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[personal profile] lightreads
Wake (WWW, #1)Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I loathed this book. Its Hugo nomination makes me cringe. This morning I came out of my room with a happy Labrador bouncing around my feet and the sunshine pouring in, and my roommate said, “good morning!” and I said, “I hate this book.”

A congenitally blind teenager is fitted with a neural implant to restore her sight, but first it lets her see the internet, where something is coming alive.

There are a lot of things wrong with this book: cardboard writing, pacing issues, characterization of a teenaged girl so off-key it was painful, including Livejournal entries that were so tone deaf it was embarrassing. But that’s not the point here.

This book got off on the wrong foot with me before it even started. The acknowledgements note a deafblind man who touched the author’s life. Because, as we all know, the value of people with disabilities is measured by their ability to inspire able-bodied people to flights of limping philosophy about what it all means. Obviously.

Things did improve for a while. Sawyer clearly did a certain amount of research about practicalities – his blind protagonist uses Jaws and keyboard commands, has a USB Braille display, etc. It’s funny how your expectations become more demanding when someone puts out the minimum effort. If Sawyer had written some helpless, computer illiterate blind girl, I would have dropped the book, called him a couple uncomplimentary things, and forgotten about it within the week. But since he did do the bare minimum, all of the ways he failed become way more important. A nitpicky example: protagonist is IMing at one point. Her friend says “see you later” and protag thinks that she probably actually wrote “c u,” but she can’t tell the difference. Er, no. “See you” and “c u” are absolutely distinguishable auditorially – I’m listening to the difference right now, and it’s huge. That sort of fail where the book has a surface layer of proper technology, but absolutely no experiential depth to it.

And then we really swung into things. Let me summarize:

Book: *projects piles of able-bodied bullshit onto blind protagonist, who obviously wants to be cured because that’s what disabled people want, and who thinks about everything she’s missing all the time even though she’s been blind since birth and vision is frankly irrelevant to her sensory experiences at this point*

Me: *sigh*

Book: *all she really wants is to know what “beautiful” means*

Me: I’m blind and I know what beautiful means and I have been moved by beauty fuck you.

Book: *extended passages of awful writing from the point of view of an emerging intelligence*

Me: *rubs temples* *perseveres*

Book: *protag has only one disabled figure to relate to, and absolutely no connection to blind culture or history. Because Helen Keller is who idiot able-bodied authors can be bothered to Google.*

Me: *pours a drink*

Book: *focuses on language in that obnoxious wink wink way able-bodied people do when they think they’re being “sensitive” and they’re actually just being ablest assholes. E.g. “She wasn’t blind, so to speak, to the implications of what she was reading.*

Me: *bangs head gently into wall for a while*

Book: *random incident of sexual assault so that the protag can tell teenaged boy that she doesn’t have to see to be able to see right through him. The point eventually emerges that the boy has ruined his chances of scoring with the protag, not that, oh wait, that was sexual assault.*

Me: *weeps quietly*

Book: *Has a character explain how autism is nothing to be ashamed of, even though they have kept it a secret in this family and never talk about it and she can’t even bring herself to say the word.*

Me: *numb acceptance*

Book: *a doctor explains to protag that she’s lucky to have been blind because her gifts with math could have come with inherited autism, but hey maybe they did and her blindness . . . cured her? Because autism is about not making eye contact seriously I don’t even fucking know anymore. The phrase “dodged a bullet” was used. Because that’s not an ablest metaphor for disability.*

Me: *emits wounded vowel sounds, emails a blind autistic acquaintance and says “fuck!” a lot*

Book: *cutesy anecdote about how blind girl didn’t know white people aren’t actually “white.”*

Me: Yes she did. Being a sentient human being over the age of eight who can fucking read. She also knew there were green apples as well as red, having gone to fucking preschool.

I could go on. More than I already have, I mean.


Don’t lie, you missed me, really.

View all my reviews >>

Date: 2010-08-06 02:26 am (UTC)
afrikate: Karl Urban, assassin extraordinaire, wanting to know if he has to kill you (Karl can kill you dead)
From: [personal profile] afrikate
Is there no option for 0 out of 5 stars? Because frankly I'm shocked you gave it 1. Also, I will stay far, far away from this.

Date: 2011-01-02 04:09 am (UTC)
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
From: [personal profile] sasha_feather
Wow! I want to say that I've read some other Robert J. Sawyer books, the ones about Neantherthals, and I hated them also. But this one sounds worse.

Date: 2011-01-03 02:56 am (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (on the disabling wagon)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Wow, that's one epic rant. [personal profile] kestrell warned me that I'd hate this book, so I've avoided it. I'm a lucky reader, and you have my complete sympathy.

Date: 2011-06-05 04:46 am (UTC)
eagle: Me at the Adobe in Yachats, Oregon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eagle
I went off on a rant about the horrible treatment of technology in this book in my review of it and was hoping that it was only the bits I knew something about that he got wrong. But today I ran across this review, which pretty much confirms all of my worst fears about everything else in the book I couldn't judge. So, one, thank you. And two, do you mind if I link to this review from mine? If anyone comes across my review later, I'd like to warn them. (I will anyway without a link, but I think this is a very effective review and summary of the problems.)
Edited Date: 2011-06-05 04:47 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-06-05 11:17 pm (UTC)
eagle: Me at the Adobe in Yachats, Oregon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eagle


lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)

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