Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: WWW:Wonder (#3) ~ by Robert J. Sawyer


Review by John of    WWW:Wonder ~ by Robert J. Sawyer

Part three of a clever and highly readable science fiction trilogy about a consciousness that spontaneously emerges on the infrastructure of the World Wide Web.

Picking up  where WWW:Wake #1 ~ (link here for JD’s review) and WWW:Watch #2 ~ (link here for JD’s review) left off.

About:   “Webmind” has survived a first attack from the US government, thanks to help from his friend and human mentor, Caitlin Decter. Webmind is determined to prove his altruism by continuing to carry out good deeds - acts that benefit either society at large or specific individuals who are in need. However, elements within the government remain determined to eliminate him,  arguing that his powers are growing so quickly that they cannot wait for incontrovertible evidence of his good intentions. By governmental logic - if Webmind has been trying to deceive them, then by the time that they discover the fact it may be too late and events will have passed beyond the point where he is stoppable; the fact that he is so far innocent of any misdeeds is irrelevant. 

While the government plans a second and more devious attack that will rely on the best hackers around, Webmind and his growing band of followers develop their own plans to try and protect him and to prove his value. Their “charm offense” seems to be making progress, but political events around the world seem to be conspiring against their efforts. The race is on between Webmind’s allies and those that would destroy him, creating some surprising turns.

John’s Thoughts:   Within the construct of an easy-to-read novel, this book (and the trilogy as a whole) set out to cover some very ambitious issues – the nature and consequences of artificial intelligence; man’s first contact with an “alien” consciousness; the impact of technology on people’s lives; the consequences of Darwinism; personal power and freedom versus overbearing government; peaceful contrasted with aggressive behaviors; and the nature of humanity’s moral progression.

Did it work?  Mostly yes, although in this third book some of the content came across a bit as lecturing or sermonizing. Even if I agreed with it (mostly I did), it was a bit much at times. It was also crystal clear early on what Sawyer’s (and Webmind’s) beliefs were, so there wasn’t too much mystery about how the book would ultimately play out – albeit with some intriguing plot twists en route.

I have to say that Sawyer does have some fabulous ideas and storylines, and the trilogy made for a good and enjoyable read. He has created some complicated characters - Caitlin Decter is a strong young person; in this third book there is more focus on her parents who are also interesting characters; then there is Webmind “himself”. Most of me thinks Sawyer has done exceptionally well here, though a small part of me wishes Webmind had a darker aspect – with some hidden corners or internal conflicts, there could have been more tension in the novel’s climax.

Overall, I think some tighter editing may have made this a better two-book series. However, as a reader I enjoyed the series and blew through the three books in no time (and I am not a series reader.)  I’d rate this book 3.5 stars and the trilogy as a whole 4 stars. If you are a science fiction fan, and enjoy strong characters, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the first book in the series; then decide whether or not to follow up with #2 and #3.

WWW: Series ~

  • Wake ~ by Robert J. Sawyer (book 1) US|UK|Canada; 368 pages; Ace Hardcover; (April 7, 2009)
  • Watch ~ by Robert J. Sawyer (book 2) US|UK|Canada; 368 pages Ace Hardcover; (April 6, 2010) 
  • Wonder ~ Robert J. Sawyer (book 3) US|UK|Canada; 352 pages; Ace Hardcover (April 5, 2011)

As always John will be addressing your comments on this last in the WWW trilogy, so please remember to check the follow up box to read his response.

Happy Saturday and thanks for reading!



Off topic.... I just finished Among Others by Jo Walton and I was sure I saw it mentioned on your blog but couldn't find where. If not make note of it, if so, thank you. Totally different from anything I've read recently. Very clever. Good characters. Well written.
It was a nice surprise how many of the books mentioned in this book are ones of read or am aware off.

John... good to know you finished the WWW series.

Unknown said...

Elizabeth -
Funny that you have just read - Among Others. I have it sitting on the shelf and have started the first 3 or so chapters - but have put it aside because its the only one that I do not feel obliged to read... and review since I have it borrowed from the library.

I understand its very good - Charles de Lint loved it and recommended it months ago in FS&S magazine. I think it may win some awards next year???

Reviews should be popping up everywhere right about now.

John D said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Yep, I finished it. I think I agreed with most of your comments about the series. But I did still enjoy it and I'm glad that I read it.


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