Ralf Alvare is a software developer for the United States, working on a team responsible for “the boost”, a computer chip wired into the brain of almost every person on the planet. The boost is 24/7 access to a virtual reality world, and receives annual software updates.

He knows they’ll get to El Paso sometime after three. Ellen said so. But he has no idea what time it is and nothing to tell him.

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One day, Ralf is asked to examine a section of code in the latest update by a friend, and makes a shocking discovery— the new update would make the memories and thoughts of every person in the US available to surveillance, corporate or otherwise.

When he tries to update the code to close the gate, he’s hauled off by security, stripped of his boost, and released into the world as “wild” person, unplugged from the omnipresent wireless network. Aided by an underground movement that discovered the flaw in the update, Ralf must make his way to the Mexican border, where drug lords control one of the last refuges of unboosted people. There, he must figure out a way to stop the update and save the people he loves.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

As geeks, we are often excited about the newest technology.

Wearable computing promises to make computers a part of our routine— even cell phones require some level of physical interaction and can be ignored, but things like Google Glass are always there, hanging in the top right corner of our vision, waiting for a command to obey.

But what happens when that technology becomes part of our brain? What happens when someone decides to use that technology to track us in real life? What happens when advertising becomes a subconscious suggestion that their product would have done a better job and you get a euphoric buzz from buying the product?

The Boost explores some of those questions.

Note: We received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating (5 stars)

Technology pundits have praised the coming of the “Singularity”, a joining of man and machine that would make current technology look vintage.

The “boost” gives us a glimpse at that technology—a combination virtual reality, wireless hotspot, and internet access— the boost makes the human brain obsolete…why learn a language when you can just call up a translation app to provide real-time interpretation and let you speak the language? Why listen to  your family drone on about their vacation at Christmas when you can escape to a virtual beach?

The Boost is a thrilling story, start to finish. It starts strong, characters have depth, and the plot twists aren’t telegraphed. The pacing is even and the story line is well-developed. The world is developed, and there could easily be other stories in the universe.

It’s an entirely plausible plot, and the technology involved doesn’t require much suspension of disbelief. Automated cars, neural interfaces, nothing that scientists aren’t already working on today.