When this book came in the mail, I remember pulling it out of its wrapper and saying, "Well, that's awfully... shiny" before setting it aside. And then I forgot about it until it was nominated for the Cybils.
When I finally picked it up, I was hooked from page one. Brain Jack begins:
On Friday, on his way to school, Sam Wilson brought the United States of America to its knees.
He didn't mean to. He was actually just trying to score a new computer and some other cool stuff, and in any case, the words "to its knees" were the New York Times', not his--and were way over the top, in Sam's view. Not as bad, though, as the Washington Post's. Their headline writers must have been on a coffee binge, because they screamed
in size-40 type when their presses finally came back online.
Anyway, it was only for a few days, and it really wasn't a disaster at all. At least not compared to what was still to come.
One of the items that Sam wanted to get (for free) during his illegal incursion into the Telecomerica system was a neuro-headset. With it, using his computer will be that much efficient and immersive: the headset will link his mind to the computer itself, making the middle man -- the keyboard, monitor, mouse and his own eyes, ears and hands -- obsolete.
Even after the first run-through with it, he realizes that while the headset is AWESOME, it could also be dangerously addictive -- but before he's able to research any further, the unthinkable happens: he gets caught.
In short Brain Jack = Wicked Fun. It's set in our near future, a future in which Las Vegas is a radioactive wasteland and online gaming has claimed many, many lives. There's a lot of technobabble -- more than enough for me, anyway -- but the pace is so fast, the tension so high, that the jargon just adds to the verisimilitude and the fun. The hacking scenes, actually, are much more exciting than I'd have expected, and for a book that involves a lot of staring at computer screens (or having them beamed directly into one's brain -- YIKES), I found myself thinking, more than once, that this really would make a great movie.
Shades of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and Doctor Who: How can you beat that
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.