Thursday, May 20, 2010
Book Review: WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer (Audio Book)
Note: This review is slightly spoilerish; some of the themes I discuss are important to the overall story, but no actual plot points are revealed. Sawyer delivers his message through dialog between characters, so some of the ideas I mention do not get discussed till later in the book. If you had mixed feelings about book 1, you should read this review before deciding to read book 2.
The story of Caitlin and the emergent entity WebMind continues in Watch. The story picks up directly following the events of Wake. WebMind has awoken from the darkness of pre-conscious existence, and has started to grow his abilities. It doesn’t take long for various government agencies to notice his presence and take the only action governments take in these kinds of situations: find a way to kill it. Watch steps away from the sense of discovery and enlightenment that Wake had, and follows a more traditional story format. You now have good guys (Caitlin and her family) and bad guys (various government agencies). Robert J. Sawyer’s characters do not fail to pontificate on the various ideologies that the story brings up, it’s just that the pontificating and sense of wonder that were the whole point of Wake take a bit of a backseat in Watch. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since Watch introduces the overall conflict.
The feeling Wake left you with would be impossible to recreate in a sequel, and I’m glad Sawyer didn’t try. He instead gives the reader different feelings, and a different message. Watch tackles the theme of “Big Brother” and the pros and cons of having a benevolent protector watching over all of humanity. He talks about the selfishness of genes and the ability of consciousness to overcome those primitive genetic programs to be something better than nature intended. In other words, Watch gets into territory just as deep as that explored in Wake, but in other ways. Watch does feel a little preachy at times. There are whole sections of dialog that feel a little forced in their message. It felt like Sawyer had these sweet ideas, but had a hard time finding a good place to put them. So, did I like Watch? Yes, a great deal. Did I like it more than Wake? No.
Like Wake, I listened to this book in the CD audio version released by Brilliance Audio. It was narrated by the same team of four voice actors (Jessica Almasy, Jennifer Van Dyck, A.C. Fellner, and Marc Vietor), and an intro by Robert J. Sawyer. Having a team of voice actors really adds a lot. Kudos goes to the actors for delivering some rather difficult dialog. I’m looking forward to listening to Wonder, which will feature the same cast.
You can also learn more about Sawyer’s books at the Fantasyliterature Robert J. Sawyer page