Book Review: The Boost by Stephen Baker

In a society where humans have been connected to an intricate network accessed by brain-implanted chips, ‘wilds' are those who have chosen–or have been forced–to live outside of the network. The boost offers individuals non-stop access to information and virtual reality, augmenting their real lives with a super-enhanced version of the internet.

But underneath the veneer of a technological utopia is a risk few expect: The Chinese have included special code in the Americans' boost code, which could leave the world without any privacy–and worse.

When Ralf tries to protect society from the new code being uploaded into boosts all around the world, he's caught and his boost is ripped out of his head. Forced to live as a wild, he must join with those who share his same dilemma, not only for his sake, but for the freedom of everyone using the boost.

The Boost by Stephen Baker is a science fiction thriller, delving into how society could change if everyone was always connected to the internet–or something similar to the internet.

Short Review: This is a really good book, but its ending feels abrupt, and there are times where the pacing is extremely sluggish, which isn't a good thing for a thriller. At other times, it is appropriately brisk and really engaging. But the characters are interesting, and I enjoyed reading the novel. I finished it in one sitting. If you have no patience for lag in a thriller-styled novel, be a little wary. Otherwise, dive in and enjoy. This is a good blend of political sciences and technology in a science fiction.

Long Review: There are days I both love and hate a novel at the same time, and walk away really enjoying a good book that could have been a favorite, if it hadn't been for a few little things that really bothered me.

First, the book bounces around quite a bit–I had to do a lot of thinking to connect the dots, but after all the effort, I came away almost disappointed in the general, well, simplicity of the plot. At first, it was very intriguing on many levels, but experienced thriller readers will probably be able to figure out how everything works together with relative ease. I personally would have appreciated a few more gut-hitting twists. Now, so there aren't any misunderstandings, I really did like this novel: Not all novels can be a major brain tease. It's okay that this one isn't like that. I was a little hopeful that it'd have more complexity than it did, however.

This point is what makes this a 4* book for me instead of a 5*.

What I really liked about this novel is the speculative nature of the situations. I think this may be the reason why the pacing absolutely lags in places; it becomes less of a book about the plot, and more about a discussion of what the world might be like fifty or sixty years in the future. These interludes and characterizations are interesting, but at the same time, it really forces a disconnect between studying this society and the plot and thrills of the novel.

If I had to pick the fatal flaw of this novel, the book wasn't given the space it really needed; the societal issues were crammed in around a plot that could have been far more complex. I think if the societal issues had been allowed to thrive, spread out more across the novel, and given space to breathe–and the thriller elements allowed to fully bloom–this book wouldn't have been just a good one. It would have been a great one.

Still, I found it worth reading, as it's interesting to address all of these what if questions that Stephen Baker pursues in The Boost.

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