Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: WWW Trilogy

What would happen if an alternate universe was discovered where the Neanderthals replaced Humans? What if extremely technologically advanced alien visitors told us that there is incontrovertible proof that something like a god existed in the universe? What if everyone suddenly blacked out for 90 seconds and saw their futures 20 years from now? These are the kinds of super interesting subjects Canadian Sci Fi author Robert J Sawyer deals with in his numerous award-winning novels. Sawyer is a totally awesome writer and his ideas and plot lines make him even more awesome…er. This review is on his WWW Trilogy but I recommend any of his books!

Author: Robert J Sawyer
Genre: Sci-Fi

The WWW trilogy is set on present day Earth, like most of Sawyer’s novels. It chronicles the rise of a super intelligent consciousness out of the complexities of the internet, which has been often compared to the human brain because they both involve oodles of connections between many individual components.

This intelligence, dubbed “Webmind” by Caitlin Dector, the 16 year old blind girl math wiz who first discovered it, first has to come to grips with its own identity, then to learn what it means to exist in a world of humans, and finally decide what to do about it. (Yeah! Awesome smart teen girls FTW!)

The first book of the series focuses on Caitlin, who is given the ability to see through some Japanese technological wizardry. She then figures out that an intelligence entity on the internet is communicating with her through her eye camera. Wonderment ensues and Webmind is born. The second book deals with Webmind’s coming of age – assimilating all the books on the Gutenberg project was one of the first steps. In the final book, Webmind was revealed to the world, and fun and chaos ensues.

The story, like most of Sawyer’s novels, is more or less utopian. Surely one can imagine many destructive paths a nascent artificial intelligence like Webmind could take, but here it chooses a positive, life-affirming one. I for one love his writing because of this. Frankly, I’m a little tired of apocalypses in Sci-fi, and want to read about futures where there is hope.

This doesn’t mean that there is no conflict in the book – far from it. After all, present day Earth is far from a utopia! This means a series of adventures and close-calls that keep you turning the pages. The fact that most of these adventures happen to take place in dialogues between characters in the living room or the cyberspace of the World Wide Web doesn’t make them any less thrilling to read.

In fact, I would say that Sawyer’s actual writing isn’t all that awesome. There are many passages that read awkwardly and descriptions that don’t make much literary sense. I am a BIG FAN of well written novels that teleport you to another world – his writing doesn’t do this. Despite this, there are so many great ideas packed into Sawyer’s books that more than make up for his weaknesses.

Throughout the novels, you are introduced to a wealth of interesting facts about subjects related to the theme of the book. In WWW, these might include game theory, experimental ethics, computer science and even a bit of animal cognition. In his other book Calculating God, it is astronomy, astrophysics, string theory, paleontology and geology. Sawyer does a lot of thorough research for each book and it shows. It’s very rare for you to learn so many interesting things while reading a work of fiction.

The trilogy follows a really unique plot line and has some neat ideas for the reader to think about. Sci-fi lovers will adore it or people who like to think about big “what if” ideas. People who love a lot of imagery won’t… But overall it’s a great read.

4.5 out of 5!

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

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