Finding something to read over the summer is pretty easy. There are lots of lists. Well, add one more to the stack: “Amped” by Daniel H. Wilson.
This near-future thriller takes an old sci-fi concept, the evolution of discrimination, and makes it exciting again. The question Wilson asks is simple: What happens when technological advances blur the line between what’s a tool, and what’s human evolution?
While the answers are varied, and the question ages old, the presentation sucks a reader in from page one, and keeps them turning the pages to the last.
The protagonist, Owen Gray, is one of the thousands of individuals who uses an “amp” — a tiny little brain implant that can cure everything from Alzheimer’s to ADD, or accelerate focus to create superhuman IQ. In Gray’s case, it prevents epileptic seizures. Or so he’s been led to believe.
When the IQ boosting properties of the amps come under fire in the world of the book, the Supreme Court rules that those who have amps are not a protected class. That first salvo sets off a domino of events that results in amps — also the name for people who use them — being stripped of their civil rights.
Gray’s life falls apart rapidly; a revelation from his father, who not only pioneered the amps but installed Owen’s, sends him fleeing to a trailer park in Oklahoma to uncover the truth about his implant and the war against amps in general.
Wilson’s writing style manages to convey the larger picture and keep the reader in step with the world around Gray, while still staying true to the first-person clarity that keeps the book moving so fast.
One narrative trick that accomplishes this is the use of outside sources — like blogs, news releases, and court documents — in between chapters to get vital exposition in without breaking up the story by having the characters discuss it.
With engaging characters, a blindingly fast plot, and enough twists and turns to keep even the savviest reader engaged, “Amped” is a top-notch read. But be warned: even as the plot provides sci-fi satisfaction, it also discusses the consequences of discrimination. Light reading it may be, but after all’s said and done, readers may be left with some weighty thoughts.
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