Amped Review

Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. Enter a stunning world where technology and humanity clash in terrifying and surprising ways. Some people are implanted with upgrades that make them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities – and rights – of ‘amplified’ humans. On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, 29-year-old Owen Gray discovers that his seizure-supressing medical implant is actually a powerful upgrade. Owen joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as ‘amps’ and is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumoured, a group of the most enhanced amps are about to change the world – or destroy it.

I love the struggle that people have to go through to be good. What I mean is I don’t think that anyone is inherently good or bad. It’s our experiences and our upbringing that really shape who we are. At least, I believe that if we’re talking about morality. What’s really interesting is when you give people power–that’s when you see what kind of person they really are. And this thought was a shining cord that speared through Daniel H. Wilson’s Amped.

With excellent writing and a riveting style, it was this provoking line of thinking that kept me hypnotized from the first page to the last. Especially since the first page started with the protagonist and soon-to-be-amp Owen sidling across a roof toward his student (also an amp) who was about to commit suicide, because being this different wasn’t worth the fight.

In that instant, as a reader, you begin to get this niggling feeling, one that is all too familiar, that grows into a sense of horror once you realize what it is. Which is that you’ve seen/heard this before. And you have. In every situation you’ve ever been in contact with that deals with a second class citizen, who just can’t take the outright hatred and degradation anymore. This is just one of the haunting examples of the thoughtful nature of Amped, which turned out to be not just a well written novel, but a considerate look into artificial divisions we put up as human beings.

Beyond that mindcandy, it was an excellently plotted story. As we followed Owen from his stomach-churning encounter with his student, to his father’s revealing that his implant is more than it seems, to his escape from a quickly turning society,  the accounts in the book remain plausible and so all the more terrifying. The characters are all extremely believable and never questioned their existence even once. I remember each one vividly, as they are painted so well. Not in the way that they are terribly detailed, but that the details Wilson does choose to use are those that strike that cord of familiarity in your brain. We’ve all known these people before. I think some readers may not like that, but it works so well in this novel that I can only praise it. Between each chapter (in a technique I just enjoyed in Fredsti’s Plague Town), Wilson inserts news articles to give the reader a view of the chaos bubbling around the country along with the roiling friction growing within Owen’s personal narrative. It’s a neat glimpse that keeps the wide view in mind.

There’s a lot of action in this book, and while it is all rendered with heart-pounding detail (like many other elements of the book), it only works as a well used bolster for the philosophical meanderings that thread throughout. And that’s what makes this work so well. Topically, it’s a very good read–the story alone warrants me requiring you to read it (soon), but the questions that it poses and the answers it asks you to find (some in the story, some not) are what make it so memorable.

* * *

Thanks again to Daniel for taking time to do the interview, and if you want to learn more about his work, visit his site here.


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