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Reading Group Guide
by Robert J. Sawyer
Many reading groups and book clubs have enjoyed novels by Robert J. Sawyer.
The following questions may help stimulate an interesting
discussion about Wake. (These questions
might also suggest essay topics for students studying the book.)
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Note that these questions reveal much of the novel's plot; to
preserve your reading pleasure, please don't look at these questions
until after you've finished reading the book.
- Do you think a Webmind could evolve on the World Wide Web?
- Wake is structured in a series of parallel, thematically
resonant storylines. Did that structure work for you?
How was Hobo like Webmind?
How was Sinanthropus like Caitlin?
- Why do people adopt different personae on the Web? (Caitlin is Calculass,
Wong Wai-Jeng is Sinanthropus). We see how these personae can be used for
good. But in real life, too often we see how they can be used by sexual
predators and con men. If we could, should we make the Web no longer anonymous?
- Do you agree with Caitlin that all information should be free?
The University of Tokyo funded the development of the eyePod and paid
for Caitlin's operation. Are they entitled to a return on their investment?
- Do you use the Internet for banking? Shopping? Gambling? Do you use
it to download movies, music, or software for free when you know you
should really be paying for it?
- How successful are the characters at communicating with each other
even though they may not be the same species? (Hobo and Shoshana, Hobo
and Virgil, Caitlin and her dad, Sinanthropus and his blog readers,
Caitlin and Webmind.)
- ApeNet, Steven Pinker, Stephen Wolfram, and the National Science
Foundation (NSF) are all real Harl Marcuse and his Institute are not.
Does the mixing of fact and fiction, in an area you may know nothing about,
worry you? Given this book is fiction, do you think that Sawyer makes it
clear when he is stating fact?
- Sawyer touches on the politics of science. Are you surprised at
the infighting, money grubbing, and the "cult of personality" that
exists underneath the impartial surface of the scientific community?
- We see what a boon the Internet is to Caitlin, who has been blind
since birth. What other groups benefit from the interconnectivity of the Web?
- Do you believe that Homeland Security or other organizations are
reading all your email? If so, are you careful about what you say in
your email, or on your blog or website?
- Wake takes place in China, Japan, Israel, the USA,
and Canada. Very disparate places, and yet in instant contact with
each other on the Web. Has the Web made the world a smaller place?
Has the Web made the world a safer place?
- There's a lot of science in Wake. Were you able to follow Sawyer's
explanations for concepts like: Zipf plots, Shannon Entropy, and
cellular automata? Did the science make the book more interesting,
or did you find it distracted from Caitlin's story?
- Have you used the websites Sawyer refers to in Wake?
(Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, Cyc, YouTube, Google Images.)
Are there any others you think that the Webmind should be shown?
- Do you relate to the Apollo 8 references at the end of
the book? Was it before your time? Or, perhaps of no interest to you?
Or, do you get choked-up, like Anna Bloom does, when you see a picture
of the Earth taken from space? If you don't feel the emotion yourself,
is it enough that Anna does?
- Caitlin wants to be Annie Sullivan to Webmind's Helen Keller.
In Wake, Caitlin turns 16 at the end of the book. How
likely is it that she will be a guide/friend to Webmind for the rest
of her life, as Annie was to Helen? And given that Webmind is not human,
what will happen after Caitlin dies?
More Good Reading
Download this Reading Group Guide in Adobe Acrobat Format
More about Wake
Reading Group Guide Index
Reading Group Guide for Rollback
Reading Group Guide for Mindscan
Reading Group Guide for Hominids
Reading Group Guide for Calculating God
Reading Group Guide for FlashForward
Reading Group Guide for Factoring Humanity
Reading Group Guide for Frameshift
Reading Group Guide for Illegal Alien
Reading Group Guide for The Terminal Experiment
Reading Group Guide for End of an Era
Reading Group Guide for Golden Fleece