Hugo-award winning author Robert J. Sawyer is back with his 18th novel, “WWW: Wake.” The new story, which was published last week, is the first of a trilogy of stories centering on Caitlin Decter, a young math genius who is blind and can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind.
When a Japanese researcher develops a new signal-processing implant that might give her sight, she jumps at the chance, flying to Tokyo for the operation.
But Caitlin’s brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. Once the implant is activated, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the World Wide Web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something — some other — lurking in the background. And it’s getting smarter.
“I’m calling it William Gibson meets William Gibson,” said Sawyer. “One William Gibson wrote Neuromancer, the book that gave us the term ‘cyberspace.’ And the other William Gibson wrote The Miracle Worker, the play and movie about Helen Keller’s emergence from sensory deprivation to full consciousness.”
The trilogy will deal with the emergence of a planetary consciousness in a familiar setting: the homes and workplaces of the world we know, as the infrastructure we rely on for knowledge retrieval literally comes to life — an entity with a million webcam eyes and billions of gigabytes of data at its disposal, a consciousness that knows everything you’ve ever said in an email, and everything anyone has ever said about you.
“Science fiction has too often taken a simplistic, alarmist approach to the concept of artificial intelligence,” said Sawyer. “Well, I for one don’t welcome our new robot masters. This is my attempt to present a positive symbiosis — a world where humans are no longer the smartest thing on the planet, but in which we find a way of continuing to exist without giving up our essential humanity or individuality.”
The novel was published in serialized form in “Analog” before it’s hard cover publication last week. You can purchase a copy of this new book on Amazon or you can purchase the audio book with an exclusive introduction by Sawyer on Audible