July 12, 2012

amped by daniel wilsonIn AMPED, a technology thriller set in the near future by Daniel H. Wilson, the author of ROBOPOCALYPSE, people are implanted with technology that makes them superhuman. The Supreme Court rules these amplified humans, or amps, are not a special class and therefore should not receive protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. As a result, the amps–mostly poor people and people with disabilities given a step up via a special government program–become persecuted. But some amps will fight back. Our hero, Owen Grey, must decide which side he’s on, and learn the secret of the special technology his father implanted in his brain.

As with ROBOPOCALYPSE, it’s a light fun read, ideal for summer reading on a lawn chair or at the beach. And as with his earlier work, AMPED felt like I’d already read it somewhere before (there are even heavy shades of FIGHT CLUB here), but Wilson makes the reluctant-hero plot and some of its well-worn twists and devices his own with a few innovations. Wilson is also clearly improving as a writer. He tells his story well.

The biggest problem I had with the book was its basic premise. The idea the U.S. government would invest in special enhancement technology for its poorest citizens, and that only the poorest citizens would have access to it, struck me as fundamentally absurd. It’s something everyone would want, and few would be able to afford.

What would happen instead is it would be used to advantage the already advantaged. There would be no government support program, no prejudice, no tensions toward civil war. The media would glorify it.

Interestingly, the book raises some interesting legal questions, such as whether an amp, who is ridiculously smart, can make a contract with a “normal,” with the answer being no (as the mentally retarded in turn cannot make contracts with others), and yet we have a society where different groups of people already have dramatic advantages over others–because of money, education, genetics and so on.

I also thought it strange the government would help all these people, only to not only deny them rights as a special class, but deny them all rights whatsoever–as American citizens, and, amazingly, as human beings. The book suggested you could kill an amp with impunity. You could at least steal their property and beat them up.

I just couldn’t buy the premise packaged in a plot I’ve seen before. But again, overall, it was an entertaining read I’d recommend as light fare.

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