Monday, May 14, 2012

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

 Wow. Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is a great and thought-provoking book. It hits the ground running and hardly pauses for breath.

The book opens with a twenty-nine-year-old math teacher perched on the roof of his high school, pleading with one of his students not to jump. It’s some time not too far in the future. Medical implants called amps are in use throughout the world. At first, they were used to control epileptic seizures and artificial limbs. Then a government program brought them to children and others suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome and low IQs. The amps can assist with medical issues, but Neural Autofocus implants can also amplify intelligence.

The young woman on the roof has an amp and has lost a case before the Supreme Court, which declared that “implanted citizens are not a protected class.” The math teacher has an amp too, but only to control his epilepsy. His amp is only for medical purposes. At least that what he’s been told.

A quasi-religious group called Pure Pride and led by a charismatic senator arises, protesting the use of amps. Members of Echo Squad, a secret military organization with a special class of amps, are suspected of terrorism. Offices are bombed. Medical research is seized. People with amps are herded into ghettos and stripped of their rights.

Scattered throughout the book are fictional court cases referencing real ones (like Brown v. Board of Education), news updates from the BBC, CNN, and various real newspapers, acts of Congress, a recall notice from the Food and Drug Administration, and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These have the effect of making the book seem like a nonfiction memoir of real events rather than a novel.

Amped feels current and relevant, and it touches on all kinds of societal issues. Although they are not mentioned, Amped will make you think about such issues as U.S. immigration policies, the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control and abortion, and the fight over health care. It will make you remember Oklahoma City and 9/11. And it will make you think about charismatic leaders pushing their own agendas and what personal demons might lay behind their actions.

But don’t let all this talk about heavy issues put you off Amped. It’s a great read, fast-paced and with interesting characters and plenty of plot twists. It will make a great book for discussion, whether at a formal book club or around your dinner table.

There is an added bonus for those who live in Galesburg. The book is divided into parts, and each part starts with a quotation from a real person. Part 2 opens with Carl Sandburg’s poem The Hammer.

I read an advance release copy of Amped. It is scheduled to be released on June 5.

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