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Want to buy a better brain? Better think twice
on December 17, 2012
Some of the very best science fiction explores the unintended consequences of breakthroughs in technology, and not those that are merely fanciful but advances that can be seen years ahead by observers of contemporary science. Amped is such a book.
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.