Monday, February 11, 2019

Implanted: Imagine a Future Where...

I just finished Implanted by Lauren C. Teffeau, which was recently awarded a 2018 SFR Galaxy Award, presented by judge Lee Koven.

Part of Lee's write up said this:
"If you have a smartphone, you probably unconsciously reach for it at times when you’re bored or need reassurance. It’s become a wonderful tether to loved ones that are far away."
Indeed. How many people today live the majority of their lives looking down into the view screen of their smart phones? They're in constant contact, even in situations where actual face-to-face socializing is expected. Family dinners, eating with friends at a restaurant, group outings, weddings and receptions--no matter the occasion some individuals have their attention firmly locked on the interface of their portable technology.

Often, they're even engaged with their phones when they shouldn't be for safety reasons, like driving or walking. I'm sure you've probably seen the videos where someone immersed in a text conversation falls head-first into a fountain or walks into a light post. Or on a more serious note, you've heard a news report about someone driving, operating a city bus or a commuter train having an accident that endangered lives, and it's later discovered they had been engaged in an interaction on their phone.

Our current connection via technology is considered by some to be absolutely essential. They can no longer carry on with their lives without being in constant contact with someone they know via their mobile devices.

Implanted takes our status quo a solid couple of leaps into the future, where cell phones are no longer something a person carries--the technology has been integrated into the brain. No more looking down at their cell phone screens to carry on a text exchange, now they can chat up a storm inside their heads as they go about their lives, and depending on the level of connection they allow the other party, they can also share their emotions and deepest thoughts.

It seems a natural transition from our current status quo. Cell phone technology is evolving, technology integration with the human brain is being researched, and it seems entirely plausible they'll merge at some point in the future. No need to unlock your phone and type out a quick note to a friend...just think it!

But the society in Implanted is no technological utopia.

Teffeau's novel explores a future where humankind has turned their environment into a toxic wasteland and they now must live inside domed cities to survive. This new facet of society has more than just infrastructure levels, but class levels according to where a person lives within the dome--whether it be the dark, dank and perilous streets of the Terrestrial District, or the brighter, airier, plusher, and more privileged environs like the Canopy or the Echelon.

And there is crime, intrigue, corruption, espionage, political manipulation and all the other facets of our current society happening within this contained ecosystem. But at least in this less-than-ideal future you always have your friends and family close by--as close as your next thought--24/7. Right?

Now imagine a person being completely cut-off from these connections to loved ones--whether by their own choosing, or someone else's. Imagine the emotional stress at being severed from those constant voices inside their heads, the separation anxiety, the feelings of aloneness. Imagine becoming a "disconnect," as these individuals are known in the domed city of New Worth.

That's the basic premise for Implanted, where a large cross-section of this culture-under-glass is revealed through the main character, Emery Driscoll. Also known as Liv. And also as M. Because individuals in this world tend to have technologically-necessary alter egos.

I found the various stages of connection to other individuals quite a fascinating spin on the idea. I also had to give a lot of thought to how I would react to the prospect of having real life technology expand into this area. Would I really want to have communication technology implanted inside my brain, knowing the capacity for some devious person to figure out how to hack it? With some of the rather frightening consequences of having smart technology in your home, imagine how the risk factor might be multiplied to the nth if that smart technology is someday a part of your mind?


Implanted also explores the dome-dwellers quest to return to the land, once the environment is deemed safe and suitable. The citizens of New Worth are almost on the verge of "emergence." Or are they?

There is a pretty major twist in the main character's arc which I won't disclose in order to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. Suffice it to say, technology in this strange domed biosphere has advanced in more areas than just personal communication technology.

There is a romance involved in this story and the consequences are explored of having a significant other share part of your mind. I did think the early romantic arc was a bit understated for my own personal taste, but it did become more satisfying as the story progressed. I would have liked to see the facets of the developing relationship delved into in a little more depth. There was so much to explore here, from an emotional standpoint.

Although the romance is happily resolved, it is a bit more of a Happy For Now than a Happily Ever After and I did get the distinct sense there was a "To Be Continued" in there, as well. All-in-all, it was a thought-provoking, well-written and highly imaginative debut novel that leaves plenty of room for pondering the what-ifs.

Have a great week.

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