Watch by Robert J Sawyer. Book review

Watch by Robert J Sawyer. Gollancz (2011) ‘7.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

The problem with writing the kind of near future SF that Sawyer specialises in is that we catch up with it quickly, as he found with a previous novel Flashforward.

This is essentially a young adult novel and the sequel to Wake. In the first book, sixteen year-old Caitlin Decter received an implant that allowed her to see for the first time. This also gives her a direct, visual contact with the internet, leading her to make contact with an emerging intelligence that she names Webmind. At the start of Watch she tells her parents. As hers is a family of geeks and mathematicians they have no problem in accepting this new presence in their lives. Not so the American organisation, WATCH, whose main job is to look for terrorist traffic and monitor other countries’ communications. They want to find out where Webmind is situated, how it is constructed and, if necessary, how to kill it ‘ another story of the little people against the big bad government.

Over the week or so of this narrative arc, Caitlin and her mother spend a lot of their waking time teaching Webmind the niceties of polite society, a task they are well suited to as Caitlin’s father is autistic. Nevertheless, Caitlin still has time to acquire a boyfriend, Matt, another maths nerd.

There are many elements that make this a typical teenage read but also some aspects that would make an adult wonder if they had been added to extend the scope of the novel. For example one plot strand involves a chimp-bonobo hybrid, Hobo, who has been taught to communicate via sign language. There are also several passages of discussion between the characters that seem unlikely, even between intelligent teenagers. Not one of Sawyer’s better efforts.

Watch by Robert J Sawyer. Gollancz (2011) ‘7.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

The problem with writing the kind of near future SF that Sawyer specialises in is that we catch up with it quickly, as he found with a previous novel Flashforward.

This is essentially a young adult novel and the sequel to Wake. In the first book, sixteen year-old Caitlin Decter received an implant that allowed her to see for the first time. This also gives her a direct, visual contact with the internet, leading her to make contact with an emerging intelligence that she names Webmind. At the start of Watch she tells her parents. As hers is a family of geeks and mathematicians they have no problem in accepting this new presence in their lives. Not so the American organisation, WATCH, whose main job is to look for terrorist traffic and monitor other countries’ communications. They want to find out where Webmind is situated, how it is constructed and, if necessary, how to kill it ‘ another story of the little people against the big bad government.

Over the week or so of this narrative arc, Caitlin and her mother spend a lot of their waking time teaching Webmind the niceties of polite society, a task they are well suited to as Caitlin’s father is autistic. Nevertheless, Caitlin still has time to acquire a boyfriend, Matt, another maths nerd.

There are many elements that make this a typical teenage read but also some aspects that would make an adult wonder if they had been added to extend the scope of the novel. For example one plot strand involves a chimp-bonobo hybrid, Hobo, who has been taught to communicate via sign language. There are also several passages of discussion between the characters that seem unlikely, even between intelligent teenagers. Not one of Sawyer’s better efforts.