Thursday 4 February 2010

WAKE by Robert J Sawyer

Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a mathematics genius - 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.

This is the first book in the WWW trilogy.

Caitlin has been blind since birth, and has recently moved to Canada with her parents. She attends a local school and is a whiz at maths. She's also got an uncanny talent for the web. Using some especially designed software, she constantly updates her LiveJournal, leaves book reviews, browses the Internet, uses search enhines, and chats with friends. Being blind hasn't been a hinderance to her life and she's quite independent too. But when she's offered the opportunity to undergo an experimental procedure to get her eyesight back--an implant to her left optic nerve--she's excited and accepts it.

In Japan, after the surgery on her left eye, she still can't see but convinces Dr. Kuroda to let her keep the implant until the end of the year. And so, she connects to what she dubs EyePod via the Internet and returns to Canada. The day she starts to see something that she suspects is colour and lines, she contacts Dr. Kuroda and starts to realise that what she's seeing is the web, which leads to seeing the real world.

However, her connection to the web helps awaken an artificial-intelligence entity, which is essentially the world wide web. At the same time there are two other stories going on--one about a very clever chimpanzee hybrid, and the other about a Chinese government coverup that blocks China from the rest of the world via the Internet. It's clear that all these stories will eventually connect because they're drawing closer, but that doesn't happen completely in this book.

Although I really enjoyed it, I found the technical side of things a little too involved and even distracting. I found myself hoping that the story would return to Caitlin's every day life with her family and friends. I really liked her, even if she did seem a little too mature for a 15 year old. :) Also, the description and experiences Caitlin goes through when she sees and describes things from a blind person's POV is amazing.

Wake is an interesting story about hope and a miracle that will surely lead Caitlin to some very interesting situations in the books to come.

Wake, January 2010, ISBN 978-057-509407-9, Gollancz Paperback

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