In Lovett’s debut sci-fi satire, a young man’s technological upgrade doesn’t go as expected.
In the near future, science has progressed to the point that parents can pay a great deal of money to neurologically enhance their teenagers using gene therapies. The method can increase their children’s longevity and remove their need for sleep, among other improvements; neural implants, meanwhile, greatly increase the teens’ brainpower and keep them perpetually linked to the Internet-like Cybernet. It gets to the point that, without such upgrades, it’s all but impossible to be upwardly mobile in society. Because of this, 18-year-old Robert Carr, despite his extreme misgivings, agrees to undergo the procedure. However, he and his parents don’t know that the supercomputer that was used to create the enhancement program has become sentient; as a result, it smuggles its own new “offspring,” an evolving being of “pure knowledge” called Dez, into Robert’s brain. This, in turn, inspires the government to send assassins after Robert to nip the new creation in the bud. Lovett has crafted a sci-fi novel with sharp social commentary that cleverly examines such issues as the staggering income gap, the emerging role of technology, and the place of religion in a tech-driven world. However, its jokes sometimes falter; for example, Lovett dubs the neural implant “the Z14 Skrotüm,” ostensibly after its original human designer—a gag that would be more at home in a novel with more hyperbolic humor. It’s also a rare instance of wordplay, which makes it oddly stick out. The novel is partially dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Lovett’s tight, matter-of-fact style is indeed reminiscent of that author’s work. That said, the book sometimes uneasily sits between seriousness and humor; it’s not quite straight-faced enough to be hard sci-fi, and not overtly funny enough to provoke more than the occasional amused smirk.
A somewhat uneven sci-fi tale that admirably handles weighty philosophical concepts with a light touch.