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  • Amped
  • Customer Reviews

Amped
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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.
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on January 11, 2013
I am not always a sci-fi reader, but this was recommended and I gladly put down all my sad memoirs and nonfiction books for a well-deserved break. This book had me hooked from the beginning and kept me on the line the entire read!

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.
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on February 22, 2018
Started off good, but quickly got boring. I give it 3 stars because I like the author, and I think there was great potential, but I'll be honest - I didn't finish the book. Just got to the point where I didn't care anymore.
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on August 7, 2017
This is yet another great example of a wonderful new science fiction writer. Well-written, technically detailed, engrossing and fast-paced. Can't wait to read his next one!
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on September 15, 2013
The author has created a compelling vision of a near-future U.S. complete with ghetto-isation of individuals who have received medical implants for things like seizure disorders. In this future, those people have small, nubbin like nodes on their temple. The sweeping national hysteria and growing prejudice reminded me of Nazi Germany.
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.
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on June 19, 2017
I can see many of the perils of this story coming true in the real world. I think the author captures the fear which can be instilled in groups when we say , "them" and "us."
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on February 14, 2013
I have not read anything else by Daniel Wilson, but was looking forward to this book. It starts out strong and fast. Unfortunately it suffers from a number of flaws that become apparent as the story progresses. First is the unbelievability of the world in which it is set.

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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on December 21, 2014
This is a dark, and entirely convincing post-apocalyptic sci-fi piece, which is probably why I didn’t like it as much as Robopocalypse. Call me goofy, but I insist even my End Times dramas come with some cheeky humor and unforgettable one liners, if only to break the monotony of the otherwise dark and dreary world being portrayed with relentless, grim determination. Something the author gave us in spades in Robopocalypse but fails to do here. Maybe he thought by losing the sense of humor the world would be just that much more terrifying, or that we’d take him that much more seriously. Ironically, I didn’t find it to be so. I found the world certainly that much more depressing, and something I didn’t want to escape to even for a few hours, far less live in indefinitely. And maybe that was as intended. Maybe considering the gravity of the subject matter the author felt it more important to wake us to eff up from our somnolence about a future that we’re sleepwalking into that if we could wake up for a moment, would surely run the other direction from. But for such a tale to be truly effective, you have to want to finish the story. And I found doing so this time around more of a chore than a truly enjoyable undertaking. But I may not have been the right audience for this book. If you like things dark and humorless, then by all means jump in (most people would insist that it’s the only way to dine on post-apocalyptic fare.)

On the plus side, the author is wrestling with very real and important issues, far more real and important than anything which makes the headline news. The latter seems if anything like a smoke and mirrors distraction from the real issues of our day. Things such as the ongoing, ever-expanding loss of jobs to automation, robotics, self-service IVRs and websites, and of late, Watson stepping in to do what even most doctors and highly educated people can’t. I guess it’s too scary and too depressing that people face the prospects of being made entirely obsolete in their own lifetime, surpassed and outclassed by AI in every way. And then, to add insult to injury, after being demoted from the top of the food chain, they come to find out their even more dire fate may well be to simply be eliminated from the food chain. Yeah, maybe with that in mind, I can see why the powers that be try to distract people from the issues that really matter. Hats off to this author for at least keeping things real, and for that he deserved my rounding up to four stars and my getting over myself regarding his story being a bit less fun of a read than I’d have liked. If, after all is said and done, he paints a picture of the future that seems that much more realistic and inescapable, can he really be blamed if that future isn’t something we want to live in? Or does that blame fall more properly on the rest of us too busy playing ostrich with our heads in the sand to insist these near-future concerns be front and center in the public forum?
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on March 23, 2015
Good follow up to his previous series, very much enjoy the techno thriller and no stop action in the book.
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on September 7, 2013
Amped has a fascinating concept, and one that is going to be a pressing issue in the real world in the next 10-20 years if predictions are correct. The book is, in some ways, an examination of the social and ethical issues around what will happen when human beings start to merge with computers. This event, often called "the Singularity," will create a new class of human different from any that has ever lived. The book explores in depth the reaction to this new, faster, smarter human, and from that perspective it is a fascinating read.

Unfortunately, the execution is not what it could have been. Unlike in Robopocalypse, Mr. Wilson fails to deliver in-depth characters that involve the reader. Although some of the characters are interesting in passing, they never really grow or develop past what they are in the beginning of the story. Without seeing that happen I found myself only mildly involved in their fates. I never really grew attached to anyone, and although the book does have some "woot" moments, my reaction upon completing the book was: "well, that was nice" instead of "wow."

In its favor, the book is a quick read and there was enough action and intrigue to keep me turning pages. I did want to know what happened by the end but that, along with the aforementioned general premise, were really the only two things going for Amped.
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