Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer (Audio Book)

It's been a long time since I read Calculating God, and I'd forgotten how good Robert J. Sawyer was. As I was reading Wake, the wonderful, smooth rhythm of Sawyer’s writing came back to me, and I wondered why I ever stopped reading his stuff. I loved Wake, but defining exactly why I loved it will be somewhat difficult.

Caitlin is a 15 year old math genius who was born blind. She's the perfect candidate for an experimental implant that helps her brain interpret the signal her eyes receive. The only problem is that the device does not exactly work as it should: instead of seeing the world around her, she is able to visualize the internet. However, it’s not just the web she sees: there is something else lurking in the background, something alive and growing smarter.

Robert J. Sawyer spends a great deal of time explaining the world as Caitlin perceives it. It’s important to understand her perspective on things, because it’s used as a parallel for everything in the story. Sawyer does this so well that I was simply left in awe. I know he spent a lot of time researching for this book, and it shows. Reading the blurb on the back of the book doesn’t quite do the story justice, as it nearly tells the book’s story in its entirety in just a few paragraphs. Wake has no villains, no action sequences, no nail biting moments; it’s just a heart-warming story about an amazing girl who discovers something unbelievable. There are also side plots that, in their current form, seem unrelated, but I just know that the author will be bringing them all together in some huge way in the later books.

The ins and outs of human perception, and the idea of who we are and what our purpose on this earth is, are just some of the big ideas at play in this novel. The ideological dilemmas presented in this book literally kept me up at night contemplating them. On the outset it seems to be such a simple story, but in reality it is a complex manifesto on humanity from the perspective of Robert J. Sawyer. If there is a reason for someone not to like Wake, it would be that their world view is so philosophically different from Sawyer’s that they simply can’t accept the underlying themes in the story.

I listened to this book in the CD audio version released by Brilliance Audio, narrated by a team of four voice actors (Jessica Almasy, Jennifer Van Dyck, A.C. Fellner, and Marc Vietor), and even a little by Robert J. Sawyer himself. Having different voice actors for each main character was really nice, and I think it may have slightly spoiled me for further audiobooks. The voice of Caitlin (Jessica Almasy) was so bubbly and charming; she was just as I imagined Caitlin would be. Each actor offered something unique to their characters, and made this audio version something special.


You can also learn more about Sawyer’s books at the Fantasyliterature Robert J. Sawyer page

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