By Robert J Sawyer
Watch is the sequel to the acclaimed novel "Wake" (nominated for a Hugo award in 2010) and is the second volume in the WWW series by the award winning author Robert J Sawyer.
Catlin Decter is a gifted 15 year old blind girl who is given the gift of sight for the first time in her life through the ground breaking technology that allows an implant to send and receive visual signals through a device she carries called an eyepod. These signals are also streamed through the internet so that the inventor can monitor and tweak this pioneering bit of tech.
It's through this device that Caitlin discovers a presence within the world wide web that after careful nurturing appears to be an artificial sentient being, known as "Webmind". The first novel "Wake" dealt with the development of this technology and the emergence of Webmind. Watch expands on this discovery, following Webmind's continued development and questions the very meaning of that we call "life".
One thing I love about Sawyers work is the way that many of his novels are very much written in our contemporary reality and there is often only one science fiction element - in his novel (and the resulting TV series) Flashforward it's the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider that introduces this sci fi element, in the WWW series it's the development of the technology that allows Caitlin to see and the resulting discovery of the emerging sentience of Webmind.
Using an otherwise contemporary setting with no other science fiction elements makes the all important suspension of disbelieve very easy to acheive and helps the reader relate to the characters and understand the plot without the need for volumes of pace guzzling backstory or world-building. Combined with this is Sawyer's ability to grasp the feel of today's society and understand the complexities of current technology along with the most topical issues that the human race are trying to deal with (or not as the case may be).
There are also always a number of important messages in Sawyer's work, here on the surface we have a dialog on the question of just what consitutes "life" along with the subjects of morality, ethics and personal privacy but look deeper and the novel touches on many more topics such as racism, national security, the differences between artificial intelligence and emerging consciousness, autism, suicide and basic human (and animal) rights. I love the inclusion of science fiction classics such as "War Games" (The 80's film starring Matthew Broderick) and "Star Trek the Motionless Picture" (there is even a nod to the Flashforward TV series).
The prose is written an easy reading and friendly style that allows the characters to breathe, showing the complicated dynamics between Caitlin and her family and allowing the reader to really bond with the protagonists. The story is engaging, the plot a nice pace and the script very well written, as such there just isn't really any way to fault this book.
Watch is a dynamic, moving and thought provoking novel that manages to convey the book's myraid messages effortlessly and rewardingly, recommended.
Written on 11th April 2011 by Ant .