UPDATED: Review of WWW Series by Robert J. Sawyer

My most recent diversion while commuting into work has been listening to audiobooks. I just finished WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer last night. It’s the first episode in an obvious trilogy of W-titled books. The premise revolves around Caitlin Decter, a young blind girl with a rare genetic disorder that distorts the signals entering her brain from her retina. Her blindness allowed her brain to adapt to the environment in which she spent the majority of her time: the Web. When she receives an experimental implant from a Japanese scientist to restore her sight, she discovers her visual cortex is initially only capable of processing website infrastructure and the connections between them. That unique gift helps her discover new and wondrous secrets about our world.

Updated: January 8, 2012 after reading the following books in the series. Changes are marked in italics.

The Good

Perceiving the world through the “eyes” of a blind girl adds a fascinating perspective to the basic premise of the story. The way the author develops the plot from China, a primate research institute, and the simple life of Caitlin Decter allows for a rich and robust view of the premise for the entire trilogy. Sawyer definitely leaves much to the imagination as he hopes to whet your appetite for the following books in the series. He makes a respectable effort to convey thoughts and sentiments of characters with completely different points of view. That is what makes the book engaging, in my opinion. Differing cultures and paradigms of thought results in a cascade of contrasting characters. Warning: the following books don’t capitalize on this premise like I wanted it to.

The female narrator portraying the protagonist does a relatively good job falling into character and remaining consistent throughout the recording. Her portrayals of secondary characters was also true to their depicted natures. Good job, Jessica Almasy. I appreciate the work Audible Frontiers put into the series, even if it wasn’t perfect, but more on that later.

The Bad

“and…And…AND!” This phrase annoyed me to death for two reasons. First, the narrator portraying this special character put so much emotion into this phrase to make the literary effect seem melodramatic. Secondly, this literary effect illustrating the thought process of the character never changes. Believe me, I checked. Oh sure, the actual words used may have changed somewhat, but using the same style of writing for one character throughout the book makes that character feel extremely flat—or severely constipated!

Robert, you have a very interesting array of characters that can pull readers into your world, but character development feels more like extrinsic events rather than the actual dynamics of life and growth. As each of these characters enter new environments, you try to convey the effect of those alterations but fail, unfortunately. This book had extraordinary potential to highlight the progression of intellectual evolution and personal growth, but it didn’t do that.

The Ugly

Wow! The later books in the trilogy have a major ugly! It’s so ugly that I don’t even recommend reading those books. What I originally thought were difficulties in character development and dynamics actually turned out to be  the liberal bias of the author. Seriously, Sawyer surfaces so many liberal dogmas in such a non-organic way that I can’t help but interpret his intentions as a pure soapbox browbeating of the reader. According to Sawyer, homosexual marriage should be completely supported, teenage sex is to be condoned, and a belief in a divine Christ is just silly.

The WWW Series may severely irritate anyone with a deeper knowledge of the Internet. I graduated at the top of my program in Information Systems, and there are some major premise flaws. Even if you can suspend disbelief for the sake of the story, it saddens me to realize how much knowledge has been lost about the true nature of the Internet. I suppose it is the danger of authors working from limited research and incomplete knowledge.

In terms of narration and for the producers’ information, ASCII is not pronounced “Ask-key”! There is no double consonant in the middle of the acronym to even confuse this by! Seriously, the book references Wikipedia yet the producers of the audio failed to check the pronunciation of the word! (pronunciation: /ˈæski/ ass-kee) In the later books, references to Time-to-Live are made, but the narration pronounces it wrong, too (live as in “live TV”, when it should be like “live long and prosper”).

The Consensus

If your technical literacy is not expansive, you can negate the technical portion that I talk about in “The Ugly” portion of my review. While the first novel’s leftist leanings should be bearable to most readers, the soapbox rants become progressively worse and worse in each subsequent book. This series is not worth your time.

Read these books: if you appreciate liberal dogma in young adult novels. The first book is a relatively entertaining—although not very stimulating—novel. You will probably enjoy the vast multitude of perspectives and paradigms portrayed, and the text is fairly easy to comprehend.

Don’t read this book: if you are looking for truly dynamic characters, a thought-provoking story, or any real point of view other than far left.

The End

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