This was the third and final book in the WWW trilogy by Robert Sawyer. It was a fitting end to the series, but not as good as the previous two books. Some of the characters act very against their character and some things are put in the book just to make a statement on something (without adding to the story much). I listened to this on audio book and I highly recommend it. This is one of those series that is so well done on audio book that I think it is vastly better than reading the book on paper. You definitely need to read the previous two book to understand what happens in this book.
The virtual entity Webmind has been discovered by the US government and they have tried, and failed, to shut Webmind down. With Webmind's existence out in the open the big question is, what next? Caitlin and her family are naturally drawn into the media frenzy surrounding Webmind. The real question facing humanity is basically this: Is Webmind really benevolent or should measures be taken to shut it down while humanity still can? Humanity has some big decisions to make. Will Webmind survive or become just a blip in humanity's history?
There are a lot of good things about this book. Many of the seemingly random things that happen in the previous books all come together and, as a reader, we can see that this book was meticulously planned out. So kudos to Sawyer for thinking things out so well. As with previous books there are a lot of political and social issues discussed. Most of them focus on the questions of a spontaneous entity like Webmind and what his presence means for humanity. Of course other issues weave through this main issue: there is discussion on Atheism, Communism, etc.
Sawyer himself does an intro talking about how long it took him to finish this series (6 years) and how much technology had changed in that time. It is like he went out of his way to make sure this final book incorporated every little thing he could think of to make it as modern as possible. To that extent there is a lot of Twittering, Face-booking, as well as discussion about modern politics and references to companies like Google. There is even a Big Bang Theory quote in there from that popular sit-com (which I am a huge fan of). My only problem with this is that all these inclusions seem a bit contrived and forced at times.
My other complaint are some of the things the characters themselves do that are way out of character. The one that really floored me was when Caitlin decides to take a cell pic of her naked chest and sexts it to Matt. It has me laughing my butt off with the ridiculousness of it all. I mean really a girl as smart as her, who is inexperienced sexually just wouldn't do something like that. She especially wouldn't do it when she is incredibly aware of how easy that data is to access and how insecure it is. And she wouldn't forget to delete it off of her phone; enabling her mom to find it later. I know Sawyer makes a comment about Webmind making her phone secure, but come on...any idiot knows that kind of thing is stupid to do from a secure data and privacy point of view. Now you ask why was this included in the story? Like many of the weird random things included in this book it was so Sawyer could make a point about the end of Victorianism in an Internet based society. Sawyer takes a number of instances to lecture at his readers; sometimes it is interesting...sometimes it is just awkward.
The above being said, I really enjoyed some of the things Webmind does in this book. Some of them are really well thought out and almost make you wish you could live in that era and witness that kind of progress for humanity. Webmind's ultimate act of benevolence for humankind was intriguing, although I am not sure how realistic it really was. The story is wrapped up in a touchy, feely happy way that is as sweet as any happily ever after you have ever read. Sawyer includes an interesting epilogue that I am uncertain how I feel about. Some aspects of the epilogue are interesting, but I kind of feel like the book would have been better without it...that way the readers would have just been left to Wonder.
Overall this was an excellent conclusion to the series. The plot moves at a quick pace and many interesting issues are discussed. I was a little irked by the fact that the characters act out of character at times and there are numerous times where Sawyer takes opportunities to awkwardly lecture at his readers. These aspects made this my least favorite book of the three. Despite this, it was still an excellent read. I definitely recommend reading this series for anyone who has interest in artificial intelligence or emergent consciousness. This is a series that broaches these deep topics but makes them easy to relate to for a large demographic of readers. Having Caitlin as the main character really makes this book accessible to a young adult crowd as well and I think young adult and older would really enjoy it.