The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

The Supernatural EnhancementsTitle: The Supernatural Enhancements
Author: Edgar Cantero
Published: 12 August 2014
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Genre: gothic, mystery, adventure
Rating: 6/10

Our protagonist – known only as “A.” – inherits a huge mansion from an American “second-cousin twice-removed”. A. had never even heard of Ambrose Wells until after the man committed suicide by throwing himself from his bedroom window at the age of 50. Incidentally, Ambrose’s father threw himself from the same window, at the same age.

Now A. finds himself incredibly rich, having gotten Axton House and all its contents. He moves in, along with his ‘companion’ Niamh (pronounced “Neve”; it’s gaelic), a mute teenage punk with blue and violet dreadlocks. Since A. is only 23 he figures he’s got 27 years before Axton House can drive him to suicide, and he and Niamh enthusiastically face the building’s many mysteries – the strange deaths of its previous owners, rumours that the House is haunted, the disappearance of the butler who worked there all his life, the coded messages left by Ambrose Wells, a secret society that met at the House. It’s a House with “supernatural enhancements” (an Edith Wharton quote). Soon, A. starts having disturbingly vivid dreams and nightmares, always featuring the same people, images and events, and these gradually start to affect his health and sanity. There is also an unexplained break-in at the House, after which Niamh gets a dog who she prudently names Help.

A. and Niamh go to great lengths to record their experiences. A. keeps a diary, a dream journal, and regularly writes letters to an Aunt Liza, detailing everything that happens to them and the steps they’re taking to solve the mystery. Because she’s mute, Niamh communicates using a notebook, and in her spare time she fills in the other speakers’ parts of the conversation, so that she’s basically got a written record of all her conversations. She also buys a voice recorder and video camera, and – when the situation in the House gets more threatening – she sets up surveillance cameras everywhere. These documents, as well as transcriptions of notable audio and video recordings, are what make up the narrative of The Supernatural Enhancements.

The blurb claims that “[w]hat begins as a clever, gothic ghost story soon evolves into a wickedly twisted treasure hunt in Cantero’s wholly original modern-day adventure”, and this is one of the few occasions where I’d say the blurb is spot-on.

At first the book has a creepy tone, when A. starts to see the rumoured ghost in the bathroom. However, the ghost turns out to be a relatively minor issue, an entry point to grander schemes. As A. and Niamh investigate, the creepy ghost story gives way to mystery and adventure with a bit of action and quite a lot of danger.

What makes the book “wholly original” is, I think, the strangeness of the story that unfolds, a kind of charming metafictional humour (more on that in a bit), and partly the way virtually everything about this book adds to its mystery – the plot, the setting, the characters, the narrative structure, the writing style. I’ve already explained as much of the plot as I can without starting to spoil it. The size and grandeur of Axton House alone gives it an air of mystery, but A. also notes that the house seems to exist in a different time:

when you’re near enough to touch it with your fingertip, it just feels old. Not respectable old, but godforsaken old. Like a sepia-colored photograph, or Roman ruins that miraculously avoided tourist guides. This house ages differently. It’s like those bungalows that endure decades, but are awake only three months a year in summer, so that they live one year, but age four. This happens to Axton House and the things within, “all of its contents.” They stand on the brink of the twenty-first century, but their age pulls them back. Maybe that’s why everything in it is or seems anachronistic; a newspaper in it is outdated; any accessory falls out of fashion; Ambrose Wells lived in 1995 looking like a gentleman from 1910s London. I am starting to feel it myself—like time is running faster than me, and I have to catch up. Like I’m stuck on the bank of a river while the space-time continuum keeps flowing. Like I’m being forgotten from the universe.

A. and Niamh are rather mysterious themselves. We don’t know what A. was studying when he left university in Europe for the States, or where exactly he’s from, although apparently Niamh’s English is better than his. We don’t know exactly why he’s only referred to as “A.” while Niamh gets a name rather than just a letter. We’re told that Niamh comes from Dublin and that she’s had a shit childhood, but little else. It’s not even clear what their relationship is. They sleep in the same bed, but for safety rather than intimacy.

Then there’s the fact that the story is composed only of documents – A.’s diary, his dream journal, Niamh’s notebook, letters to Aunt Liza, transcripts of audio and video recordings, excerpts from academic journals, and news articles. Who compiled this and why? Do these accounts differ from ‘reality’? What would we be reading if we got an omniscient third-person POV? Also, why does A. write so many letters to Aunt Liza? She almost never replies, and it’s not stated whether she is A.’s aunt or Niamh’s, although both seem to have a good relationship with her.

The writing style or voice is also very odd – a somewhat pretentious old-fashioned style used by A. and whoever did the audio and video transcripts. The story is set in 1995, but A. writes like a character from a 19th century gothic novel. This is not a flaw – Cantero does it self-consciously, as a kind of joke that happens to put you in the right frame of mind for a gothic mystery in a giant haunted house. Niamh actually laughs at A.’s prose too, declaring his opening paragraphs to be the “[w]orst beginning ever written and saying he reads too much Lovecraft (he’s not that bad, and he’s quite funny, but you get the point). A. himself mentions several times that this whole story is a bit overdramatic, but it’s clear that this is the point – it’s entertaining.

I have to say though, that the writing style doesn’t always work for me. Some parts of the book were enjoyable to read, while other bits were tedious. The scenes composed mostly of dialogue read very quickly and clearly, even when characters are infodumping. A.’s letters are good too, focused but also amusing. His diary is ok. I found his dream journal tedious, but I generally find dream sequences a pain to read.

The occasions when I completely disliked the writing style were in some of the passages of description provided for the video recordings. The style is very similar to A.’s and sometimes it gets far too lavish for the content. It tends to draw your attention away from the action, and can be very boring to read. Here are some examples:

An extremely indecisive second lingers by, pondering whether to elapse or not, and finally does.

Droning brightness saturates all whites in the image, swelling in a luminous aura like icy embers.

An autumn carpet of white and sepia paper sheets lies over the gallery like war propaganda from an enemy fighter.                              

This style is ok when it’s just a line or two, but for the longer descriptive passages I would have preferred clear, simple prose to allow the action to take centre stage. If Cantero is trying to imply that A. wrote this, with his signature verbosity, then purple prose makes sense, but it still hurts the story. Other pieces of writing dragged the story down too. The academic articles were a bit dull, and there were some very long, dense explanations of code-breaking that I eventually gave up on and just skimmed through.

On the whole, I thought the book was… ok.  It could be playful, exciting and tense, but at other times it dragged or just lost my interest. I liked A., Niamh and their utterly adorable dog Help, but it can be difficult to keep track of other characters. The big reveals didn’t resonate with me much, although I enjoyed the climax and the way Cantero leaves you with fresh questions to ponder at the end. If you’re looking for a gothic adventure, thrilling but not too dark, you might enjoy this.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long EarthTitle: The Long Earth
Series: The Long Earth #1
Authors: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Published: 2012
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: own copy
Genre: science fiction
Rating: 8/10

‘The Long Earth’ refers not to one planet but millions, perhaps infinite Earths, in universes parallel to our own. Throughout the ages, a few people have been able to “step” from one world to the next, but the Long Earth remained a secret. Then, in 2015, the plans for a simple stepping device went viral, and on a day later known as Step Day, people all over the world found themselves in pristine parallel Earths where humans never evolved.

Fifteen years before, Joshua Valiente’s mother accidentally stepped while giving birth to him, and for a few moments he was alone on another Earth. In those moments alone, Joshua developed an affinity for what he eventually called the Silence – the calm feeling of being far away from other humans. On Step Day, Joshua found out that he was a natural Stepper (he can step without using a device or getting nauseous like most people do), and he became famous for rescuing a bunch of kids who lost their way in the other worlds. Afterwards, he did a lot of stepping on his own, escaping the Datum (our Earth) for the Silence.

At the start of the novel, Joshua gets recruited by Lobsang, a godlike AI who claims to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repairman. Lobsang is working with the very powerful Black Corporation and has discovered a way to step very quickly across worlds. Lobsang wants to explore the “High Meggers” – Earths millions of steps away from ours – and he wants Joshua to join him because of his ability to step without getting sick and because of his tendency to live without much human company.

What follows does not have much of a plot (this is not a criticism). Rather, it’s a meandering exploration of the idea of the Long Earth, while also relating Lobsang and Joshua’s actual journey across those Earths. There is just a touch of intrigue to give the novel some pace – although humans only evolved on the Datum, there are other humanoid species across the Long Earth, who are all natural Steppers like Joshua. Some are friendly, others are not, but they all seem to be migrating, running away from something in the High Meggers. Lobsang believes they need to find out what it is.

What I liked most about The Long Earth is its speculation – the possibilities of the other Earths, and the ways in which they’ve changed human society. The Long Earth represents all the ways Earth may have turned out given major or minor changes in evolution, geological events, astronomical events, climate, etc. Joshua and Lobsang come across lots of unfamiliar plants and animal species, some of which are just slightly different from the Datum versions, and some that are completely new to them.

And, of course, the Long Earth also shows what the Earth could have been like if humans had not evolved. What this means for almost all of the Earths (barring those that suffered catastrophic natural disasters, for example), is that they remained lush paradises, overflowing with life. And humanity, having nearly exhausted the resources of the Datum, has suddenly been saved from the threat of ecological collapse. For those that can step, there are millions – perhaps an infinite number – of untouched Earths to spread out on. Scarcity of resources ceases to be a problem, and human life starts to change in myriad ways. For example:

‘Consider this. If the Long earth really is effectively endless, as it is beginning to look, then all mankind could afford to live for ever in hunter-gatherer societies, fishing, digging clams, and simply moving right along whenever you run out of clams, or if you just feel like it. Without agriculture, Earth could support perhaps a million people in such a way. There are ten billion of us, we need ten thousand Earths – but, suddenly, we have them, and more. We have no need of agriculture, to sustain our mighty numbers. Do we have need of cities, then? Of literacy and numeracy, even?’ (236)

You can’t carry iron across when you step, which means that most modern technology is limited to the Datum so people have to start almost from scratch, but many are willing to do that. Practical, archaic skills become immensely valuable, while money becomes useless. What value does gold have if every person can have their own gold mine? How do you pay people when they can take all the food they will ever need from trees and rivers? The Long Earth settlements are all interesting thought experiments in themselves.

Naturally, this also affects society on the Datum. Some societies are shrinking as people leave the old world for new ones, escaping debt, poverty, unhappy lives, or just looking for a new way to live. And there is a minority of people who can’t step at all, even with a device, and they’re being left behind. There’s a subplot about a family who leaves to live in a little village over a hundred thousand Earths away, and they leave their teenage son behind because he can’t step. This story could have used more page time, but it’s still an interesting thing to ponder.

I was disappointed that the novel focuses mostly on the United States, although I had to say that it’s not too bad in this case. The authors admit in the acknowledgements that most of the Datum parts of the novel are set in Madison, Wisconsin, simply because the second North American Discworld convention was going to be held there, and it gave them the opportunity to “get a hell of a lot of research done, as we authors say, on the cheap”.

And it works well enough. The Long Earth, and the possibilities it poses for humanity, fit in very nicely with the American Dream, and in fact there are groups of American pioneers who head out “looking for a place to spread out, a place you where could trust your neighbours, in a world where the air was clean and you could start over in search of a better future” (104). Out on the Long Earth, the whole concept of countries becomes obsolete anyway, and Joshua and Lobsang’s travels take them all over the globe. The idea of the Long Earth also has so many implications that it’s hard to explore them all without the book turning into an unfocused sprawl. We do at least get some idea of what’s happening in other countries, and I hope it’s explored in more detail in other books.

I want to make a few comments on the characters. I love quirky AI characters like Lobsang, who reminded me of the drones in Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels. His vast intelligence is a very useful narrative device, while also holding a lot of potential for the plot of the series, both exciting and sinister.

I wasn’t all that keen on the other characters though. Joshua is bland, although intentionally so, because he’s so antisocial. He’s at his most interesting when he tells stories about the eccentric nuns who raised him at the orphanage (Pratchett’s wonderful humour, I think). He’s always questioning the artificiality of Lobsang – his consciousness, his personality, his ‘humanity’ – but in fact Lobsang has so much more life and individuality than Joshua. In fact one of the other characters describes Joshua as “the great loner who’s barely human himself”.

This might explain why Joshua’s behaviour doesn’t always make sense. There’s a lot of telling in place of showing with him, and it was often at odds with my expectations. For example, it’s stated that Joshua is amused by Lobsang, when I thought he was annoyed. Or he’d be annoyed when it seemed like he was being friendly. Or Joshua would get angry, and that would make perfect sense in context, but it doesn’t quite show in his behaviour. This could be the authors’ way of presenting Joshua as a very distant person, but I found it a bit irritating.

Niggles aside though, I really enjoyed reading this. It’s the kind of sf novel that appeals to me purely because of the way it keeps saying “what if?” and then wandering along that thought. I think it’ll be one of the few series I make an effort to finish.

The Color Master by Aimee Bender

The Color MasterTitle: The Color Master
Author:
 Aimee Bender
Published:
 
13 August 2013
Publisher: 
Doubleday
Genre:
 
short stories, fantasy, magical realism
Source: 
eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 
8/10

Aimee Bender is a master of nuance. Her writing has a subtlety that feels smooth and delicate most of the time, and then stops you like a razor to your pulse. I savour her details like a perfect sip of wine or a bite from a deliciously simple and elegant dish.

Her tales saunter on the edges of fantasy and magical realism, or explore real-quirks in ways that give them a mythical quality. Reading them feels just a little bit otherworldly, like something both pleasurable and unnerving that you can’t quite describe. According to the blurb, she is “[b]eloved by readers and critics alike” and I can see how she finds favour with both groups. Her writing is beautiful and so easy to read. Her imagery is enchanting but not simplistic. You look deeper into every story, or just enjoy their dreamy, elusive qualities. Some stories have more or less traditional narratives, while others are more like fictional musings on an idea or character.

“Appleless” is a metaphorical story set in an apple orchard where everyone indulges in the fruit except for one girl who will not eat them. I had to take a minute to think about this one, and came to the conclusion that it’s a story about temptation and decadence. If you take the apples as a symbol or forbidden fruit or lust, then story depicts a society of thoughtless hedonists, and shows what they do to the one individual who has no interest in their excess.

“The Red Ribbon” is a slightly disturbing story of marital discord. I love the ways in which Bender intimates the wife’s unhappiness:

“Time for bed, honey,” she said cheerily, which was code for Don’t touch me.

 

She certainly liked the image of herself as the benevolent wife with arms full of flowers, but if she bought the flowers she would spend part of the ride home feeling so righteous and pleased that she had bought flowers; what a good wife she was; wasn’t he a lucky man; until, by the time she arrived home with the flowers, she’d be angry he hadn’t bought her flowers.

The wife is bored and unemployed. The details of the story keep suggesting that she’s unhappy because she doesn’t make any money but lives off her husband’s, and that she’s somehow wandered into this situation without meaning to. She takes on a more active role when she revitalizes their sex life by getting her husband to pay her for sex. He enjoys the game for a while but once he tires of it she finds she no longer enjoys it without being paid. The red ribbon in the title refers to a fairytale about a wife who always wears a red ribbon around her neck. When her husband removes it one night, her head falls off.

In “The Devourings” Bender depicts another problematic marriage, this time between a large, ugly woman and an ogre who makes her feel delicate and feminine in comparison. They’re happy together, until he accidentally eats their children. This story went on for a bit too long, I thought, but I liked the strange dynamic between the human and the ogre.

“Faces” was a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist. The award is “for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic”. I suppose “Faces” falls into the first category; it’s a bit hard to define, but I like it a lot anyway. It’s about a belligerent boy who can’t recognise faces or facial expressions. He can’t tell his mother about the children he hangs out with at school; he doesn’t even know their names. His mother appears to him as “big red lips”, his father as mussed hair. He can’t distinguish young from old or alive from dead.  I’m not sure if this bothers him, but when he’s questioned about it his reaction is angry and dismissive:

Wasn’t there enough complication in the world already without having to take in the overload of details and universes in every single person’s fucking face?

The weird thing is that he kind of has a point, but at the same time his uncaring attitude is so creepy.

I can see why the collection was named after the story “The Color Master” as it’s undoubtedly one of the best, most enjoyable stories. It’s a fairytale about a group of tailors and shoemakers who specialise in colour. The best of them is the Color Master, but she has grown very old and only comes in for the most difficult requests, like when they have to make a pair of shoes the colour of rock, or a bag the colour of a blooming rose.

They do far more than simply dye cloth; their skills lie in incorporating all the shades and depth of the real thing so that the rock shoes, for example, are indistinguishable from the rocks they imitate and evoke the sense of craggy mountains. The artisans collect colour wherever they find it (“an amazingly rich burgundy off in the driest part of the forest, on a series of leaves […] a new blue in a desiccated pansy, and another in the feathers of a dead bird”), their methods include meditation on colour, texture and being, and their services are so expensive that most of their clients are royalty. The main plot of the story when the king asks them to make a dress the colour of the moon for his daughter. It seems an impossible task, especially since the Color Master is dying. The story follows the narrator, who is not especially talented but has to guide the team through the creative process, putting not only colour but emotion into their work.

I’d already read “Americca” in the anthology Fantastic Women, but it’s a great story so I happily re-read it. It’s about an American family who keep finding strange objects that appear in their home. Some are duplicates of what they already have, some are things they’d never seen before, sometimes things they’d never buy. Besides unnerving them, every object seems to say something about the imperfections of their lives.

There are several plotless character-driven stories most of which weren’t particularly memorable, but were soothing to read. One that really stood out for me however (partly because it was discomforting rather than soothing), was “Lemonade”, about Louanne, an unpopular teenage girl who goes to the mall with a popular ‘friend’ Sylvia who only used her to get a ride. Louanne’s stream-of-consciousness narration is part of what makes this such a good story – it’s intensely self-absorbed, deeply insecure and ridiculously naive, as befits a teenager like her. She overthinks everything, tries way too hard, and  gets extremely worried about minor things that no one else notices, like trying to be nice by smiling at people:

And then I walked by a pretty black lady in pink high heels and I forgot to smile at her which means she might’ve thought that I didn’t smile at her because I am racist because, in case she happened to notice, I smile at everyone.

Presumably no one notices that she smiles at everyone and if they did they’d probably think she was insane. Although, being a teenager is a kind of insanity 🙂 The story has a sad side to it in the casual cruelty with which Louanne’s peers treat her, most notably when Sylvia meets up with her boyfriend and another girl, and Louanne is asked to go away:

“Will you leave us alone for half an hour Louanne? […] I need to talk to Sylvia and Jack about something important. I’ll tell you another time, I just have to talk to them alone right now.”

It’s the kind of situation that anyone who was a bit of an outcast at high school will recognise, and that’s what makes it a bit discomfiting to read. I love the way Bender does a psychological close-up of a specific experience though, and it’s the kind of thing that comes up in many of her stories. Another one I wanted to mention was “Wordkeeper” about the effect of technology and social media on our minds and relationships. In the story, people can no longer remember common words because they’re so used to letting phones and computers do their thinking and remembering for them. The narrator relates his deteriorating relationship with a friend and neighbour who is growing increasingly frustrated with people’s dependancy on technology. In one scene, he chooses his email over sex:

She ate the peanuts. She was flushed from the wine. She wanted to take off her clothes, I could feel it, the same way she was undressing peanuts, and I felt it as cruel then, how I didn’t want to do anything with her. Maybe cruel to both of us. But the truth is, I just felt like I had e-mail to check. I could masturbate faster. It was easier, in terms of fallout. Who wants to be in an argument with your neighbor?

Overall, this is a beautiful collection. If you like short stories, especially the kind of stories you find at the intersection between literary fiction and fantasy, then I think you’d love this. Bender’s lovely writing is really something worth indulging in.

Review of Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

Title: Amped
Author: Daniel H. Wilson
Published: 05 June 2012
Publisher: Doubleday, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday
Genre: science fiction
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 5/10

In a near future, the world has cured many mental and physical disabilities using cybernetic enhancements. However, the technology doesn’t only correct dysfunction – it can also amplify people’s abilities, hence the term ‘amp’ for the enhancements and the people who possess them. In the United States however, religious groups and other conservatives have come to fear and hate amps.

Owen Gray is an amped highschool teacher who for some reason has blinded himself to these social developments, but suddenly the changes hit him like a sledgehammer. One of his students jumps from the roof of the school building after deciding that she no longer wants to live in a world that hates people like her. On his way home, Owen sees evidence of how anti-amp society has become, and before the end of the day he’s lost his job and his home because the government has revoked amps’ rights to enter into contracts.

Owen goes to see his father, the surgeon who gave him his amp in the first place. With things becoming more dangerous by the minute, Owen’s father reveals that his amp is not just for correcting epilepsy as Owen was made to believe. The truth is that Owen once suffered severe head trauma,  and to save his son’s life his father gave him “something extra” – stolen hardware that was powerful enough to compensate for Owen’s injuries. With the authorities coming to confiscate his research, Owen’s father has no time for explanations, but sends Owen to find a man named Jim who can tell him more.

So Owen goes on the run and travels to Eden, a trailer park that has become an uneasy haven for amps and the loved ones willing to stand by them. It’s there that he learns of a militant group of amps who want more than just equal rights. Owen is not certain that he wants to get involved, but with the powerful tech he’s carrying, he might be obliged – or forced – to take part in the fight.

Amped moves with blinding speed at the beginning of the novel and maintains a brisk pace throughout. One moment Owen is trying in vain to save a student from killing herself and the next he’s on the run after losing almost everything that defines his life as he knows it. It’s a quick, easy read, but not a particularly good one.

While the fast pace is nice, the downfall of Amped is that it’s too familiar a story to be really enjoyable or get a good rating. The story goes like this: A majority fears a minority for being different, and in this case also for being physically and mentally superior to other human beings. The first group reacts by making the second group socially inferior and institutionalising discrimination against them.

The oppressed minority – and the protagonist who represents them – is faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not to react with violence. It’s the obvious, natural reaction, since they are angry at being treated in a cruel manner and most people would agree that the oppressors deserve to have their heads kicked in. However, violence just plays right into the oppressor’s hands by making the oppressed look like the moral degenerates that society claims they are, thereby justifying further violence against them.

So, patient diplomacy or blood and bullets? Well, whatever your moral position, we all know which option is more entertaining. To make things easier on the characters and more palatable for the reader, circumstances force the protagonist to fight even though he’s not that keen on violence, and thus he gets to kick ass on the moral high ground.

And that pretty much sums up the plot of Amped. The tech and its social consequences are plausible, but the resulting story is conventional. No innovations, no great insights, real surprises. Owen is revealed to be the archetypal ordinary-man-turned-hero when his amp turns out to be top-secret military-grade stuff that turns him into a supersoldier. As a result there’s plenty of action, but sadly not much worth thinking about.

The novel focuses too much on martial capabilities, and not enough on more interesting things like super-smart amps (who apparently can’t come up with any ideas for dealing with this conflict) or the more day-to-day changes that amps would cause in society. For example, how would the job market change when amps can be so much smarter and stronger than normal people? Should amp children be allowed to compete with normal children in school? Wouldn’t normal people want amps too? It’s a shame that the book doesn’t get into these issues.

The only debate about the ethics of amps is in the crap that comes from extremists like the rednecks who love any excuse to beat the shit out of people without having to worry about the law, or Joseph Vaughn, who campaigns against amps in a bid for political power and uses religion to argue that amps aren’t human and constitute a threat to “the moral foundation that our civilization is built upon”. The novel mostly sticks to a simple black and white story of pro-amp vs. anti-amp where pro-amp = good and anti-amp = bad. There’s no sympathetic anti-amp character who’s just a normal person with reasonable concerns about this technology, only violent fanatics raving about human purity. There are some bad pro-amp characters but they’re portrayed as freaks with older or military tech that basically turned them into mutants and killing machines.

This kind of moral simplicity is boring. You need a few snags and snarls to get caught up in. On the whole, there was nothing about Amped that I found engaging enough for me to care much about the characters or the outcome of the story. The novel is decently written and its core idea is sound, but I think Wilson wasted its potential by letting it play out in such a conventional, uncomplicated manner.

 

Buy Amped at The Book Depository

Up for Review: Amped

After hearing many excellent things about Robocalypse (which I have yet to read), I didn’t hesitate to request a review copy of Daniel H. Wilson’s next novel, Amped.

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (Doubleday)

Marketing copy from NetGalley:

Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. The New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse creates a stunning, near-future world where technology and humanity clash in surprising ways. The result? The perfect summer blockbuster.

As he did in Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson masterfully envisions a frightening near-future world. In Amped, people are implanted with a device that makes 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, twenty-nine-year-old Owen Gray joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as “amps.” Owen 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 may be about to change the world—or destroy it.

Once again, Daniel H. Wilson’s background as a scientist serves him well in this technologically savvy thriller that delivers first-rate entertainment, as Wilson takes the “what if” question in entirely unexpected directions. Fans of Robopocalypse are sure to be delighted, and legions of new fans will want to get “amped” this summer.

Amped is due to be published on 5 June 2012 by Doubleday.