Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WWW: Watch by Robert J Sawyer

Title: WWW: Watch
Author: Robert J Sawyer
Publisher: Audible
Rating: WARTY!

Read by Jessica Almasy, AC Fellner, Jennifer Van Dyck, and Marc Vietor.

Once again I came into a trilogy in progress at some point later than the first novel without even realizing it! Take note that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever on the cover to indicate that this is part of a series. This volume is book two. The book blurb for book one begins like this: "Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math, and blind". Note that her two most important traits according to the priority of this list is that she's young and pretty. Smarts comes fourth, right before blind. If I'd read that first, I never would have picked up any one of this trilogy.

It was the audio book of this novel that I "read", and it featured several readers, but they didn't really do a very good job. Indeed, the one reading for Webmind became truly annoying after a while. Webmind is the Internet-born entity around which this trilogy is centered. In this middle volume, a government agency - which is of course evil since all government is inevitably evil, don't you know? - has discovered Webmind and decides to eradicate it because it's viewed as a threat.

The human protagonist is Caitlin Decter, and during the course of the first novel she gets a prototype implant which gives her vision in one of her eyes. Why only one? I don't know - maybe that's explained in the first novel. The problem (or blessing) is that this implant not only lets her see, but also lets her see the actual structure of the Internet in diagrammatic form. How this works exactly isn't explained, at least not in this volume.

I started out really liking this story, but I became quickly disillusioned with it and then annoyed, at which point I quit listening. Some of it was truly dumb, other parts not really credible. Some of it was interesting and well-done, but Sawyer has a habit of lecturing his readers and this was really annoying.

The representation of Webmind was a disaster because its thought processes and "personality" did not follow from its origins. It arose spontaneously from the complexity of the Internet so we're told, but for something which supposedly arose that way, it's really stupid about how the Internet works!

One ridiculous proposition was that it could not see see images, for example, and it has to use Caitlin's eye to see things. This makes no sense. First of all, images on the Internet are stored in common file formats, and the information on how those formats work is also on the Internet. We're told that Webmind has absorbed wikipedia, therefore it must know how the files are organized, so why can it not translate them?

How does it 'see" through Caitlin's eye? The information from Caitlin's vision has to be translated into a data stream just like image files are translated into ones and zeroes on the Internet, so how is it that Webmind can "see" the one but not the other? it made no sense.

Another real annoyance was deciding that Webmind was male. What? I'm sorry but, what? Why would it have to have a gender? It wasn't even Webmind's idea to masculines itself - it was Caitlin's! Why? Because this juvenile has so much experience of life? Because no woman could take that kind of responsibility to be the superhero: WEBMIND! CONTROLLER OF THE INTERNET~!!!!!? Seriously? I'll bet Webmind is white, too. I mean, why not? If we have to have a completely asexual entity forcibly given a gender, then why not have a totally colorless entity made white? And mature, too, but not old, for goodness sakes. Never old.

Once this novel dissolved into endless rambling and boring diversions, I found no point in continuing it. There was nothing happening anyway. It could have been really really good, but it was so badly done that I cannot recommend it. A much better version of this story is told in an old novel titled Adolescence Of P-1 by Thomas F. Ryan, who does a far better job than does Sawyer in telling a story of an Internet entity.

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