I don’t know the exact date I got this book, but it was back when I still worked at the bookstore because there is a label on it from the publisher. So this book has been out for a WHILE. Even though I KNOW that, I had to double check when it was published because it’s hitting beat for beat what has happened the past 3 – 4 years. Want to lose faith in humanity? This book was published in 2012. 10 years old and it could have been written this year.
That’s not to say that the book’s subject was intentional in the losing faith in humanity specter, even though it doesn’t help.
The book takes place in the somewhat near future, where everything sounds similar to today, but technology was developed that we haven’t quite mastered yet. Scientists created a device they can put into a human brain to make them smarter. People born disabled would be given the same advantages as everyone else. They were even creating these devices to correct ailments like epilepsy. Sounds great right?
Enter this book’s version of an anti-vaxxer!
The Pure Priders. People who feel that those with the implants, or “amps” as they are called, aren’t real people, they’ve been given too many advantages, forcing out the true, real, PURE humans. Older people with failing bodies are given amps and exoskeletons and reintroduced to the work force, “taking jobs” from the younger group. Notice the quotes around taking jobs? Sound familiar?
The Pure Priders hold rally’s, stake out jobs that have a large amount of amp employees, harass and abuse any amps they see. Amps are easily spotted because of the maintenance port on their temples. Pure Priders have started a new trend of leaving your temples clear of everything – including hair.
Owen Gray, a simple Amp teacher, witnesses the suicide of a student and fellow Amp. Owen’s amp was simply put in to stop his seizures, giving him no advantage over pure humans. His seizures were so severe after an accident that he could not function around them. There is a scene in the book where his amp gets turned off an he spends hours on the floor alternating between seizures and unbearable pain. Pure Priders feel that the pain of their brain ailments is worth it to remain “human”. This reminded me so much of the arguments around CBD. When I was a bit younger I remember a new story about a child who was basically catatonic so his parents attempted treating with CBD (back when it was “illegal”). Within weeks I do believe, the kid was back in school and functioning like a regular child. The parents were charged with child abuse and the child was taken off the CBD and allowed to recess back into the catatonic state. So what’s the true child abuse?
That’s what I mean about this book, it might be about Pure Priders versus Amps, and the really cool secret amp that was installed in Owen’s head (along with 12 super soldiers) that allows the amp to run on autopilot and make them deadly killers. What I saw in the book was the immigration/refugee issues, Internment camps, Me Too, BLM, Handmaids tale. There was a line in the book basically saying Amps are one signature away from losing all rights as humans. As an AFAB, I just chuckled and thought “first time here?” Back in the day women weren’t allowed to own property, make money, pretty much DO anything without a husband/father/brother/son, and Handmaids tale really showed us that we are only a few votes away from being nothing more than wombs on legs. “Amped” really illustrated that we all are one legislation away from being viewed as sub-human, without the protection of law, simply because someone doesn’t like us.
Moral dilemmas aside, this is a great book. Wilson is a great writer and if you want a cool borderline sci-fi (no flying cars or phasers) that will turn your stomach if you think too deeply about it, this is it. Owen’s plight is interesting because he is your average Joe thrown into an insane situation that pulls him in every direction. Does he side with the other super soldiers and learn how to control the thing in his head? Or does he stay and help the rest of the amps and their families?