Audiobook Review: WWW:Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

6 05 2011

WWW:Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer (Conclusion of the WWW Trilogy)

Read by Jessica Almasy, Marc Vietor, Oliver Wyman, and Anthony Haden Salerno

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Wonder if a fitting conclusion to the WWW series, one which will stick with me for a long time.

Grade: A-

Wonder. I think that was the perfect title for this, the third entry in Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW series, about an emergent consciousness on the internet. I think much of science fiction today has lost its sense of Wonder. So many books today take the many wonderful things that science has to offer us, and present them in a perverted formed, not used to uplift us, but to hold us down by oppressive forces. Science Fiction is full of dystopian, apocalyptic scenarios, of science used as weapons. It is almost assumed that any great break through we have will be used as a tool to hold us down, and only enrich the greedy or power hungry. It seems that a sense of wonder in what science can do, even among those who are fascinated by it, has been lost. I miss those days when I can look up are the stars and wonder what it will be like when humanity grows beyond Earth, and begin colonizing other planets, without wondering how the first interstellar war will begin. Yet, Sawyer has truly created a novel that glories in the beautiful possibilities of the future, with science as our guide.

There are so many things to like about Wonder, I doubt I can cover them all. Wonder ends one of the most beautifully produced, and endless thoughtful science fiction trilogies in audiobook form today. It’s nice to see an author embrace the audio form, to the extent that he actually has the emergent entity WebMind choose his official voice based on one of his favorite audiobook narrators, Marc Vietor.  Wonder examines both the good and evil in mankind, yet, one of my favorite things about the book is that its main antagonist, Peyton Hume, wasn’t an evil man. In fact, his intentions were good, and on a personal level, I could almost sympathize with him. For people of my generation, Artificial Intelligence will always be viewed with a bit of skepticism. We have been indoctrinated by so many images of the harm it can do. Yet, an interesting parallel is that typically it’s the AI entity actually has good intentions that leads to harm. In that way, Peyton Hume embodies what we fear, that someone will feel that our survival depends on having our free will taken away. I also enjoyed Sawyer’s evenhandedness in political discussions. I am what I like to call an extreme moderate, and sometimes feel brow beaten in novels by people pushing an agenda. Yet, while I feel Sawyer has well developed beliefs many of which I may not share, what he seems to value most, like me, is open, honest respectful discussion. All in all, Wonder if a fitting conclusion to the WWW series, one which will stick with me for a long time.

Again, the audiobook version of this book is brilliantly produced. Narrators Jessica Almasy, Marc Vietor, Oliver Wyman, and Anthony Haden Salerno handle the prose perfectly, each taking a different POV and integrating Marc Vietor’s voice of WebMind throughout. Again Jessica Almasy is the star of the show in an expanded role both as the main POV Caitlin Decter, and also handling the Hobo subplot. Her narration is spot on perfect, and she finds the right inflections and rhythm for each character. Oliver Wyman, a personal favorite of mine, voices the POV of the WATCH group and of Peyton Hume, and does it with his typical professionalism. Salerno handles the China subplots well, and was a solid addition to the cast. All together, Audible has produced one of the best science fiction listening experiences available today with the WWW trilogy.

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