WWW: Wake

www wake cover

The last time I was in the bookstore, I discovered that one of my favorite authors, Robert Sawyer, had a new novel out.  Titled (in the US, anyway) WWW: Wake, Sawyer begins a new trilogy apparently about the emergence of an artificial intelligence on the world wide web.  Interwoven into that plot is also the story of the blind girl who is given sight and in the process discovers the new being and helps to teach it more about our world.

It was a good novel, though I wouldn't consider it among his best work.  It seemed like there were too many plots that had nothing to do with the main story.  In addition to the main threads about the blind girl, Caitlin, and about the emerging intelligence, there are sub-plots about a disease outbreak in China, China's disconnecting itself electronically from the rest of the internet temporarily, the plight of a blogger in China and his running from the law, and a painting monkey.

The disease outbreak is what lead to China's cutting itself off from the rest of the world in order that the citizenry not hear anything negative when the rest of the world discovers that China carpet-bombed the infected area, intentionally killing villagers.  China's cutting itself off is later referenced by the characters as the reason the intelligence finally gained enough "steam" to become self-aware.

China's cutting itself off is also what lead the blogger to try to circumvent the firewalls, and what lead to the blogger getting himself chased by Chinese law-enforcement, but so far that story hasn't lead anywhere, nor has the plot thread of a monkey hybrid who demonstrates the ability to paint objects from memory, implying that it has the ability to create abstractions of reality.  I suspect that these threads will get picked up in the next volumes, but so far they seem fairly pointless.

My biggest problem with the book has to do with Caitlin's father.  Throughout the book, a big deal is made over how he isn't particularly demonstrative, that he never gives her any reaction, never hugs her, never gives any of the reactions that she expects and even desires.  The reason for that is revealed about two-thirds of the way through the book, and I had a hard time accepting either it, or the reactions of the other people around him.

Other than that, as usual, Sawyer presents many different, interesting ideas and fuses them into an intriguing narrative.  His dialog never seems forced or artificial, and his characters are all fully formed and realistic (well, other than her father).  Bottom line: even a moderately good Sawyer book is better than nearly any other book you could be reading, and I'm looking forward to the next one.