This is the second book in Sawyer's WWW trilogy. The third book WWW: Wonder is due out in April of 2011. This was another amazing book. Sawyer does a great job of packing in a ton of issues, both philosophical and political, that make the reader really think, while giving the reader characters that are interesting and easy to relate too. I loved this book. I listened to this on audiobook, which I highly recommend. The audiobook is exceedingly well done, with different voice actors for the different points of view. I think listening to this on audiobook makes this book even better than reading it on paper would be.
This book picks up literally right where the first book left off. Caitlin is still reeling at the realization that Webmind is real. She decides to tell her parents about it since she is struggling to keep Webmind busy and worried about what might happen to him over a time of inactivity. When the government starts plaguing Caitlin and her family they have some tough decisions to make about what to do with their knowledge of Webmind. Meanwhile Hobo, the ape who had his first inter-species webchat with a chimp in the first book, starts getting violent with his keepers. This puts Hobo's already uncertain future at even greater risk. The last storyline deals with the NSA in the United States; they discover unconventional activity on the web and think at first it may be a terrorist threat...when they finally decide it is actually an emerging consciousness they want answers.
This book touches on so many issues it is mind-boggling and it does it in a way that is easy to relate to and follow. It is really a book that will make you think. Some of the political issues addressed are racism, animal rights, GLBT rights, the privacy act, national security, international politics, and human rights. Some of the deeper issues touched on are the differences between artificial intelligence and emerging consciousness, autism, blindness, suicide, and the question behind how emerging consciousness can override natural selection and evolution. All of it is very interesting and presented in a way that is clear and easy to understand.
The characters are fantastic. All of them are intelligent and highly engaging. I love the dynamics between Caitlin and her family; how even with her father's autism to struggle with, they are a cohesive force that works together, respects each other, and understands each other. I also liked that Caitlin develops a love interest, this made Caitlin more real and was realistic given her age. I love how even with all the fantastic stuff going on in her life, Caitlin can still be concerned about how she comes off to Matt...it makes her totally real and likable.
Some of the story lines that didn't really seem to relate in the first book come together in this book. Finally we see how the story of Hobo and how what happened with China shutting down their web infrastructure is related to the emergence of Webmind.
The biggest disappointment for me in this book was how the government approached Webmind. As many might predict the government's knee-jerk reaction is to shut Webmind down. It made me a bit sad that Sawyer couldn't try a more creative government reaction than the one that is normally presented in the majority of books dealing with AI; of course the way Sawyer wrote is very realistic...it is just too bad it has to be that way.
Overall I loved some of the theories presented in this novel. The idea of consciousness modifying behaviors dictated by evolution is an underlying theme and it's an interesting one. The characters and story are very engaging. The story is nicely wrapped up in this book leaving me to wonder what Sawyer will do in book 3, WWW: Wonder. Absolutely love this series. It makes heavy issues easy to relate to and contemplate and has wonderful characterization. I will definitely be checking out more of Sawyer's works when I finish this trilogy.