By Daniel H. Wilson
Available now from Doubleday (Random House)
In near future America, approximately half a million adults and children are amped. One short procedure, one little machine in your head, and you're practically a whole new person. The amps can cure bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, alcoholism, epilepsy. And they aren't just medical. Some of the amps make you faster, smarter. And the regular humans aren't happy about being outclassed. A faction known as Pure Pride, led by Senator Joseph Vaughn, pushes through legislation and legal decisions degrading the amps' human rights.
The beginning of AMPED seems extremely unbelievable. Things are happening too fast and people abruptly treat the amps like third-class citizens without even thinking about the behavior. But protagonist Owen repeatedly emphasizes that he was ignoring the political situation. He believed nothing would apply to him, since he had a purely medical implant. But even medical amps face discrimination
Then Owen's father confesses that his amp isn't purely medical. It's something more and he needs to go to Jim in Oklahoma for help. Quickly, because the government knows about Owen's amp and they're going to come for him.
In the Eden Trailer Park of Oklahoma, Owen meets a wide variety of amps and Lucy, the one pure human living among the amps. Most importantly, he meets Lyle, who used to be part of an amped Special Forces Squad. He decides to follow Lyle, despite the fact Lyle is clearly nuts. As a couple of characters point out, Owen ain't the brightest.
There's a philosophical underpinning to AMPED. What makes us human? How far can technology take us and where to we draw the line? But AMPED isn't really interested in exploring those questions. They add some depth to the story, but that isn't the point. AMPED is not a character-driven exploration of existentialism. It's a conspiracy thriller with a science fiction twist.
And as a conspiracy thriller, AMPED delivers. There's lots of action and there's several twists, although most of them are pretty predictable. It's quick, it's fun, and fortunately not dumb. Just don't read it expecting DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?