Review: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

May 29, 2012 Doubleday, Review, Science Fiction 3

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0385535155
  • Source: Publisher (via Edelweiss)

In a near-future world, the medical profession has found a treatment for various diseases/ailments: brain implants. These implants, referred to as amps cures such diseases as epilepsy and allows individuals who have lost limbs due to various injuries to walk again as well as treat those with mental impairments. What starts out as a medical treatment expands and soon policeman and the military are being armed with amps, giving them super-human strength and abilities. Perfectly healthy individuals are implanted with the device, giving them superior physical and mental abilities. Soon, regular people not implanted with the device are being cheated out of educational opportunities by amps with superior brain power. Unaltered athletes are forced to compete against amps with extreme physical capabilities.

Amped begins with a ruling by the Supreme Court revoking all legal protections from Amps, those individuals implanted with the device. Despite the fact that many of these “amps” are normal people who are being treated for some medical impairment, an extremely conservative politician begins to manipulate the public, creating a fear of those with the device.

Owen Gray is one of these individuals. His father was the designer of the implanted chips. As a young adult, Owen sustained a severe head injury which resulted in horrendous seizures. A chip was implanted to control the seizures…or so Owen thought. In reality, the damage his brain received was so severe that he would not have lived without it. The chip implanted was not standard issue but one his father obtained from the military. As the country around him quickly descends into a military state, Owen has now become one of the country’s most wanted men.

Forced to leave his life behind him, Owen hunts down the man originally behind this rogue group of soldiers, a sort of special forces that was ordered to disband due to the side effects caused by the implanted amps.  He uncovers Eden, the place where all the research into these implanted chips began. In his journey, he learns about the power that has remained dormant in his brain all these years. Owen is just your average schoolteacher, or so he thought. In order to save the lives of thousands of modified human beings, Owen must learn how to control his powers and use them for the good of the nation.

Scattered throughout the novel are legal documents, providing the reader with an evolution of the government’s increased response to public outcry. In addition to Owen’s own observations, these legal documents provide the reader with evidence of the rapid decline of society.

Amped , like Wilson’s previous book, Robopocalypse, has a great deal of social commentary embedded in the text. Issues such as the value of a person, what makes a person, etc. are heavy to this storyline. These individuals have lost all legal rights and are eventually rounded up into camps for their “protection.” Legalized racism runs rampant, high-level politicians suggesting that these “amps” have lost what makes them human and therefore should not be treated as humans. “Regs,”those individuals that have not been implanted, brutalizing and killing amps without fear of prosecution.

This social commentary, compounded with a truly reliable main character that any reader can relate to, all add up to a truly impressive novel. Highly recommended.

3 Responses to “Review: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson”

  1. Bob
    Twitter: guildedearlobe

    I’ve been on the fence about Amped. Surprisingly, I didn’t love Robopocalypse. I think a lot of that had to do with some peevish issues with the narration, which I found very inconsistent. My main problem with Robopocalypse was that I didn’t feel engaged with any of the characters, so I’m glad to hear there is an actual likeable main character in Amped. I think I will give this one a listen, especially since the narrator is different.

  2. Howard Sherman
    Twitter: howardasherman

    I picked up some of the social commentary threads from your description of how the story develops. The premise of pseudo-cybernetic brain implants was touched on in the media a few years back which really got me, as a geek, to thinking long and hard about the idea.

    Taking this idea forward in Amped hooked me. I’ve got to read this book and explore all of the “what if” possibilities Daniel H Wilson presents.