IN DANIEL H. WILSON'S new novel Amped, certain individuals have technology embedded under their skin. These humans are smarter and faster than norms—and because most of the federally funded upgrades went to the needy, the formerly dumb and afflicted "amps" are scaring the bejeezus out of "pure" humans. The not-so-distant future is a hotbed of class war and civil unrest.
It's a rich idea—too bad it's impossible to see that pretty coathanger with a big ol' burlap sack hanging from it, in the form of bland protagonist Owen Gray. As an amp, his teaching career ends when the Supreme Court effectively sanctions nationwide discrimination of the tech-enabled. As a child, Owen's surgeon father cured his epilepsy with a special implant, so Owen bumbles out to find someone who can explain his untapped abilities after the death of his father. Ghettoized in a ratty trailer park named Eden (yep!), a group of amps holds the key to Owen's past and present.
Wilson is no stranger to exploring the intersection of technology and humankind, as in his debut novel, Robopocalypse (set for movie-fication by Steven Spielberg). In Amped, he takes similar nerd-friendly fodder and runs it through a simple plot logarithm, which gives the book a contemptible familiarity. It has the no-frills style of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, especially with a cast of flat characters (except for a highfalutin bum whose brief appearance was a fresh-air blast). While an absorbing set piece can go a long way (just ask Dan Brown), Wilson hammers too hard with ham-fists and clunky plot points to give Amped more than a cursory meh.