Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Unseen World” as Want to Read:
The Unseen World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Unseen World

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  9,737 ratings  ·  1,649 reviews
The moving story of a daughter’s quest to discover the truth about her beloved father’s hidden past

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 a
Hardcover, 451 pages
Published July 26th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Unseen World, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jerrod Don't bother. It picks up a little at 20% and then a little more at 50% but it really never gets going. I didn't think the payoff from the ending was…moreDon't bother. It picks up a little at 20% and then a little more at 50% but it really never gets going. I didn't think the payoff from the ending was actually worth it.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,737 ratings  ·  1,649 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm currently obsessed with this book.
Rick Riordan
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book months ago and it keeps resurfacing in my thoughts -- a good indication that this is a powerful story. All her life, twelve-year-old Ada has been raised by her father David Sibelius, who home-schools her and takes her to work with him at the university computer science lab, where he and his colleagues are working on early versions of artificial intelligence. Ada is a prodigy who can code, talk physics or analyze literature with her father's friends, but she has no friends of her ...more
Elyse Walters
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing

"Shouldn't she have recess, or something?" Liston once asked David, several years before, when she noticed Ada becoming pale from spending every day inside the lab.
"Agreed", said David, and so every day at lunch he had begun to march her around the
Fens for thirty minutes, observing the flora, naming the birds by their songs,
pointing out where Fibonacci sequences occurred in nature, once finding a mushroom that he said was edible and the cooking it up for the lab. Sometimes
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pretty much anyone
Recommended to Matthew by: DeB MaRtEnS
The Unseen World is probably the best book I have read so far this year. And, I am easily able to add it to my favorites shelf. It is overall a very complete reading experience.

When you start this book, I guarantee you will have no idea what it will become. As it progresses, a wide variety of complex mysteries, interesting relationships, and heart-wrenching storylines combine to keep the reader engaged. This book has no filler and no downtime.

This is one of those books that when it is done I rea
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2016
I don't even want to analyze all the things I loved about this book. I just want to relish in that experience of reading a book that finds you at the right time and touches you inexplicably. It's a remarkable story, beautifully written and told, and I can't recommend it enough.

Video review:
Diane S ☔
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
When David begins to lose his memory, his daughter Ada tries to tell herself it is just a byproduct of the stress he is under at the lab. As director he has worked on a language processing program called ELIXIR. Ada, herself has had a unorthodox childhood, born from a surrogate mother, it has been her a David throughout her young life. He has schooled her, taken her to the lab with him, directed her activities and education I the way he sees fit. Her only friends the others at the lab including ...more
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I finished this some time ago and still can’t find the words to explain how wonderful and perfect this book is, how after turning the last page I went back and started the first again with a new perspective. Why is it that it’s so much easier to describe the feelings for a not great or so-so book? Ah, love, it is a many splendored thing.

This is a literary and emotionally-powerful read, a cerebral page turner that straddles multiple genres, yet the narrative never becomes bogged down in its aspir
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fifty pages from the end I thought I had my review formulated. I was going to suggest Liz Moore had used the wrong voice to tell this story. I thought it should have been told in the first person and not the third to sharpen its focus and avoid awkward POV shifts. However the very clever epilogue shredded my argument and made me re-think my entire reading of the novel. In other words she produces a tremendously clever trick at the end of this novel. All of a sudden I began to understand why this ...more
Larry H
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
For Ada Sibelius, the center of her universe was her scientist father, David. He raised her on his own, homeschooling her, and every day he took her with him to his job, where he directed a computer science lab at the Boston Institute of Technology. David treated Ada like an adult, encouraging her to learn as much about the lab's work as she could, interact with his employees and graduate students, and develop her own theories about the work he was doing, trying to create a computer truly capabl ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5/5 Stars

Contemporary is a genre that’s totally outside of my comfort zone, and I think of The Unseen World as just an okay contemporary book with some mystery element.

I won’t be talking about any of the plots at all, anything I say will seem too revealing and believe me, this book’s plot is immensely predictable already right from the start; at least it was for me. The Unseen World has so many potentials, it’s a good book and I’m not going to deny that I finished this within two days of readi
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal book about a young girl's quest to discover her beloved father's secret past, The Unseen World slayed me so hard that I have to give it my first five-star rating for a full-length work of fiction in over a year. The story follows Ada Sibelius, an observant and shy prodigy raised by her brilliant and quirky father David, who leads a computer science lab in 1980s-Boston. Though awkward and uncouth, David always provides Ada with his company and his intelligence, so much so that by age ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ada Sibelius. What a Remarkably Drawn 14-Year-Old Protagonist!

This is a coming-of-age novel unlike any I can readily recall. Yesterday morning, after finishing it, I was ready to say 3.6, thinking then it may have been 50 pages too long. The novel did not affect me with a strong emotional reaction such as utter sadness upon finishing a few novels. This novel impacted me in ways that are much more subtle and rather more profound . Please bear with me in my too-lengthy explanation of this bold st
Think brainy. Big brained, intense, abstract thinkers who live in their heads but who come out to play with the ideas of others and play with others who love creating, analyzing, puzzling over, observing and sharing ideas - that's the life of Ada Sibelius, daughter of eccentric genius David. She is geeky, homeschooled, socially stunted and just slightly aware of her unusual situation.

Ada is confronted by an enormous puzzle, among David's cohorts who are cryptographers, mathematicians, code solve
Raeleen Lemay
Dec 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
*1.5/5* (for some reason, a bottom-of-the-barrel 1 star just feels wrong. this one wasn't THE WORST, I just really didn't enjoy much about it)

From the beginning, I got bad vibes from this book. There were pages upon pages of tech speak that bored me, and I found multiple inconsistencies in the writing that bugged me to no end (ex. somebody walks into a room, then seconds later, is described as walking into the room they're supposed to now be in... makes no sense).

The characters are meant to be t
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, mystery
Wonderfully touching story that really grabbed a hold of me with unique characters and it's slow and steady unveiling of past secrets and lies....

Ada Sibelius came to be through the assistance of a surrogate mother named Birdie, and was then raised by David-her quirky Scientist Father in the early 70's. Ada is essentially raised in the science lab that David oversees. She is home-schooled, so her only interaction and other human contact outside of her Father comes from the lab associates, who be
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, favorites
This book was completely captivating. I need to buy more own copy so I can force everyone I know to read it now. Watch my full review:
Jessica Sullivan
This is a beautiful, profound book that requires a deep level of commitment and investment from the reader. It's a slow burn, there's not a lot of dialogue, and it's 451 pages long. But it's the kind of book that makes you feel like you're in good hands, the kind that will reward you both emotionally and cerebrally if you take the plunge.

I went into it knowing very little, and I had no idea what to expect. How deep would the artificial intelligence aspects of it go? Who were these characters? Th
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m glad I waited to review this one because it needed to simmer so that I could better appreciate it. I needed distance in order to clearly see the masterfully-drawn, tremendously human characters in this moving story that stretched far into the past and well into the future. Perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be and for me not quite as powerful as Tell the Wolves I’m Home, this one, too, is a coming of age tale about (among other things) relationships, love, and the lengths we go to prote ...more
Book Riot Community
It has been a long time since a book captivated me from beginning to end, but that is exactly what happened with this book. The story follows Ada Sibelius who is raised and homeschooled by a single father, David, who is a brilliant scientist. As David’s memory begins to fade, Ada is forced to move in with a family friend and then hunt out for the truth of David’s past. The plot is propelled forward as Ada slowly discovers more details about David’s life, but the real heart of the story lies betw ...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to this on audio. Interesting and moving, the story of young savant living with her (also savant) father who was suffering from early-onset dementia.
switterbug (Betsey)
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Born in 1971, Ada Sibelius is a twelve-year-old prodigy, and the daughter of an enigmatic, scientific genius, David Sibelius. David is director of a prestigious computer science laboratory in Boston that gathers the best minds in the field. An only child, born through surrogacy, Ada was homeschooled (more like “lab-schooled”) by her unorthodox father and became an integral part of his colleagues’ lives, especially his best friend and close colleague next door, Diana Liston.

For twelve years it w
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
David Sibilius, the brilliant and quirky scientist who spearheads a Boston computer science laboratory, is proud of his two creations: a language-processing computer program called ELIXIR and his daughter, Ada, whom he conceived with a surrogate.

Ada’s life is far from ordinary; she is home-schooled and at a young age, she is taught to work through puzzles and interpret scientific data. She and her father are inseparable. But suddenly, Ada begins noticing that things aren’t quite right with David
Such an unexpectedly touching story that kept me up at night (and very tired at work) for nearly a week. It finds the perfect balance between its components - the central father-daughter relationship, typical coming-of-age elements (intense first crush, feeling isolated at school), artificial intelligence, Alzheimer's disease and a mysterious backstory - without feeling cliche or overstuffed. The novel flips back and forth between the 1970s and 2009 and each section ended with a cliffhanger of s ...more
Taryn Pierson
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-release
I read this book on my birthday, and it was the best gift I could have gotten. Other than a foot rub, which I also got. From my husband. While I was reading.

So yeah, I hit the marriage jackpot, thanks for asking!

This book though. Oh my gosh. This is why literary fiction will always be my bread and butter. I love my genre fiction, my thrillers and epic fantasy and romance and the occasional memoir, and this year I've surprised myself with how much I've enjoyed straight-up non-fiction, but there
So I read this book in almost exactly 24 hours.

My book club picked The Unseen World, at my suggestion, and so of course I waited until the last minute to start it. Don't know why I did that. It was so good. And I never would have picked it up without book club (even though I suggested it), so thank goodness for book clubs. Anyways, I started it yesterday at 10 AM, got through a little over half by bedtime, then woke up early to finish. I got through all but the last ten pages, so I made my frie
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
He had been pretending, then, to look into his past, when really he was looking into some alternate reality, some different version of his own history, some unseen world.

I always enjoy reading something different, something that can't be compared to other books read before, and I'm happy to say that The Unseen World definitely fulfilled this expectation. Reviews by some of my GR friends (and the fact that I love the cover) got me interested in this title, and I never even looked at the descripti
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are seemingly countless "unseen worlds" of various types in this novel. I read Liz Moore's last novel, Heft, and also gave that one five stars. However, in my opinion, she seriously upped her game in turning this one out. Although many reviews have been written already, I feel I must say that I am not a total "geeky" girl (I do not know how to code & never strived to learn), my math skills are probably sub-par, but none of that ended up mattering. The character development and storylin ...more
Mary Lins
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
"The Unseen World", by Liz Moore, is completely captivating; while I was reading it I was engrossed - thinking of nothing else. As the story begins, in the early 1980s, our precocious teen-aged protagonist, Ada Sibelius, is being raised by her single-father, David (her mother was a surrogate). David "home-schools" Ada in the Computer Science Laboratory that he heads up at a fictional university in Boston. She's just part of the family there with the other lab personnel along with each year's new ...more
Jenny Bunting
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of the best novels I've read this year.

I loved the characters; I loved the story structure. The mystery went in a direction I was not expecting and I found it refreshing. The writing style was exactly what I like; it didn't get in the way of the story. I found myself drawn to the book and I never had to force myself to read it.

It was so close to a five-star read for me but the ending took a turn that was total cliche and I couldn't do it. If you've read it, reach out to me and I can tell t
The Unseen World was a story that got under my skin in such a surprising way and left me begging for more. Despite being at its core a literary story of the unexpected dynamics of family in what we do and don't know, it also touched on intelligence, both from our own minds and through technology. This mixture could have created a confusing mess but instead is a beautifully written tale with a memorable and truly satisfying ending.

Told out of order, Ada is an intelligent young girl who is raised
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Books and Jams Re...: Ending 5 57 Jun 24, 2018 08:01PM  
Books and Jams Re...: Beginning (up to around pg. 100) 7 42 Jun 21, 2018 11:46AM  
Books and Jams Re...: Middle (about 100-300) 7 34 Jun 17, 2018 01:20PM  
Books and Jams Re...: Who's Here? 24 63 Jun 13, 2018 06:54PM  
Around the Year i...: The Unseen World, by Liz Moore 2 49 Jul 28, 2017 04:45AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Underground Railroad
  • Christodora
  • English Animals
  • Goblin
  • The New and Improved Romie Futch
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette
  • The Tidal Zone
  • Edward Unspooled
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • Beartown (Beartown, #1)
  • The Ecliptic
  • Day for Night
  • The Museum of You
  • By Light We Knew Our Names
  • Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting
  • The Quilt Walk
  • Hydra
  • Burrows
See similar books…
Liz Moore is a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction.

Her first novel, The Words of Every Song (Broadway Books, 2007), centers on a fictional record company in New York City just after the turn of the millennium. It draws partly on Liz's own experiences as a musician. It was selected for Borders' Original Voices program and was given a starred review by Kirkus. Roddy Doyle wrote of it, "This is
“Only humans can hurt one another, Ada thought; only humans falter and betray one another with a stunning, fearsome frequency. As David's family had done to him; as David had done to her. And Ada would do it too. She would fail other people throughout her life, inevitably, even those she loved best.” 21 likes
“This must be the most important factor in your choice of a life partner," he told Ada. "Who will most patiently and enthusiastically support your ambitions?” 9 likes
More quotes…