In the near future, a schoolteacher with a cranially implanted "amp" must master an array of hidden talents when a wave of bigotry against those like him threatens to tear the country apart.
A few decades ago, the government began installing "amps"—small devices, generally designed to aid in concentration and mental focus—into the brains of underprivileged and otherwise challenged children. Now, a political movement led by a rabble-rousing Senator seeks to strip "amps" (as implanted individuals are derogatorily called) of their basic rights as citizens based on the argument that they are no longer truly human. Teacher and amp Owen Gray, troubled after witnessing the suicide of an amp student, learns from his scientist father that the implant he received as a teen is something rather more than the anti-epilepsy device he'd always thought it was. Gray leaves moments before an explosion kills his father and destroys his lab. Following his father's last advice and fearing for his life, Gray heads for an amp haven—a trailer park in Oklahoma called Eden. There he meets Lyle Crosby, an amp whose military-grade Zenith class amp makes him a super soldier. As Lyle helps Owen unlock the hidden powers bestowed on him by his supercharged amp, Owen must decide how far he's willing to follow the charismatic but unpredictable and often violent Lyle, as tensions between amps and non-amps come to a head nationwide. Wilson delivers a thoughtful, well-written novel, which, like his previous novel Robopocalypse (2011), deals with the often tense interplay between machines and humans. Unfortunately, while he nails the machine part, the human part falls a little short. The characters lack depth, and a crucial romantic relationship feels forced and unearned. The plot is thin, too, hewing too closely to archetype. Wilson, whose prose is always a step above the norm, is at his strongest creating amp-augmented action sequences and in conjuring situations which explore the boundaries between humankind and its technological creations.
Provocative, with strong action sequences, but weak in character development and plotting.