Book review: OPEN SOURCE by Anna Davis book review of Open Source by Anna Davis.


(very good; top 50% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):


Publication date: January 12, 2016
Category: speculative fiction (SF) thriller

Summary (from the book):

A source found dead—his skull sawed open by NeuroChip vandals in a Dallas back alley. The sole witness? Reporter Ryker Morris, whose stubborn resistance to a different kind of chip—the globally mandated IDChip—cost him his job, apartment, and credibility. Ryker flees the gruesome scene, a young, homeless technophobe disappearing into a fast-paced city of augmented working stiffs and sexy chipped socialites.

But Ryker’s reprieve doesn’t last long. Under orders from a local hacker and tipped off by an invisible tracking device, the vandals kidnap Ryker’s best friend, leaving only a blood-soaked wallet behind. Even worse, they inject Ryker’s brain with a refurbished NeuroChip. Without money or resources, he must find his friend and deactivate the corrupt NeuroChip, before the twisted hacker who programmed it gains full control over Ryker’s own thoughts.

ScienceThrillers review:

Open Source by Anna L. Davis is set in a near-future Dallas where a tinfoil hat won’t be enough. This speculative fiction (SciFi) thriller opens with our protagonist, Ryker Morris, witnessing the surreptitious harvesting of a NeuroChip from inside the skull of a recently deceased man lying dead in an alley.

The questions, paranoia, and fear only grow from there.

In this dystopia, Morris, who was once an investigative journalist, has lost his job, his home, and his status in the world because he refuses to accept either of two techno implants that define modern life: an IDChip, which acts as a Social Security card, medical record folder, and drivers license all in one; and the NeuroChip, an optional brain implant that is linked to a data network and enhances virtually every aspect of mental functioning.

Unsurprisingly, that direct network linkage into people’s brains provides the opportunity for mischief.

Then one night, someone hits Morris’s homeless encampment, kidnapping his friend and implanting a NeuroChip inside Morris. This launches him on a quest to save his friend, to find out who is prowling the streets and stealing NeuroChips from the dead, and to stop his own NeuroChip from “flashing” with the network.

That’s just the beginning. The novel has several distinct sections as Morris’s problems and goals change. Delightfully, at some point he becomes an unreliable narrator. A lot of different plot elements are woven through the story: cyborgs, artificial intelligence, immortality, vampirism, addiction, mind control, telepathy, and of course social issues about privacy and what it means to be human.

While Open Source isn’t as tightly written as I would like, and the main character isn’t fleshed out in depth, the desire to understand what is really going on keeps the reader going. We live in a society on the brink of the kinds of technologies in this book, and as much as we all sense the dangers of something like NeuroChip, I can easily imagine individuals choosing to adopt such a thing in order to gain an advantage in life. And once the door is open, it could quickly go from optional to necessary, much as a college degree has become now.

This is a paranoid, mind-bending thriller for our time.

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