The Unseen World by Liz Moore
Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will keep the reader riveted until The Unseen World’s heart-stopping, fascinating conclusion.
I read this book a couple of weeks ago and I have been trying and failing to find words as to how I felt about it other than knowing definitively how very much I genuinely enjoyed it and quietly fell in love with it. I think this is a book you would want to start reading again as soon as you finish it but with a whole new perspective.
Despite it being an excellent mystery book, this book is truly about bonds of family and found family, of identity and intrigue. There is, of course, the fact that there is the examination of technology and its advancement over the last few decades. Just all of these blend into a brilliant book for us to thoroughly enjoy.
Part of the reason this book worked so well for me was possibly because of Ada Sibelius. Throughout the book, she remained a brilliant POV for me to connect to. I connected so quickly to her despite her being just a twelve year old but her emotions and her personality made it near impossible for me to not love her. Part of the reason I love her was her quiet and slightly obvious introverted-ness. I say slight introvert nature because of the way she was raised, we might never know how she might have turned out otherwise. I was also hella impressed by her cocktail-making skills too!
Ada is a twelve years old and helping her father for an upcoming party when the story starts. That is the night everything starts to change for her in slow, agonizing speed. Ada and her father don’t have have a normal relationship and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Maybe I used the wrong word, unconventional might be a far better description for their relationship. There’s never any doubt that David (Ada’s father) loved her. However there’s never been a mother in picture, Ada is home-schooled and until he’s reminded of a recess for her, she’s without it. He took her to his lab everyday, taught her things about computers and mathematics and coding in general. He worked on Elixir-a computer mainly attempting to learn languages and slang and manner of speech. Ada worked on it too.
However after that fateful party, it slowly becomes obvious that something is wrong with David. In her teenage years, she has to face the fact that David is suffering from a rapidly advancing Alzheimer’s and her normal daily routine is forever lost to her. As his Alzheimer’s worsens, Ada and people around her come to realise something equally frightening. David might not have been who he claimed to be. On top of that is a floppy disk he left to Ada which includes a string of letters in an unbreakable code.
The journey of Ada learning to cope with David’s illness and later trying to face the reality of her father’s deceit is poignant. As his illness becomes more and more pronounced, Ada’s life has more people in it than ever before and how she copes with that is also so well-done. All the side characters like Liston (David’s best friend and co-worker) and David’s team at the lab, Liston’s children and the AI Elixir are written so brilliantly and I was just bloody surprised to enjoy it as much as I did.
From the start to its end, this story is just so beautiful and impacting, if you haven’t read it yet, please do! I can’t gush about it enough.