Steven's Reviews > Amped

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson
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Jun 08, 12

Recommended for: anyone
Read from June 07 to 08, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Daniel H. Wilson’s latest novel, Amped, gives us a new twist on a familiar theme in science fiction and comics: what if something happened that made one subset of humanity smarter/faster/stronger than the rest? And what happens when those left behind begin to fear the more advance minority? Any fan of Marvel’s X-Men know how the mutants (homo superior) are feared and hated by regular humans. In Amped, the “amps” are hated and feared by the “reggies.”

Wilson’s expertise in technology (he holds a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University) shows here, just as it did in Robopocalypse, making the tech bits seem extra believable and scarier. He’s obviously spent a lot of time thinking about not only how you would go about creating amped technology, but also its implications for society.

And that’s the focus of Amped: the implications for society when one group is made “better” than the rest. “Better” is a very subjective term to use, because most of the amps started off life with some significant disadvantages in life before they were “uplifted.” Many were born very poor with mental and physical challenges resulting from problems ranging from fetal alcohol syndrome to simple bad luck. The results of their technological uplifting makes them smarter or stronger or faster than normal humans, but they’re still marginalized along socioeconomic power lines.

When normal humans begin to fear and discriminate against amps, those in power (led by a U.S. senator and his cronies), begin to dismantle any legal rights of the amps, stripping away the amps’ “humanity” even as they seek to protect their own. There are obvious parallels to current and past problems in the U.S., especially to the current battle over gay marriage and gay rights.

Some early criticism of the book argues that if the amps were truly so much smarter than reggies, they would have figured a way to fight them in court. But, the reality is that, even though the amps have higher IQs or ability to focus, manipulating the legal system to one’s advantage doesn’t need raw processing power, it also hinges on one’s socioeconomic background and skills and experience. Most of the amps aren’t of the world of legislators and lawyers and politicians; they’re of the world of dusty Oklahoma trailer parks and Detroit slums.

And, on a meta level, a novel about arguing for post-human rights through court battles and drafting legislation just doesn’t sound as exciting as what transpires in Amped, and maybe that’s why Wilson chose to write a book about more visceral kind of “action.” The courtroom drama is a different book than Amped.

I read Amped from start to finish in one day. It's a book that lends itself to binge reading. Like in his previous novel, Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson jams the accelerator to the floor and doesn't let up until the last smoking page. Though it is a very smart book, it’s not solely an intellectual treatise on the nature of humanity --- it’s a thinking reader’s sci-fi action novel.
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