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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WWW: Watch: Solid Second Novel in the Webmind Saga
WWW: Watch is the second novel of a trilogy about an artificial intelligence, or consciousness that emerges from the World Wide Web.

In the previous novel , WWW: Wake, Catlin Decter, a brilliant 15 year old blind girl is given sight through experimental technology in the form of an implant that interprets visual signals correctly and allows her to see (in her...
Published on April 18, 2010 by C. Baker

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Little Disappointing After the First Book!
Let me preface this review by saying that Sawyer is my favorite scifi writer today and that I found the first book in this trilogy to be excellent. However, much to my dismay this book was difficult to get through. Caitlin has recently gained site through an implant behind one of her eyes. Her new friend, the Webmind is starting to evolve. Meanwhile a group of...
Published on April 24, 2010 by Michael A. Newman


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WWW: Watch: Solid Second Novel in the Webmind Saga, April 18, 2010
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WWW: Watch is the second novel of a trilogy about an artificial intelligence, or consciousness that emerges from the World Wide Web.

In the previous novel , WWW: Wake, Catlin Decter, a brilliant 15 year old blind girl is given sight through experimental technology in the form of an implant that interprets visual signals correctly and allows her to see (in her left eye at least). Through this device she discovers a presence in the Web that starts to gain greater and greater cognitive abilities, which grows as the second novel progresses. She dubs it Webmind.

In Watch, we watch as Webmind not only develops cognitive abilities exponentially, but through the help of Catlin begins to develop its sense of ethics and, without being too maudlin, an understanding of "the meaning of life." This novel is primarily about this development, along with government agencies trying to figure out how to shut Webmind down, fearing it will become so powerful it will destroy mankind.

While I have greatly enjoyed these novels so far, and the second one is even better than the first, which is unusual for a middle novel of a trilogy, sometimes I find the interactions between the characters to be a bit unbelievable. They seem scripted more for a Grade B movie than the way people really interact with each other. And when the characters are mouthpieces for the author to pontificate a point of view on consciousness, ethics and other scientific theories, the interactions just don't ring true, even though the characters are supposed to be geniuses at math and physics.

And I wonder a bit about the lost thread about the Chinese hacker that appears in Wake. I wonder if Sawyer had abandoned that tread, or if it will somehow reappear in the next novel.

This is a good and interesting trilogy so far and very much worth reading.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World Wide Exploration of Morality, May 10, 2010
The best thing about Robert J. Sawyer's books are that they are truly about something. This book isn't just some excuse to have the internet gain self-awareness ... instead, it's a deep analysis of what makes people (be they geek, bully, computer, or chimpanzee-bonobo hybrid) choose an ethical course over the alternative.

WWW: WATCH is a middle book in the trilogy. In WWW: WAKE (the first book), blind teenager Caitlin Decter gained sight and discovered the existence of a developing consciousness in the World Wide Web. This Webmind, as she calls it, begins communicating with her ... and that's where the second book picks up. Caitlin has to come to terms with suddenly seeing a world that she's only known through touch while also dealling with the fallout from Webmind. Fortunately, she has help from her friends and family.

Less fortunate is the fact that the American government perceives Webmind as a potential threat, especially when it gains the ability to almost effortlessly bypass password security. The government decides that it needs to be terminated, a task that is far easier said than done.

This isn't an unreasonable decision, because it is clear that Webmind (at least initially) lacks any sort of morality at all ... but this, it turns out, is a good thing, because that means it gets to choose how to behave, instead of being guided by instincts which may sway it toward bad behavior. And, as the book makes clear, we all, as conscious beings, have the ability to make this choice. The subjects of morality and ethics, in contexts as varied as teenage relationships, suicide prevention, and personal privacy are explored from the perspectives of game theory, evolution, and religion.

And if you're not interested in any of that brainy stuff about human nature, the story itself stands out as a great read in its own right. I, for one, will definitely make the choice to read the third installment when it comes out ... and look forward to it!
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Little Disappointing After the First Book!, April 24, 2010
Let me preface this review by saying that Sawyer is my favorite scifi writer today and that I found the first book in this trilogy to be excellent. However, much to my dismay this book was difficult to get through. Caitlin has recently gained site through an implant behind one of her eyes. Her new friend, the Webmind is starting to evolve. Meanwhile a group of government scientists have detected the Webmind and want to destroy it before it becomes too powerful to be destroyed.

Caitlin eventually lets her parents know about the Webmind and they are convinced that it is someone on the Internet pulling a prank until Caitlin's father tests it out. Eventually they are convinced and are fascinated with the Webmind like it is an additional child.

Overlayed on this tale is the story about Hobo, the intelligent chimp/bonabo crossbreed. Hobo starts to get violent towards the woman who is responsible for him and the scientists have to decide what to do with him.

Meanwhile, through Dr. Kuroda, the Webmind is able to view more than text files on the internet and branches out to sound and video files. Eventually, the Webmind witnesses a teen suicide through the net. Caitlin becomes furious at it because it didn't intervene.

There comes a point where Sawyer hints that the Webmind will be to Caitlin like the computer implant that he introduced in the Hominid series.

Some of the drawbacks to this book are that you really needed to read the first book to understand what is going on and that the book drags. The deep feelings that the reader developed for Caitlin in the first book seem to be lacking here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hokey & Downright silly at tiimes, October 30, 2010
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This review is from: WWW: Watch (Hardcover)
I've read almost every book by Sawyer and have loved many. This one, though, reads like a 70's bad film with smart AI's who (for some reason) suddenly attain consciousness and begin to act like kids. I mean, how logical is it that a new lifeform will communicate to a viewer who then tells him to go and learn English. A web AI would have at his/her/its beck and call all the knowledge of the web. It would not need sensory outputs since it could simply read about the inner workings of the senses.

The conversations struck me as incredibly hokey (the stilted English, the dumb questions, the whole thing reeking of phoniness). Perhaps this was to be another Singularity novel but of course, it's not, since its creation never evolves beyond the "Help Desk" phase. It never hits that it can/has absorbed the world's knowledge. There is one further problem. If consciousness is obtained on the Web (and revealed to a teen who tells mom & dad before all run off to dinner) how can it speak simultaneously to millions of users? A machine that processes sequentially can appear to address everyone simultaneously but a "mind" whose development is depending on its decisions cannot afford to make decisions that might affect its "brain". Maybe this is one for a beach read after several mojitas. My Grade: C-
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert Sawyer - my new favorite sci-fi author, June 13, 2010
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When I finished Wake, Sawyer's first book in this series, there was no question that I would be reading Watch as soon as I could get my hands on it. As fascinated as I had been with the premise of the first book (the emergence of consciousness on the World Wide Web) the second was even more chocked full of really esoteric but readily accessible and interesting real world science and technology. One of the things I appreciate about Sawyer's fiction is that there is an awful lot of real math and science for every science fiction conceit for which he asks you to suspend belief. He is definitely a big concept guy and in Watch he brings together ideas as widely ranging as game theory, evolution, ethics and the survival of our species in a page-turning tale that is dramatically driven with sympathetic characters and opposing forces without having to demonize any of the principal actors. Beyond that, it culminates in a plausible inspirational vision for cultivating humanity's highest potentials. After this I may actually read Teilhard de Chardin.

John Gallagher, Ph.D.
Indianapolis, IN
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Brother is Watching, May 1, 2010
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Mike Fazey (Perth, Western Australia) - See all my reviews
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The second novel in Sawyer's WWW trilogy is aptly named. It is indeed about watching. The newly emerged Webmind `comes out' and is greeted by humanity with some scepticism but mostly with enthusiasm. He (yes, it's a he) is watching us, learning more and more about us and trying to be helpful. However, the government watchers are a lot less enamoured than most. Big Brother finds that he now has an even Bigger Brother, and that worries him. A lot.

There are three stories happening in Watch - the story of Caitlin Decter, the once blind teenager who is the first to meet Webmind; the story of the intelligence agency trying to come to terms with the implications of such a seemingly omniscient entity, and the story of Hobo the ape who can communicate using sign language. The three strings begin to converge in Watch, but obviously we'll have to wait for the final instalment to see exactly how they come together.

As always, Sawyer's storytelling is masterful, combining big themes with authentic characters that we can all understand and identify with. The main character, Caitlin, though amazingly intelligent and perceptive for a sixteen year old (perhaps a little too much so), is also delightfully adolescent, and Sawyer manages to wrap her extraordinarily brainy thoughts and words in convincing and often charming teen-speak. He like totally does! There are also lots of popular cultural references, including one to the recent TV adaptation of Sawyer's earlier novel Flashforward, and a good deal of wit. I also learned a lot about game theory, how the worldwide web works, the differences between bonobos and chimps, Unitarianism and government paranoia (actually, I already knew about that).

My only criticism is that the final chapter is a tad overwritten and a bit melodramatic. Otherwise, Watch is a great read that sets up what should be a fascinating third volume. The big question for me is whether or not Webmind can remain uncorrupted either by power or by the powerful.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just OK For Me, April 20, 2011
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This review is from: WWW: Watch (Hardcover)
This is the second in the WWW series from Sawyer, although really they are absolutely NOT separate books, it's one (too) long book divided up into three, which I think is pretty cheesy, but hey - 3 "books" equals three times the sales, right? Except not in the case of this reader.

Anyway, while the concept behind the story is cool, the actual execution of turning that into an interesting story with an engaging plot is just OK. And the writing is so-so, and at times just plain bad. Caitlin (the main character), is reasonably life-like, but the other characters are cardboard cutouts at best, and bad caricatures at worst. I expected better.

I guess my biggest problem with the book is the subtext of liberal dogma and preaching going on. In fact, the entire story seems like nothing more than a vehicle for Sawyer to get out his naive and ill-informed liberal agenda on things from governments' (the US really) alleged spying on its citizens (and the whole world), gay marriage, etc. etc. Sawyer's thesis here seems to be that an inanimate computer mind, taught by a Canadian/American teenage girl, that monitors the entire world's Internet traffic is somehow more likely to be a benevolent overseer than the US government's fictional "WATCH" spy organization, whose responsibility is only to protect their national security. Yeah, OK. And all the mumbo-jumbo about game theory is nothing more than Sawyer preaching that if everyone would just "play nice", everything would be great in the world. Sure, right. That might work if all the players in the "game" were rational actors, but in the real world, the US, and many other parts of the west are faced with an adversary that does not now, and has never, acted rationally. Sawyer's pop-science game theory knowledge doesn't hold up much, really.

My advice to Mr. Sawyer is if you want to write political opinion pieces, do a blog, or get a show on MSNBC or NPR. But if you want to write engaging, interesting sci-fi, do THAT - and leave the political messaging behind. Then maybe you could spend some time creating a more engaging plot, and more interesting characters, instead of wasting your time, and more importantly your readers, on other nonsense.

As an AI and emergence researcher, I wanted to like this series (or book in 3 parts), and the concept for the story IS intriguing in that regard. The not-so-subtle political garbage was such a turn-off, though, that I won't be reading the 3rd part/book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, April 29, 2011
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This review is from: WWW: Watch (Hardcover)
This trilogy has been one of the best reads of my whole life. It touches on lots of my favorite topics and my real world experience. I am a software engineer, network engineer, and mathematician. All 3 are relevant to this. If I had commissioned someone to write something tailored to exactly my tastes and background they couldn't have done a better job.

If you like hard SF you owe it to yourself to read this. The worst part is the sleep I lost because I just couldn't put these books down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great book except for the politics, April 24, 2011
This review is from: WWW: Watch (Hardcover)
I have the audio book, really enjoyed the first three hours of the book, and then the author started into his political propaganda. The concept of the book was great, enjoyed the interaction of the characters. I also learned a few things about Canada that I did not know. They take their shoes off before entering a house and many signs do use the apostrophe ...example Wendy's, uses a maple leaf in place of the apostrophe. I just wish the author would have left out the issues of gay marriage, animal rights and misquoting the bible. When mentioning them, at least off a balanced view.
I would give the first few chapters 5 stars, and then much of the story goes off into issues not related to the story line. I did finish this book, but will not be buying the others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sawyer Is Doing it Again, May 27, 2010
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With Wake, and now, Watch, of what is obviously going to be at least a trilogy, Robert Sawyer seems to be creating something that is sure to go down as some of his best writing yet. And that is saying something, because he is nearly always excellent. I like how he has used the experience of raising his own daughter to create a believable heroine. I hope she is even half as smart as the story's Caitlin. Other writers use action to create tension, and Sawyer can do this too, but he can create tension from an intellectual situation. Not many can. No wonder he has won so many awards in his field. A thought just struck me... the possible title of the third book, "Wonder". Let's see if I'm right.
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WWW: Watch
WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer
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