When I first started reading science fiction, I didn’t really like it at first. It wasn’t until I started reading Frank Herbert’s Dune that I enjoyed its possibilities. To me, science fiction is at its utmost best when it extrapolates and experiments, taking the “what could be’s” and turning them into “what if’s.”
www:wake by Robert Sawyer is that kind of a book. It takes a slice of our modern, everyday life and the topic on everyone’s mind — the internet. The first in a trilogy, this book is about a young, blind girl named Caitlin who wishes to see. Internet savvy, Caitlin travels from her Canadian homeland across an ocean to find her elusive sight.
Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math—and blind. Still, she can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind. 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… –SOURCE: www:wake on Amazon.com
What’s interesting about this book, is not the mechanics of the plot or the story. It’s the character of the internet looming ominously in the background. It’s the social commentary on how we interact with the world wide web and how our world is connected. (That connectivity reminded me of the Otherland virtual reality series by Tad Williams which is now being made into an MMORPG.) As the first book in the series, www: wake lays the foundation for what is to come.
If you are remotely involved with the internet or a self-proclaimed math geek, I think you’d really enjoy this book. The development of an internet consciousness is fascinating (and a bit scary) to read, and Caitlin’s mathematical prowess acts as a benchmark of the internet’s character evolution. In a way, I regarded the character as a modern-day version of Ghost in the Shell, but more gritty and realistic. I also enjoyed the fact that Caitlin — although blind — was not a helpless character, but is depicted as a normal teenager who has her ups and downs just like everyone else does. Her blindness is not a crutch, in this instance, but an integral part of the story. It’s the way we “see” the internet’s true nature and watch as he twists and shapes into a higher consciousness. To what end? Well, that’s what book two is about.
In www:wake, Robert Sawyer asks the question, “What if the internet was a living consciousness?” I don’t know about you, but the thought that it could even remotely be possible scares the living snot out of me. Which is probably why this first book was so interesting to me, because after all — that’s what science fiction is (in my mind) supposed to be about.