Hard Wired

Fifteen-year-old Quinn spends much of his free time with best friends Luke, Leon and Jeremy at the Enchanted Grounds gamer coffee shop. When they meet there for the weekly Magic the Gathering tournament, Quinn quickly dispatches a young challenger and proceeds to the final competition against Leon. Leon, however, is acting in a peculiar fashion that is unsettling Quinn. In addition, Quinn senses something is “off” with Jeremy but can’t put his finger on it. As the game with Leon winds down to an end, Quinn passes out, which is not an uncommon occurrence.

Seems that Quinn has a medical disorder his doctors have labeled vasovagal syncope that causes him to lose consciousness in situations of high stress. They theorize that this developed when his father died from pancreatic cancer eight years earlier. (Although his mother and father knew the end was inevitable, Quinn never saw it coming.) Quinn periodically faints, is put to bed by his mom to rest and recover, and then he resumes his normal life.

Every year on his birthday, he and his mother watch a video message from his dad in which he shares memories and gives advice. When he turns fifteen, his mother has him watch the last recorded message by himself. Instead of the reassuring message he usually receives, he hears his dad tell him he’s old enough to hear the truth, that he doesn’t know what comes after death and that entropy (“lack of order or predictability / a gradual decline into disorder”) is the guiding principle of the universe. Whaaa??

It doesn’t help that Shea, the intriguing girl who has captured his attention at school, tells him he needs to learn the truth, that she is not really who she appears to be. Puzzled by all this mumbo-jumbo, Quinn rewatches his father’s birthday messages and notices strange dissonances that can’t be explained away until he is confronted with the reality that he is not human but is in fact an artificial intelligence.

Anyone who’s watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or “I, Robot” knows where this book is headed, but the author does a fine job examining all the issues relating to creation of a new life form, including rights of self-determination and choice, freedom to refuse to engage in experimentation or directed implementation, expectations of future “independent” survival, and, of course, the end question: Is this new life form any improvement over the human variety? It’s all very stimulating. It might be something of a slow-go for readers not used to thinking in techno-abstract terms but gamers will love it. There are some infrequent, mild language issues, a couple of violent episodes, and one sexual reference.

Categories: Books We Recommend, Civil Rights, Science, Science Fiction, Social Media, Virtual Reality

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