Implanted takes place in New Worth, a city that is gradually clawing its way back from environmental catastrophe. The city proper is sealed within a bio-dome but efforts are being made to return to the open air. Since the populace is essentially trapped (even though most seem to be happy with the situation) the majority have embraced technology, not only to their society functioning but also as a means of entertainment and socializing, thanks to their implants.
As the book opens Emery is, at first glance, a fairly typical young woman of this world. She has her implant, which allows her to play simulations, some of which help with her vigilante activities. It also allows her to share thoughts and emotions with a select few people, one of whom she is considering meeting in person after several years of virtual company. But she also has some hidden trauma in her past and a very rare type of blood, which is what brings her to Aventine’s attention.
Already a self-reliant individual, Emery does flourish and come to enjoy her activities as a courier, moving around the city from the permanent twilight of Terrestrial district to the rarefied area of the Canopy. But it does come at a steep price. The terms of her employment include the separation from everyone she knows, both in the physical world and via her implant, and the easiest way to ensure this is to declare her officially dead.
Implanted works primarily in two sections; the first dealing with Emery’s recruitment and training, the second with the fallout of when a job inevitably goes wrong and she has to go on the run from everyone with the one person she can turn to believing she has abandoned him.
If I had one problem with Emery, it was that she does tend to take everything onto herself. However, during the course of the book, this is actually pointed out to her which made it somewhat easier to bear.
There is a lot of good world-building in this novel and lot of it doesn’t seem that far away. It’s easy to see the notion of the neural implants being a logical extension of current trends in smartphones. Similarly, the idea of cities encased in domes to protect from the outside environment may not be new but seems it’s in danger of becoming more and more likely.
The notion of haemocryption, of data being carried inside a courier’s bloodstream, is simultaneously ingenious and deceptively simple. It does involve multiple transfusions (something Emery isn’t keen on at first) and has an in-built time limit that the couriers refer to as the curdle, when the body begins to reject the doctored blood. Another security measure ensures that the data is destroyed if the blood is exposed to air. As methods of data transfer seen in other cyberpunk styled work, this one takes some beating.
Implanted is a great read with a strong near future cyber-punk flavour. And doubly impressive for being a debut novel.
4.5 out of 5 neural implants.