Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Book Review: Wake

I'm a huge fan of Canadian novelist Robert J Sawyer. I was very excited when I had a chance to meet him at a book signing in Ottawa for his latest novel, Wake.

Wake's protagonist, Caitlin Decter, is a blind 15 year old girl living in Canada. She is about to undergo a new experimental procedure that may cure her blindness. The surgery puts an implant in her eye which will fix the signals going to her primary visual cortex. The catch is the implant must communicate with an off board device for signal processing which the dub the eyePod.

An unexpected side benefit of the the implant is that it allows her to visualize the world wide web. This allows Caitlin to detect an emerging intelligence on the web. Could this been the singularity that features so heavily in books by Vinge and Stross?

There are two side plots going on. One is the outbreak of an advanced strain of the bird flu in China and the other is the emergence of a Chimpanzee who can communicate in sign language.

Along with the main story Sawyer draws parallels to the life of Helen Keller. Keller was blind and deaf from an early age up until she was 7 when a governess learned how to communicate with her. When you read the book you can see how it relates to Cailin, the singularity and the chimp.

Sadly, the only negative point is that this is the first part of a trilogy so while you get a satisfying read you don't get the complete story. Mind you don't let that discourage you from picking up another great book from one of Canada's finest.

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