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The Unseen World

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  12,770 ratings  ·  2,098 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 451 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company (first published July 26th 2016)
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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)

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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,770 ratings  ·  2,098 reviews

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Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm currently obsessed with this book. ...more
Rick Riordan
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition

"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
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stories such as this one are exactly why I love reading.

I've read thousands of books in my lifetime. Most books, while enjoyable at the time, are forgotten within a year.

Then there are books like The Unseen World.

Books that take up space in your soul.

Unforgettable books with living, breathing fictional characters that reside with you forever.

One of those books that when someone asks you for a recommendation it immediately pops into your mind.

This is how a book is supposed to make you feel.

Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am blown away by how much I liked The Unseen World. Obviously I was interested in reading the story, but it was much greater than what I expected.

Ada Sibelius lives an unusual life - Different than other 12-year olds anyway. It is the 1980s and she is home-schooled, spending the majority of her time at the lab at the Boston Institute of Technology where her father David works. She solves math and science problems and works on the development of computer programs assigned to her by David. She
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
Ada's father, David, is different.  And so is she.  Brilliant minds, working and thinking in code.  Every puzzle presents another chance to learn.  Ada is home schooled, and works alongside her father in his cryptography lab until his mind starts to fail.  The question arises as to who David really is.  There will be no easy answers for Ada.

As an aside, when I was going to school there were no backpacks.  There were, however, three boys who carried briefcases.  It would be fair to say these guys
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
***Reading once again for book group.....

The Unseen World unfolds gradually while the author introduces the reader to the main characters in the story. Once it reached a momentum, it was compulsively readable, smart and imaginative. I worried that I wasn’t left-brained enough to follow a story about deciphering encrypted discs and mathematical codes. Even so, I did love it and I’m very excited to read other books by this clever writer.

It’s an emotionally resonant novel about an unorthodox father
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-favorites
Wow, wow, wow! From the first pages I had that excited feeling that this was going to be a good, maybe great book. And yes it is! I loved every page of Ada's journey. This novel is often painful but I had a hard time putting it down and now can't stop thinking about it.

The Unseen World is the third Moore novel I've read and the 2nd this month. Each one feels like it is from a different author - except for the excellent writing and courageous exploration of trauma - Heft - extreme obesity, The
Larry H
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book of my year?

My biggest compliment is this: Moore makes me feel like I'm with the narrator, within the story, as if I am part of the character. It's a strange thing to say when a main character is female, a teenage girl for the majority of this novel, but during the moments that Ada speaks, or feels, I feel too, because it's like I'm there looking through her eyes. This happens in other novels for certain, but more so in some. Two years ago I read another novel by Liz Moore called Heft,
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
Barbara K
This book is tough to categorize. It is generally described as a "coming of age" novel, but it seems unfair to leave the description at that. There are no murders, but at there is a mystery and a crime. It has elements of science, and with its futuristic projections, science fiction as well.

On one level The Unseen World also fits the description of a multi-generational family saga. But the nature of the "family" that is the core of this book is so inclusive and unique that it has none of the cha
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it

3.5 stars

The story opens in the 1980s, when 12-year-old Ada Sibelius is living in Massachusetts with her father David Sibelius. David, head of the computer science lab at the Boston Institute of Technology, is developing an artificial intelligence program called ELIXIR.....and Ada is helping teach ELIXIR to have 'human conversations.'

Ada was born to a surrogate mother, and essentially grew up in David's laboratory, where the research team functions as her extended family.

The closest Ada comes t
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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: ...more
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
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
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.
Emily B
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I found the unseen world to be pretty faultless hence the five star rating.

Firstly I loved the relationships within the book and how they changed throughout, specially Ada’s relationship with her father.

I found the story as a whole to be captivating and liked that different parts of the book were set in a different time of Ada’s life and how they each revealed something new about the story. I’ve read a few books that deal with memory loss however I liked that this was so much more than that.

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
switterbug (Betsey)
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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Liz Moore is the author of the novels THE WORDS OF EVERY SONG (Broadway Books, 2007), HEFT (W.W. Norton, 2012), THE UNSEEN WORLD (W.W. Norton, 2016), and the New York Times-bestselling Long Bright River (Riverhead, 2019). A winner of the Rome Prize in Literature, she lives in Philadelphia with her family, and teaches in the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing at Temple University.

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The beauty of a paperback novel is multidimensional. Allow me to explain: The format allows you to catch up on some of 2020's biggest books...
53 likes · 4 comments
“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?” 11 likes
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