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Amped
Daniel H. Wilson
Doubleday, 288 pages

Amped
Daniel H. Wilson
Daniel H. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where's My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, and Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown.

Daniel H. Wilson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Robopocalypse

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Science fiction for the masses. It's a well-established technique; take a present-day setting, soup it up with a concept out of science fiction, one that's a little edgy but close enough to people's experience so that you don't have to spend a lot of time on technical details, throw in a thriller plot and a little romance and voila!, you've got it, a main-stream best-seller with just enough SF to give it a sparkle. Michael Crichton is the established master at this, but with Amped, Daniel H. Wilson, who has also shown an affinity for robots, takes a big step toward making the territory his own.

In Amped, the technological innovation is a brain implant that allows people with various types of problems, from seizures to attention disorders, to concentrate their thinking and work in the same way as the rest of the population. In fact, in some situations, the implant confers an advantage. It's a milder, gentler version of the Vernor Vinge's Focus, without the obvious abuse of outside mind control. There are, however, other potential problems, not the least of which is the growing resentment from some who see themselves as threatened by people they could at one time either ignore or intimidate.

From that starting point, Wilson does a masterful job of laying out the kinds of paranoia and suspicion that lead to the targeting of a minority in just a few pages. Take a demagogic senator, a compliant supreme court, and a sensationalistic media and the hunt for amplified humans is on.

That's where Owen Gray comes in. Owen was one of the earliest to receive an implant, one that he always thought was only meant to control seizures. But his implant turns out to be much more, and he is plunged into the heart of the struggle over the rights, and lives of the amped.

The plight of the persecuted minority that is really superior in some ways to their persecutors is a long time theme of science fiction, the classic example being A.E. van Vogt's Slan. Daniel H. Wilson's achievement is that he has taken that combination of paranoia and feelings of superiority and broadened it out, made it a larger experience than that of a small minority. Amped's technology is not that far away, many people already have experience with medical implants, they can sympathize with the experience. Throw in the current political/social climate and the possibility of social upheaval aimed at a resented portion of the populace is all too believable. Wilson's prose is slick enough and he tells the story quickly enough to make Amped a fast-paced, enjoyable thriller, with just enough science fiction to give it an edge, and enough of a serious theme to make you sit down and think a bit afterwards.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson is not yet in with the amped crowd. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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