Thursday, April 22, 2010

"WWW: Watch"

Robert J. Sawyer has been called “the dean of Canadian science fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen.

He is one of only seven writers in history—and the only Canadian—to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science-fiction novel of the year: the Hugo (which he won in 2003 for Hominids), the Nebula (which he won in 1995 for The Terminal Experiment), and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won in 2005 for Mindscan). In 2008, Sawyer received his tenth Hugo Award nomination for his novel Rollback.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, WWW: Watch, and reported the following:
Page 69 of WWW: Watch:
“How are you doing?” Caitlin asked, concerned.

“Exhausted,” her mother replied. “Couldn’t sleep.”

Ah, right! Dark circles under the eyes—but they weren’t circles; they were semicircles. Something else she’d misconstrued all these years.

Her mother shrugged, went on: “Nervous about what we’re doing, about what it—what he’s—doing.”

“He’s learning to see,” said Caitlin. “Trust me: a mostly harmless activity.”

“I have to go out,” her father said abruptly.

Caitlin was pissed. What could possibly be more important than this? Besides, it was her birthday, and they had a date to watch a movie later today.

“Ah, yes,” her mom said. “The Hawk.”

Caitlin sat up straight. “The Hawk” was her mother’s name for Stephen Hawking, who since 2009 had been a Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute, making one or two visits each year. It came back to her: Professor Hawking had done a media day in Toronto yesterday—Caitlin was glad that her little press conference hadn’t had to compete with that!—and was being driven to Waterloo this morning in a van that safely accommodated his wheelchair. This was the Hawk’s first visit since her father had joined PI, and he was supposed to be on hand for his arrival.

Ordinarily, she might have asked her dad if she could come along—but this was not an ordinary day! She wondered which of them was going to spend it with the bigger genius.
Watch is the second book in my WWW trilogy; the first, Wake, came out last year and has just been nominated for the Hugo Award, science fiction’s top honor, for the year’s best novel.

Like Wake, Watch focuses on Caitlin Decter, a blind-since-birth teenage math genius in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. In volume one, Caitlin gained sight for the first time—and here, in volume two, she’s helping the entity she’s discovered to learn to see (and read!) as well.

And what is that entity? Nothing short than the World Wide Web come to life: out of the vast complex network of interconnections that is the Web a consciousness has emerged. It exists in a state of sensory deprivation, just as Helen Keller did at first. Caitlin has taken the role of Annie Sullivan—the miracle-worker teacher—to help the nascent Webmind engage with the real world, for although it exists surrounded by all the data humanity has ever produced, it has no way to access or interpret it.

Watch explores what it means to see, to feel, and to think; it’s a celebration of the mind, and the senses, and I think this page hints at that quite well.
Read an excerpt from WWW: Watch, and learn more about the book and author at Robert J. Sawyer's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Wake.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue