Series: WWW 1
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Cover art: Steve Biver/Getty & John Lundh/Getty
Genre: Science Fiction | Coming-of-Age | First Contact
Publisher: ACE 2010 (1st serialized in Analog 2008)
Paperback: 352 pages
Reviewer: Ove Jansson
I like coming-of-age and first-contact stories. Wake is both. Young blind girl, jump on chance to get sight back, the operation fails and blind girl return disappointed to her home in Canada only to discover she can see the World Wide Web. But she sees something else there too, between the connections, a something, an entity. In wonder she reaches out to the something and it reaches right back. Then it becomes a story about how she helps it learn and grow.
The Author presents some plausible and interesting ideas about what consciousness is and how it has developed over the centuries. I have not dived into the hard science of it so I have no say on that other than it creates a relevant and believable framework for the story to work in. The same can be said about the technical explanation for the Internet becoming sentient.
Wake is also the story about Caitling Decter, a talented teenager fresh out of school for the blind that just started school in a new city, just like in so many other YA novels. There she makes friends with the seeing and to no big surprise starts to develop interests in boys. So besides from her being a feisty beautiful blind genius in math with a web based entity for a friend her life is pretty normal.
The main storyline is Caitling’s but we also gets to follow a Chinese blogger who won’t give up when the government takes down the Internet. His successful attempts to break through the firewalls play a role in the creation of a self aware conscious on the web. The Chinese authorities cut the connection to try to hide a massacre and that will have repercussions on world politics as seen later.
I think the author included Hobo, the ape famous for being the first ape to use videoconferencing to talk to another ape, to further exemplify the development of consciousness. It is also another cute story with some dire threats to overcome. Later Hobo will become even more important.
This book has characters I like and it has interesting and intriguing characters, like Caitlin’s autistic father who hates change but moves his whole family to a new country and a new town so he can work with Stephen Hawking for one month every year. Young Caitlin’s feelings and inner dialogue is also fun and entertaining to read about. I was never an adolescent girl so I have no idea how their minds work but this way works until I know for sure.
This is an adorable empowering young adult novel you should feel proud of reading. Make your kids read it too, they will love it.