© 2018 Gary DeJean
Note: I read from an advanced review copy of this book sent to me by the author via Goodreads.
In the mid-21st century, Manila faced total destruction in the wake of hurricanes and rising seas, but rose to the challenge — literally, by rebuilding upon floating platforms and throwing the doors open to foreign tech firms that wanted to explore the outer limits of what’s possible with as little outside prying as possible. The result was an explosion of technological innovation, especially in the realm of cybernetics, but not the kind of growth that absorbs a lot of people into the labor pool. While impoverished dissidents grumble and protest, the police are putting the fruits of innovation to the test, with exoskeletons that allow them to push back ever harder. But when someone within H+, the leading cybernetic warfare firm, goes rogue, a father and his small son in a cybernetic body are caught in the middle of explosive confrontations between tech-hippies and corporate military police.
Although I’m not a transhumanist, I am very interested in the medical applications of bioengineering, and was completely immersed in this novel from the start, as it opens with a father taking his son to a support group meeting for people sporting a variety of prosthetics — and not just limbs, but faces. Some of the people there were injured, and some are actively interest in augmenting themselves with technology. The little boy, Jake Patel, is almost completely artificial, as most of his organic body was crushed in a building collapse. As the story develops, the young boy will be befriended by others at the meeting, most importantly a woman with a bionic eye, who introduces him to an underground community of bod-modders. Another thread of the story follows a military vet who is invited to join a private security contracting group using exoskeletal suits, and the stories collide at a warehouse where a spectacular over-use of force against civilians sees young Jake lose his prosthetic body, and his father thrown in prison. Jake himself, his brain — remains free and safe in the care of friends. There’s probably a college essay in that, the mind free despite the body imprisoned, but Jake’s brain finds another home soon enough, in a purloined prototype that will make him less a victim and more a rebel himself.
Although H+‘s size keeps it from being complex, the use of a security contractor as a viewpoint character prevents the villains from becoming faceless baddies. Although I principally read this out of interest for the cybernetic applications (which are varied — bodysuits, telepresence, and organ/limb replacement are a few), it moves quickly into an action-drama novel. According to the author, it was developed as a screenplay and then adapted into a novel as well.
Machine Man, Max Barry.