Monday, February 28, 2011

STATE OF MIND by Sven Michael Davison

The year may be 2030 in Sven Michael Davison's techno-thriller, State of Mind, but the technology in this novel feels more futuristic than that. Jake Travissi has consented to have a P-Chip implanted in his brain so that he can resurrect his career in Homeland Security. The chip gives Jake some nifty thought-directed capabilities, including the ability to absorb the contents of an entire book in a matter of seconds, although that doesn't sound particularly fun to me. The bad news is that the Homeland Security Director has assembled a group of hackers, calling themselves God Heads, to use the chips to control Jake and others who have been "enhanced." The plot involves Jake's attempt, in the rare moments in which he is actually himself and not under the influence of a hacker, to overthrow the God Heads. I enjoy a sci fi thriller now and then, and there were quite a few concepts here that I found intriguing, such as cars that drive themselves and can lock the occupants inside as an alternative to a high-speed police chase. (My husband says that cars in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land had similar properties, but I read that book about 40 years ago, so that I can't confirm his claim.) Some scenes in the book seemed a little Tron-like, but other ideas for the future sounded pretty good to me, including the fact that police officers are encouraged to use drugged darts instead of bullets. Other ideas were not so optimistic, such as the author's imagining of how the visible face of the moon has changed, due to mining. Davison does inject some realism into his story, when his hackers, exhausted from performing mind control 24/7, demand better hours and pay commensurate with their worth. Still, I would suggest that the appropriate audience for this book is not a baby-boomer like myself but someone younger, who has never known a world without the internet. Also, I found myself rereading some of the author's descriptions of the inner workings of the technology in the book. These passages struck me as unnecessary and confusing hurdles for the reader, since the technology obviously does not exist. My only other complaint is that occasionally the author would abruptly change scenes and switch to the actions of another character. This occasional disconnect did serve to reinforce the disruptive effect that electronic devices have on our lives, whether that was the author's intent or not.

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