by Stephen Baker
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765334374
Date: 20 May 2014 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Steven Baker provides a near future world where everyone is linked in via internal chips and network computers. In Baker's world the software associated with these processes need to be updated on a regular basis. But, because the updates essentially are connected to everyone's brains, there are internal controls associated with the process that are supposed to ensure that the updates are essential to systems but will not cause any harm.
Ralf, who is a software prodigy works in the office that updates the software. Just before the latest update, Ralf finds a surveillance gap, one that will enable the Chinese, who created the software, to have access to, essentially, America's brains. When Ralf attempts to hack the boost, he is caught, stripped of his own implant, and nearly killed. This begins a cross country trek that includes escaping to Mexico, which has an area unaffected by the boost, joining up with his drug runner brother, and being reunited with both his mother and his estranged father.
Baker delves into some pretty interesting stuff with this book, taking what we all consider common events but adding some pretty major twists to them in order to create a future world that is actually pretty strange. Baker creates some pretty unusual and oddly enticing characters and then puts them through some tricky and odd situations. It's entertaining in a fast paced, trippy kind of way. Baker's use of family to drive the action is an interesting writer's choice, and his choice of family members is equally interesting. I would have to say one of the more unusual families in SF for sure.
I enjoyed this book. I was not sure at first, wondering how Baker was going to take his choice of content and make it interesting and captivating. But he managed it and the book was finished before I realized it which is, I think, the way you want fiction to work. It should not be a chore but a participatory event that leaves you wanting more at the end. Recommended for sure.