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Amped Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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PRAISE FOR DANIEL H. WILSON’S AMPED:
“A fast-paced narrative, not too far away at all from everyday experience, that treats an unsettling question: How long will tolerance last once you can buy a better brain? Mr. Wilson recognizes that, in the modern world, the battlegrounds would be legal and political, not just physical.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Wilson’s latest novel is AMPED, a post-apocalyptic high-tech apocalypse set in the same mold as his spectacular debut, Robopocalypse. Wilson is a roboticist by trade and he combines his background in space and engineering with a knack for fast-paced narrative. Wilson has done a very good job with AMPED. [He] taps into something primal with AMPED, some of the deep questions about medical ethics, the social effects of technology, and the way that class and politics make technological questions much harder to resolve.”
Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“With AMPED, Wilson has taken another step to claiming the late Michael Crichton’s crown as the public’s sci-fi thriller writer of choice. Wilson hits all the notes in the right order and the book’s pace is relentless. And perhaps best of all, he leavens his cautionary message with good-sized dollops of fistfights and gunfire. AMPED might have a commendable message about tolerance and civil rights, but Wilson doesn’t let the message get in the way of our fun.”
“Fast-paced…fascinating…for hardcore sci-fi readers, AMPED offers plenty of juicy details to savor. As he showed in his bestselling thriller Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson can write. The Carnegie Mellon-trained roboticist has a voice and style very much like Stephen King. But unlike King, Wilson also has the chops to base the weird beings in his stories on hard science. “
Wired’s Geek Dad
“Entertaining…propulsive… AMPED [is] a gripping story of a community of Amps trying to make it in the middle of a prejudiced Oklahoma, where regular humans strike back at anyone with a telltale port on their temple. A piece of trenchant political science fiction about how we mistreat those who are different. “
The Onion A.V. Club
“Thrilling…First he gave us helpful advice for the robot uprising, then he wrote the robot war novel Robopocalypse. Now Daniel H. Wilson is turning his attention to the plight of cyborgs and posthumans with his dystopian new novel AMPED.”
“Wilson’s newest novel, AMPED, shares with its predecessor [Robopocalypse] a solid basis in current scientific technology – in this case, neural implants that treat a variety of conditions. AMPED imagines a not-too-distant world, when these ‘superabled’ people – made stronger, smarter, faster by the devices in their heads – are perceived as a threat to unaltered or ‘pure’ humans. “
“A fast-paced, futuristic thriller that’ll make you think, especially about the dangers of us-versus-them demagoguery.”
Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star
"This is a terrific book on any number of levels, doing what sf has always been able to do best: showing us a possible future so that we can not only attempt to avoid it, but we can also look at its echoes as they already exist in our own time."
Fantasy & Science Fiction
“Wilson keeps the action and fear-based prejudice ever-present without sacrificing depth. The story’s heart is the moral quandary Owen faces once he knows his implant only responds to his deepest thoughts, keeping the reader wondering how far he will go and how much he is willing to sacrifice.”
“Provocative…A thoughtful, well-written novel which deals with the often tense interplay between machines and humans. Wilson, whose prose is always a step above the norm, is at his strongest creating amp augmented action sequences and in conjuring situations which explore the boundaries between humankind and its technological creations.”
“Absorbing…Wilson is no stranger to exploring the intersection of technology and humankind. In AMPED, certain individuals have technology embedded under their skin. These humans are smarter and faster than norms – and because most of the federally funded upgrades went to the needy, the formerly dumb and afflicted ‘amps’ are scaring the ‘pure’ humans. The not-so-distant future is a hotbed of class war and civil unrest.”
About the Author
DANIEL H. WILSON is the author of the New York Times bestseller Robopocalypse and the nonfiction titles 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.
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Amped ventures into the near future -- sometime around 2030, it seems -- to depict American society in upheaval over the brain implants installed in half a million of its least fortunate citizens. The implants "amplify" the brains of the elderly and infirm, accident victims, and those with severe mental illness and mental retardation, allowing them to focus clearly and to make the most efficient use possible of their bodies. These "amps" are smarter, quicker, and stronger than the average bear -- and the vast majority of Americans don't like it one bit. They're especially upset about the few amps who began with superior intelligence and outstanding physical abilities and have been turned into superbeings. Nobody likes a smartypants, it seems.
But this novel is not speculative nonfiction thinly disguised as fiction, with lame dialogue used to "explain" and cardboard characters created for the sole purpose of illustrating different points of view. Amped is, instead, a skillfully written novel of suspense that charges ahead with breakneck speed. In fact, the book can best be described as a thriller, with enough action, suspense, and plot twists to sate the desire of any Hollywood producer.
Amped's author, Daniel H. Wilson, sports a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, which some consider the epicenter of the field. This is Wilson's seventh book. His previous works include Robopocalypse and How to Survive a Robot Uprising.
Summary for people like me (No spoilers) -
Main character (Owen) is a high school teacher. He has a device to control his epilepsy. Implanting "amp" devices is common practice in the future. In fact, Owen is one of the few people who got the device purely for need. The government was practicing giving "amps" to all underprivileged children to make them smarter and competitive in schools/jobmarket/etc. Soon Owen finds out that lobbyists are trying to take away the rights of "Amps," as people with devices like this are called, and round them up, lock them up, Holocaust-era stuff. Owen also finds out that his device isn't like any others and is military grade, so he must step up and become a hero. I'm sure you can find a better synopsis elsewhere in the reviews.
The book was compelling for me as it presented a clearly not-quite impossible future for our nation. It is science fiction at its best.
Wilsons descriptive authorship makes you feel the grime he describes in ghettos and compelled me to finish the book in 2 days, then re-read it.
HERE BE SPOILERS... don't read on if you don't want major plot points revealed to you!
It's set in a near-future America, and one particular politician, a McCarthy-like US Senator named Vaughn foments hatred against the amplified humans or "amps" to the point of stripping them of all civil liberties and placing them in concentration camps. While I don't have any problem believing that on some dark day this might happen, I simply don't believe it would happen all at once, nor would it happen without a MAJOR outcry from the rest of the non-amped population. Or the rest of the world. After all, most people are good, right? In fact, that sentiment is a kind of mission statement for the book's main character, an amped schoolteacher named Gray, who is capable of far more than he thinks.
Which brings me to the next story problem: Gray, the main character, is a total WUSS. This story focuses nearly all of its attention upon the amps who are weaponized. Ex-soldiers, fighters. And into this arena steps the most chicken-hearted character I've read recently. I think Gray is supposed to be the Voice of Reason, someone reluctant to use his destructive capabilities, and a foil to the other villain of the piece, an amped ex-soldier named Lyle--who glories in the bloodshed his battle-ready enhancements can deliver.
Gray has to fight Lyle again and again, and of course each time he does he's dragged kicking and screaming (metaphorically and literally) into using his hidden amp'ed talents to a greater and greater degree. His reticence is I think meant to show his moral fiber, but to me it just read like he was a great big coward. The book is half over before he decides to stand up for himself and stop letting himself get beaten up by nearly everybody he encounters.
And BTW, although I am a liberal, I don't think the characterization of the "Pure Pride" group (the story's national anti-amp coalition)--a thinly-veiled analogy to any number of rabid-yet-popular Right Wing hate groups--does anybody any favors by portraying them as bloodthirsty rednecks with no other dimension to their actions beyond bigotry and hatred.
And finally, in the Big Showdown of Gray versus Lyle and Vaughn (SPOILERS, you were warned), Vaughn's motivations and characterization shift from bullying to pathetic to evil conspiratorial bossiness to clueless and back again. Consequently the reasons for all the trouble he's caused don't make any sense, and neither do the climax and final resolution of the plot. It just wasn't believable.
(Oh, and by the way, if you're going to put in a shout-out to "Flowers for Algernon", the least you can do is acknowledge "Beggars in Spain", which covers a LOT of the same ground.)
This book does have its moments. Some of the prose is great, and it flows along at a fast clip. Too fast for my tastes, but your mileage may vary.
I still want to read Robopocalypse. But this is the work of a young man who doesn't really understand how people are. He seems to understand how technology works--although he utterly ignores the fact that the amp technology is a commercial commodity and the consequences of that. He doesn't seem to understand how US politics works--one senator, by himself, changing the face of civil rights in the United States? I don't think so! And although I don't know from personal experience, I found it unbelievable that genocidal levels of oppression could be allowed to blossom without an angry (and possibly armed) push-back from "the good people"--something that never happens, and its implied throughout the book that it would never happen.
There's also a tacked-on love story that doesn't really do much, or say much about the characters. It's just there to sweeten the pot by the time we reach the ending. Give Mr. Wilson a few more years of living, let his writing reflect his real-life experiences, and then these stories will be great.
But right now? This didn't cut it for me. I wish it had.
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