Bluescreen by Dan Wells


4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this work.

Pretty much everyone in 2050 LA has a device implanted in their bodies that constantly feeds them information and allows them access worlds worth of virtual reality. Even the poorest citizens are constantly linked in, forgetting their poverty in the thrill of artificial experiences.

Marisa is a risk-taking gamer whose team of hackers and coders are making a name for themselves in the professional gaming circuit thanks to their unconventional gaming style. Marisa doesn’t mind skipping school to game and has been known to make life easier by illegally hacking, but something about Bluescreen, the new drug that plugs right into people’s implants, rubs her the wrong way. It is originally only sold to rich, party kids, but then Marisa’s younger sister comes home with a flash drive of the drug. Bluescreen is supposed to deliver an entirely safe and side-effect-free high, but when Marisa starts examining Bluescreen’s codes strange things start happening to her and her friends.

Besides the super cool premise of a computer program acting like a drug, the most interesting part of this book was how Dan Wells imagined 2050 Los Angeles. In the book the wealth gap has grown and most people struggle to survive. Some join gangs, like Marisa’s brothers, and others try to find increasingly scarce legal jobs. Wells didn’t imagine a completely dystopian future, just one a little more desperate than ours. It it close enough to reality to be quite unsettling. Wells also does do a good job of representing the reasons someone might end up joining a gang in the first place: economic necessity, safety and companionship among them. I was impressed by how natural and believable his world was, being just a few steps away from the United States of today, with the recession enlarging the gap between rich and poor.

Marisa was a very believable character, and I like female characters that are competent at professions and hobbies that are considered male dominated, like computer programming. I also appreciated that, while strong and smart, in some ways she was still an oblivious teenager who thinks herself immortal.

This was a fast-paced exciting read that did not have a lot of character development, but a lot of action. The premise was unique and well executed. This novel also raises some good talking points about how much we rely on technology and how interwoven we want it in our lives and our bodies. A good quick read for science fiction fans.