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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027


Amped - Daniel H. Wilson With three chapters left to go, I finally realized what had been bugging me about this book. I kept being reminded of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” and “Flowers for Algernon.” And not in a good way.Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first. I’ll admit, it is written compellingly, as I wanted to know what was going to happen next for the characters. It does keep you on your toes, as Owen moves cross-country to stop the escalating violence against amps. And I like Owen generally, but he’s really not a compelling character. All we know is that he’s a former school teacher and has one of the limited super-special military amps in his head, and that’s it. He’s pretty much just shoved around the plot for the purpose of being a plot point. The romance is bland—again, I like Lucy in theory, but she’s got the same likeability level as Owen. Also, their romance feels more like “Oh, two conveniently attractive people working toward the same goals! Now kiss!” (There’s a bit where Owen does questions Lucy’s motives, but it gets dropped just as fast.) The villains—ugh. Lyle is a one-note megalomaniac psychopath with no real motives aside from social Darwinism. Senator Vaughn is a caricature of every super-conservative politician with little purpose in his arguments against the implants. The book attempts to give Vaughn a sympathetic backstory, but I cannot feel sorry for him at all (especially with the Rosemary Kennedy-esque implications.) The only two characters I genuinely liked were Nick and Samantha. I did really like Nick, even if he seemed to be the Morality Pet for Owen, but he’s the only one who has real characterization. Nick’s a little wiseass kid, but he’s got personality and I actually felt sorry for him. And while I liked Samantha, for the sole chapter she appeared in, she unfortunately illustrates the massive problem I have with this book. Thematically, technology is awesome and wonderful and everyone should have a chance for it, but only the really good people, because with great power and all. I can get behind this message. If it were better presented.This is a book that wants to be thematically gray, but is at best a washed-out black and/or white. The only argument presented against the amp technology is that it makes the “Reggies” afraid of people with the implants. The only people seen using the amp tech for evil purposes are Lyle and his lackeys, and they’re not presented as anything more than psychopaths. There are some positive moments—like the mention that the normal people with implanted relatives are extremely supportive—but the general argument is that we should be allowed to get this tech, even to fix minor imperfections.Which leads me to the fact that downright disturbed me: amp technology is primarily used to fix mental problems, up to and including developmental disorders like ADHD, mental retardation, and schizophrenia. It’s mentioned that the program installing the tech is voluntary and someone can opt out of it. BUT when the majority of people mentioned with amp technology are young children, who are not generally capable of making informed medical decisions, I have a big issue with this being presented as a good thing. The last page of this is a scene of a classroom full of amped kids ready to learn, followed by an anvil dropping about technology. It feels like Owen is ready to start his own revolution of amped kids. (Also, it pissed me off when it implies that kids with ADHD can’t learn or function normally. My sister was diagnosed with ADHD, she’s a senior in college and just made dean’s list.)And this is what I mean that the arguments in this book are black and white: there is not one character who regrets getting amped. Again, the closest we get is Samantha, who was bullied because of her developmental issues and then for being amped. (It also doesn’t help that Owen uses her as his own personal martyr for the rest of the book.) The implication is, again, that normal people can’t appreciate the wonders of technology and therefore lash out at those who do. We don’t get to see the other side of the argument. Not even when Owen believes that his implant is just for medical reasons. It feels like Wilson had a great starting point to a debate, but doesn’t give the other side a fair chance to give its arguments. I picked this up based on the rave reviews for Robopocalypse (which I still haven’t read, and I’m now really debating on if I still want to ), and as I mentioned above, it’s a decent read. Not a bad way to kill an afternoon or two. But because so much of the book is focused on this argument of technology, and the implications that crop up throughout, I have a hard time actually recommending it. It’s a good way to get a conversation going, I’ll give it that; but as for presenting a viable argument, it ultimately fails to sway me.