Thursday, April 7, 2011

"WWW: Wonder"

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: Wonder, and reported the following:
WWW: Wonder is the third book in my WWW trilogy -- although, really, in a lot of ways, the trilogy is one big book published in three volumes, in the manner of Lord of the Rings.

The first volume, WWW: Wake, had 354 pages and the second, WWW: Watch, had 350. So one could say page 69 of WWW: Wonder is page 773 of a 1,040-page giant novel -- about three-quarters of the way to the end.

Although the series is intended to be a fast-paced, exciting science-fiction thriller about the emergence of a consciousness in the background of the World Wide Web, I always try to pay careful attention to my human characters. Caitlin Decter is a sixteen-year-old math genius who recently gained sight following an operation, and just acquired her first boyfriend, a shy, gentle geek named Matt. Caitlin is learning to see the world in all sorts of new ways, as the quiet action on page 69 attests:
After saying good-bye to her mom, who came downstairs to see Matt, they headed out into the brisk autumn morning. There'd already been a little snow in Waterloo, but it had all melted. The leaves on the trees were wonderful colors that Caitlin wasn't sure what to call: she was good now with basic color names but not yet proficient at intermediate shades.

She suddenly realized that she was having a feeling she'd never had before. Without looking back, as she and Matt walked down the street, she was sure her mother was watching them from the open front door, arms probably crossed in front of her chest.

Perhaps Matt had the same sense -- or perhaps he'd looked back at some point and confirmed it -- but it wasn't until after they'd turned the corner and were out of sight of the house that he reached over and touched Caitlin's hand.

Caitlin found herself smiling at the tentativeness of the gesture. Matt was presuming nothing: all the affection down in the basement yesterday entitled him to no privileges today. She squeezed his hand firmly, stopped walking, and kissed him on the lips. When they pulled away, she saw he was smiling. They picked up their pace and hurried toward the donut shop.

As soon as they came in the door, Caitlin was surprised to catch sight of a flash of platinum-blonde hair. It took her a moment to recognize Sunshine Bowen out of context -- but here she was, working behind the counter. Another woman was at the cash register; Sunshine was -- ah, she was making a sandwich for a customer.

"Hi, Sunshine!" Caitlin called out.

Sunshine looked up, startled, but then she smiled. "Caitlin, hi!"

Matt didn't say anything, and so Caitlin whispered to him, "Say hi, Matt."

He looked astonished, and after a second, Caitlin got it. There were a million social rules at any school, and apparently one of the ones she'd been oblivious to was that guys who looked like Matt didn't speak to girls as beautiful as Sunshine, even if they were in half their classes together.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert J. Sawyer's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Wake.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Watch.

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

--Marshal Zeringue