Review: "WWW: Wake" by Robert J. Saywer

Good science fiction speculates on things that are theoretically possible given some of the conditions and advances of our current level of technology. In many cases, the advances may be years or decades away from becoming reality, but in the case of Robert J. Sawyer's new novel, "WWW: Wake," part of his speculated future has become a reality far too quickly.

It's disconcerting to pick up a novel that speculates on the future and find one plot element concerning an outbreak of a new form of the flu virus. In fact, the virus that breaks out is the H1N5 in the novel, possibly some distant cousin of the current virus that is creating a global scare and a potential world-wide pandemic.

Of course, I shouldn't be shocked that Sawyer has done has homework and is able to predict things that could happen in the near future. He's had a long, distinguished career of doing just that and his new novels are always those I look forward to reading next.

"WWW: Wake" is no exception.

The start of a new trilogy of novels, the story follows several different threads. One is the story of teenager Catlin Decter, who has been blind since birth. A new technology could possibly open give her sight for the first time by making use of the power of the Internet. But there's something lurking out in cyberspace, building itself up and slowly becoming more and more aware of itself.

Stir in a story about China's dealing with an outbreak of the H1N5 virus by removing the affected areas and shutting off communication with the outside world for several days and a plot about a highly intelligent hybrid primate and you've got a lot of ground to cover in this first installment. And make no mistake, this is clearly a first installment. Sawyer introduces a lot of threads and a lot of fascinating ideas in the course of his story and while he does wrap-up most of the immediate plot threads in this novel, he still leaves you hanging in the end, wanting the next installment immediately, if not sooner. There's not a character in peril type of cliffhanger here, but instead there are several intriguing points that Sawyer leaves the reader to mull over and consider as we wait for the next installment.

But while the book is full of big ideas, those ideas are grounded in identifiable characters. The main focus of the story is Catlin and her journey from lack of sight to her new ability to see. Sawyer ably puts the reader inside the mind and experience of Catlin, making us see how she works within the world while being blind and how she must learn to adapt to a world where she can see. Catlin's story will have you feeling her joy, her frustration and her curious nature in how she relates to the world. And a revelation about her father half-way through the story is ably set up and paid off in the course of this first installment.

The only real criticism I can come up with this one is it ended too soon and left me eager for the next installment. And that next installment cannot come soon enough...

Michael Hickerson

WWW: Wake by Robert J. Saywer
Published by: William Morrow (June 2, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0441016790
ISBN-13: 978-0441016792