Audiobook Review: WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

18 04 2011

WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

Read by Jessica Almasy , Marc Vietor , Oliver Wyman , Jennifer Van Dyck

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thought: WWW:Watch is thought provoking science fiction at its best, and the audiobook enhances the experience with its dead on performances.

Grade: A-

WWW: Watch is the second book of Robert J. Sawyers WWW Trilogy. I listened to the first book in the series, about an emerging consciousness on the web, about a year ago, in 2010. I found it to be a fascinating opening for a trilogy. WWW: Wake was only my third Robert J. Sawyer novel, having read Hominids a while back, and listened to the audio version of Flashforward before the start of the television series based on the book.  I loved Flashforward, much more than its ill fated television version, and had mixed feelings on Hominids. Yet, I decided to listen to WWW: Wake based on one fact, no matter whether I agree with what he is saying, Robert J. Sawyer always makes me think. I love science fiction that challenges our preconditions and prejudices, as long as it’s not in that condescending, “I have more degrees than you” sort of way. Sawyer definitely uses the medium of his science fiction to shine a light on social, and scientific issues yet, keeps it well contained within the bonds of his stories, so as to not distract from the fact that reading science fiction is supposed to be entertainment.

Sawyer started off the book, in his introduction, by promising us that unlike most trilogies, the second book would not be the weakest. Luckily he lived up to his promise. WWW: Watch builds well on the promise of WWW: Wake, allowing us a more complete and satisfying tale. Watch again brilliantly takes on a topic that most people wouldn’t even consider up for discussion, whether the Orwellian vision of Big Brother actually fits into our culture, and whether “being watched” is an inherent evil. Sawyer makes a very wise decision in allowing the consciousness Webmind to develop with the guidance of a brilliant but naïve 16 year old girl named Caitlin. For us older, more jaded beings that grew up on Asimov and Terminator movies would not be so readily willing to accept the idea of a benevolent electronic consciousness.  Sawyer assembles a cast, from Caitlin to her autistic father, to a Bonobo chimp hybrid named Hobo, who are capable, for their various reasons, of accepting Webmind for what he truly is, and not what we would fear he could become. One of the reasons Watch improves over Wake, is that all the subplots that Sawyer built so nicely in Wake, finally begin to come together, readying us for the payoff in the final novel, WWW: Wonder.

WWW: Watch is a brilliantly produced, multi-narrator audiobook along the lines of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Oliver Wyman and Marc Vietor are narrators I am quite familiar with and handle their parts perfectly. Yet the true star of this production is Jessica Almasy who is responsible for the Caitlin POV. Almasy handles Caitlin perfectly. Caitlin is a transported Texan living in Canada. Almasy perfectly blends the two accents, with a subtle southern twang that builds as she gets excited, and full of Canadian idiosyncrasies. Caitlin has just the right levels of wonder and naiveté in her voice, yet, when she is discussing something that she is confident in, that naiveté bleeds out and she becomes the women she will be someday. WWW:Watch is thought provoking science fiction at its best, and the audiobook enhances the experience with its dead on performances.