Tuesday, June 15, 2010

[Review] Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

Title: Watch

Series: WWW 2
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Jacket art: Tony Mauro
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: ACE 2010
Hardcover: 368 pages
Copy: Bought by me
Order from: ACE | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

Reviewer: Ove Jansson

I always get a bit cautious after a great first book in a series and try to normalize my expectations. Because otherwise I expect them to exceed the first and become disappointed if it is 'only' as good as the first one. I liked Wake [my review] a lot and this is how I found the sequel.
Webmind is an emerging consciousness that has befriended Caitlin Decter and grown eager to learn about her world. But Webmind has also come to the attention of WATCH-the secret government agency that monitors the Internet for any threat to the United States-and they're fully aware of Caitlin's involvement in its awakening.
WATCH is convinced that Webmind represents a risk to national security and wants it purged from cyberspace. But Caitlin believes in Webmind's capacity for compassion-and she will do anything and everything necessary to protect her friend.
In the first book Wake the World Wide Web became sentient by the grace of mutated data packages, a Chinese firewall and the help of one Caitlin Decter who showed it how to read. Such a monumental event cannot go unnoticed for long. While Caitlin struggles with her everyday life and helping Webmind, an American government agency discover that there is something weird going on with the Internet. First they think it is spies but they soon discover that it is something unknown to them there on the web so they send out agents to interrogate Caitlyn and her parents.

The agency feels realistic and it is noteworthy that the events more or less take place inside the letter of the law according to the book even if Caitlin's parents don't trust them to follow the law and decide to home-school her. I know for sure that in my country any government official wouldn't be allowed to interrogate a minor without the presence of a legal guardian, I am not sure how that is in Canada?

While the agency tries to find a way to destroy Webmind before it becomes too powerful; Caitlin has her trust in it and her teaching it right and wrong unfolds in an endearing way. This is mainly a story about that development of ethics.

The side stories are not as prominent in this book but I expect the Chinese blogger to return in book three. Hobo the video conferencing monkey is going through puberty and are having trouble with inherited behavior. With the help of Webmind he eventually makes the same kind of ethical choice Webmind itself has to do.

I enjoyed Caitlin's personal story where she stays loyal to her friends, snub the jerk that tried to take advantage of her and when she starts to pursue another boy.

It not often that I find a sequel as good as its predecessor but here it comes close. The sense of wonder was greater in Wake but here I connect more with the character and the action is picking up. Watch is another coming-of-age story; the one about the Webmind. I can't wait on part three.

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