Review: Starhawk, by Jack McDevitt

This is something of a prequel to The Engines of God where we see Priscilla Hutchins’ early days after getting pilots license for taking the big FTL interstellars out into the void. A lot of her early days are the frustration of not being able to get a steady job as a pilot, especially after she blew off one such job over an ethical issue. She still gets a little work here and there, but mostly she’s parked at a desk.

But it’s also the story of one of her instructors, Jake Loomis, and his flirtation with retirement. After a frightening brush with death, he decided he was done, but the business of interstellar flight was not quite done with him. So he kept getting pulled back in, “just for one more flight”. Ultimately the decision on whether or not he was going to retire was made by someone else.

While it was not as satisfying as a sequel to Cauldron would have been, it was fun to see Hutch back when she was still merely Priscilla, and to see how she earned her nickname in the first place. If you’re a fan of the Academy series, definitely check it out.

Review: WWW Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer

I don’t remember how I first came across this one, but the basic idea is that the Internet becomes self-aware. It was an idea I have toyed with from time to time but never figured out how to turn it into a story. Sawyer did.

It’s mostly told through the POV of a blind teenage girl who gets an experimental implant to grant her sight, but there are also some other characters scattered around the globe playing their own parts. While the girl’s operation is at first deemed a failure, time changes that. I don’t want to say too much about that, because it’s a spoiler worth preserving, though I will say I was initially annoyed by what she sees via her implant. Still, I recognized it was required by the plot, but I was glad to see it go.

We also see some of the story told from the POV of the emerging sentience of the internet. While generally told in small snippets, I found that part very interesting. Over the book, it goes from a barely aware sentience to a fully self-aware, communicative mind. That in itself was an interesting journey.

So, overall I enjoyed it, with only minor points of nit-picking. It’s clearly the first in a trilogy, so I look forward to seeing where the rest of this goes.