a small nursery. There is a sense of hope in this book that is missing from many (if not most) sci-fi writing. Yes, I usually prefer more gritty reading, but it is nice sometimes to sit outside in the warn sunshine in a loose-fitting shirt and shorts, sip a lemonade, and read with a smile on your face.
The writing is smart and technically plausible (which for a tech person like me is always enjoyable). I even got to use some of this book to explain "network packets" to a client of mine :) The pace moves well and has a good enough mixture of action and prose, which is important for those of us with a short attention span.
The characters are planted in shallow soil, but not entirely transparent, and interesting at least. I actually learned a bit (and thought quite a bit more) about what it might be like to be a blind person, especially a blind person using a computer. I also remembered what it was like to be a teenager again, probably the reason I am still drawn to so-called YA books. But, I think if you can't enjoy an occasional lighter read, then maybe you need to lighten up just a bit.
The narration is second-to-none! How can you complain about a full cast of talent like this? You can't! I'd love to have more audio books done this way as it lends much more credibility to the entire affair (listening to some male narrators squeak out a female voice reminds you that you are listening to someone read a book instead of losing yourself in the story).
I have an Audible 2-book per month membership and actually went out of my way to purchase the 3rd book in this series before the end of the month, a rare occurrence for me. That should tell you all you need to know!
"Really! Lemmed it"
I lemmed it 2/3 through. I got tired of waiting for something to captivate me.
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