Review: Amped by Daniel H Wilson

Have you ever found yourself at a complete loss of what to say in a review of a book, not because you don’t have things to say about it, but because you’re so preoccupied with thoughts of other books that you can’t piece together a coherent sentence? That’s me tonight. All I want to do is gibber incomprehensibly about Dearly, Beloved (which I haven’t even read yet) and how seriously cool Ilsa J Bick is and how Gabriel Rodriguez is possibly the best comic artist of ever. I can’t seem to find it in me to write something comprehensible about how Amped gave me the heebie-jeebies in a matter of pages, how freaked out I was at the thought that intelligence – even artificially created – could become a character trait to shun and segregate against. How I had super bizarre dreams about androids fighting red necks all ninja-style.

Okay, I think I’m ready to write this review now.

Daniel H Wilson

Knopf Doubleday
288 pages
Releases on June 5, 2012
SciFi / Action

Preorder it from Amazon here

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-suppressing 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 rumored, a group of the most enhanced amps are about to change the world—or destroy it.

Up front I have to say that the idea of a microchip implanted in a human’s brain that could not only solve all the problems of fetal alcohol syndrome or Down’s syndrome or general mental retardation, but also turn the human in question into a super genius is amazing. I think the smarter people are the better. I do not fear intelligence and love listening to people talk about things they’re so much smarter about than I am (as long as the subject is interesting, of course). I don’t think being smart makes you elitist or a bad person or evil. I just think it makes you really smart.

But I also am aware that there are some people who fear intelligence, who don’t like feeling stupid or unknowledgeable, who probably were never that fond of learning. Because I know those people exist, Amped gave me serious mental issues. I mean, there were times I had to put down my Kindle, take a few deep breaths and try to get the chill bumps to go away. This is because I am paranoid and don’t underestimate the cruelty of which people are capable.

The beginning of this book is my waking nightmare.

Daniel H. Wilson wrote Robopocalypse. He’s a really smart dude with a doctorate in robotics. It’s why his books are so creepy, I think. He writes in a way that explains the technical aspects without sounding like he’s dumbing it down. He twists the mechanics in action and general thriller-esque moments of tension. From the moment the book opens with Owen on the ledge of a building, attempting to stop a student from jumping, Amped kicks into high gear and doesn’t slow down. Toss in some political intrigue, an unstable verging on insane amped up soldier and a guy just learning his limits (or lack thereof), then coat it in humanity’s potential for bigotry and blind hatred, and you come out with a book that feels so real, so possible that you can’t believe there’s not already six different movie versions somewhere.

But overall Amped is a sort of coming-of-age story of a 29-year-old, who realizes he might just be a super soldier who can save the world. Owen is a bit slubby and defeatist about everything when his world flips over and he finds himself on the run from the government for having a microchip in his head to stop seizures. But as situations call for it, he mans up and fights for what he believes to be the right thing, proving that just because you have computer parts in your head doesn't mean you aren't still a human.

Amped is short and the chapters of the story are separated by “historical documents” – news releases, classified military documents, articles, etc. – that, like in Robopocalypse, creates a much wider view of the situation at hand instead of isolating it to just Owen’s story. Due to reading this as an uncorrected proof on a Kindle, the formatting was incredibly wonky and it took a while to decipher what was what and how things fit together. Despite this it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.

I suppose it’s pretty predictable. All the players have their parts to play and their ultimate outcome isn’t hard to figure out. Other than some concepts of androids and monstrous half-men, there’s nothing really surprising about Amped. Gross? Yes. Exciting? Absolutely. But not surprising. Things play out as they’re expected to and that prevented me from having any of those cheer-out-loud moments I enjoyed so much in Robopocalypse. Still it’s a fun little fast-paced science fiction romp full of action, drama and, at least for me, serious amounts of creepy.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Daniel H. Wilson has landed himself on my list of authors whose work I will always read. And that most likely all his work will end up giving me nightmares.



I received an e-ARC via NetGalley from the publisher in return for an honest review. Daniel H. Wilson has not threatened me with technological destruction. My fear of him and his awesome brain (and the opinions in this review) is all my own.