Doubleday, $25.00, 275 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-53515-1
Here’s a great oxymoron for you: hallucinatory reality. Makes you scratch your head and go, “Huh?” doesn’t it. That’s what I did when I heard it on NPR this morning. Of course, I was half asleep at the time, so I checked it first thing when I turned the computer on; but no, I had it right. Hallucinatory reality, that’s what the work of a Chinese writer named Mo Yan, who’s the current darling of the communist party leaders, has been labeled by the illuminati of the book universe. And that, I guess is the reason the Nobel committee awarded him this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature and 1.2 million dollars. He’s been called “China’s answer to Franz Kafka,” and his writings include novels such as Big Breasts and Wide Hips; Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out and The Garlic Ballads. They combine history, folk tales and the contemporary with some of the aforementioned “hallucinatory realism” and are mostly social commentary. Mo Yan is a pen name meaning “Don’t Speak” in Chinese and he was recently quoted as saying “Censorship is good for creativity.” Hmm, I will have to think about that for a while . . . makes one wonder if the Nobel Committee has a little hallucinatory reality of their own going on.
Then again . . . hallucinatory realism is a great segue into this week’s MBR about the near future where some folks are running around with seriously enhanced human abilities because of tiny computer chips with teeny atomic power plants in their heads.
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is the follow up to last years smash hit, Robopocalypse. As it opens, the Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled that persons with enhanced abilities (amps) are not protected by the same basic laws as pure humans and society begins to disintegrate. As crowds gather, riots, looting and fires are being set. Bombs are going off as Owen Gray, the 29 year old protagonist who has an implanted device to control his epilepsy, is called to his Doctor father’s office . . . where he learns that his device does more than control his disease. Much more. He sets out for rural Oklahoma, to find the man who built his device and learn what it can do, as all across the country, amps are being systematically persecuted, threatened and deprived of their property. In Oklahoma, Owen Gray will try to figure out all that his implanted device is capable of. It is there that he’ll find a love interest, his destiny and a man named Lyle Crosby . . . the deadliest implanted human being on planet earth . . . who Owen must outwit in order to try and save America from an all-out civil war between pure humans and enhanced ones.
Amped was enjoyable and interesting, but for me personally, it lacked the edge-of-your-seat suspense that his first one had and was a bit of a letdown. If you only have time and energy for one sci-fi adventure this year I’d suggest reading Robopocalyse. Amped is one for real science fiction fans who’ll find it very satisfying and enjoyable and entertaining. This is after all, the genesis of the next sci-fi titan whose every word will be gobbled up by an adoring public . . . much like Asimov, Crichton and Arthur C. Clarke. Oh yeah. He’s that good and will only get better!