Monday, May 21, 2012

Serious Superheros: "Wired" and "Amped"

Amped (the Wired sequel)

by Douglas E. Richards
Paragon Books (Wired, July 2011, Amped, March 2012)

Wired: Available at Amazon
Amped: Available at Amazon

What if our brains were able to use their full capacity?   How many new technologies and inventions could we come up with?  What great new strides could be made in every area of accomplishment?

"Wired" and the newly-released follow-on, "Amped" do an excellent job of exploring this universe, where Kira Miller, genetic engineer, discovers a way to do just that, and finds that such power has some unexpected side effects, both in her abilities, and in humanity's tendency toward putting ego first.  Everyone knows someone whose cranial resources are highly developed who has trouble functioning in normal life, mostly because they no longer listen, or are convinced they know everything.   They can get pretty obnoxious.  What happens when you magnify the effect by orders of magnitude?

We've seen, in recent years, lots of TV shows with characters that have strange and often magical powers, but Douglas Richards brings some new questions into the mix.  When everyone can be enhanced, and the Nietzchean tendencies towards pure selfishness are unleashed, how would we know who to trust?  What human could handle situations in which he or she could run rings around any competitor without having power corrupt absolutely?

Of course, everyone wants a piece of this pie, and Kira must decide on a way to trust others with her secret formula, but the government has got wind of it, and will go to any lengths, including publicly declaring her a terrorist, to get their hands on the formula and the scientist who made it.  She is, however, frustratingly difficult to catch.  Anyone sent to find her fails spectacularly, including  David Desh, a Special Forces hotshot known in government circles as someone who could track down anybody.   She's smarter and faster and stronger, and outsmarts them at every turn, eerily anticipating their every move.  Several who made the attempt never reported back, but then again, neither did David Desh. 

The government now has a problem.  A very charismatic woman is on the loose with one of the most life-changing technologies the world has ever seen, and her intentions are hardly clear.  The manhunt, or in this case woman-hunt, is full on.  Anyone who helps her is at risk, and when her brother is taken hostage to get her to turn over information, her refusal to do so costs him his life.   Is this secret important enough to justify this sacrifice?  Kira is certain it is, but the guilt is overwhelming.

"Wired" begins the story, but "Amped" takes it to a new level.   Cat and mouse chases with a far superior mouse have many twists and turns, and the plot has some good action writing, which makes this book hard to put down before the last page.  Kira's team is making breathtaking discoveries, trying to hold down the superhero arrogance while improving technology (sometimes more successfully than others), including an energy-producer never before seen. 
"Energy this cheap and abundant would power homes, businesses, cars, and factories.  It would drive an unprecedented explosion of growth in world economies, changing the face of civilization overnight.  But would it be too revolutionary?  Would the tectonic shift it would cause be too dramatic and  disruptive?  And what would oil based economies -- often in the world's most volatile regions and in the hands of the most ruthless regimes -- do when the rug was pulled out from under them and their ocean of money was about to run dry?  Go to war?  Unleash weapons of mass destruction?...the final analysis would be done by the core council when their minds were amplified, but even so these questions would be brutally difficult to answer."
Suddenly however, there's another group in the mix.  It's not only the government that wants in on the secret, and these guys apparently have part of it -- they have some superior cats out to catch this mouse.  And they are close to success.

In addition to bringing us some great action close-in-time sci-fi, these books ask the intelligent questions that the best sci-fi asks.  "Who are we really, when push comes to shove?"  "What do humans do when there's a priceless prize to be had?"  "How do we find ways to control our ever growing arrogance, and how can we actually trust one another in a world of increasing technology?"   I highly recommend these two books.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed both books for the action, the science (biology, astronomy and computer), the plot and the strong, smart, lovely woman behind it all. My background in programming, network engineering and threat detection placed a critical eye on the character of Matt but I came away pleasantly convinced of his freakish hacking abilities. Both books are excellent in substance and entertaining as well. I couldn't put either of them down and look forward to more from Mr. Richards!


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