Review-Brain Falkner’s “Brain Jack”

From cover to cover, Brain Jack is a healthy dose of refreshment. Sam, a high school senior and self-taught computer hacker, lands a job with the government’s Cyber Defense Division. The next technological leap brings on neuro-headsets, which enable users to browse the Internet with the power of their minds. Unexpectedly, Sam’s dream job becomes a nightmare when the public’s best friend turns out to be the government’s worst enemy.

 

I found this book to be exciting! In a similar way to M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Falkner used the near-future setting as a canvas for a horrifying technological scenario, which made the story feel surreal. Though not probable, many of the story’s events are possible. I could tell that the author put some serious effort into creating a realistic, believable universe. The little details provided while discussing, for example, the issues of game addiction, terrorism, and more sophisticated cyber defense systems helped hold everything together. It got me thinking about a lot of things I don’t normally think about. Teen fiction needs more of that!

I’d recommend this book to high school readers, since it contains a large amount of “computer-speak.” Falkner did a great job of explaining unfamiliar or uncommon terms and planting context clues, though sometimes it was a little much. Younger kids may find it difficult to relate to some of the characters (though they were wonderfully fleshed out and developed). For a 300-plus-page book, this was a fast read, but I had to be sure to read it thoroughly. Every detail was important, keeping me focused and into it.

I don’t know if it was intentional, but I enjoyed finding allegorical meaning in some parts of the book. I think it’s safe to say that the stories in most teen novels aren’t allegories, so when I started finding a deeper meaning I got excited! It’s just my interpretation, but I believe the issues explored in the story represent the Internet, and more specifically, social networking. Instant teen appeal, right? All the time the Internet becomes more social, gets more information, and therefore is, essentially, a collective intelligence of its own. We, as users, are a part of it, but it’s a resource rather than a part of ourselves. Though fictional (for now), the concept of neuro-headsets represents the next step in our information-hungry future, where having the world at our fingertips isn’t enough.

 

Sound good?  You buy it at Amazon HERE.

Advertisements

Intro to a Sci-Fi Universe, Part Ⅰ

In preparation for the fiction that will be posted here, I thought I’d post some cool background stuff from the prewriting process.  Some of this will be handy if you end up reading my sci-fi story also, so all the more reason to put it up.  This is just a piece of it, but for now I’ll just show you this:


Before you know anything else, know this.  The year is 2089.  At least, that’s the year we’re supposed to be in…


Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer.
In the case of Augmented Reality, The augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view. The term augmented reality is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an employee of Boeing at the time[1].
Augmented reality research explores the application of computer-generated imagery in live-video streams as a way to expand the real-world. Advanced research includes use of head-mounted displays and virtual retinal displays for visualization purposes, and construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.
-this excerpt taken from Wikipedia

With personal augmented reality, a user could annotate their surroundings, subscribe to personalized A.R. feeds, step-by-step directions, or even see reviews for a restaurant just by looking at it.  All of it’s live, 3-D, and customizable.

The characters in this universe actively use augmented reality in the form of contact lenses.  Glasses are also used, but they’re considered to be the “old way”.  The sounds of A.R. are heard through tiny chips in the ears or earrings that can be taken out along with the lenses at any time.  The ability to take away augmented reality is to prevent addiction among other things, and also because doctors of the time believe (and have evidence to back it up) that implanting something like A.R. in the brain isn’t only dangerous, but just an all-around bad idea.

AugmenTech is the corporation that designs new A.R. products, sells A.R., and more.  AugmenTech buildings are common in major cities.


Advanced Photovoltaics

Photovoltaic cells are the cells used in solar panels to absorb energy from the sun and use it to produce electricity, heat water, and more.  In this universe, photovoltaic technology has progressed so much that the cells can be put in thinner-than-paper sheets and put seamlessly on any surface.  Translation: Virtually all services are solar panels, but you wouldn’t know just by looking at it.  This means that almost no oil is used whatsoever, only for extremely old pieces of technology that are sold illegally.

Other forms of “alternative” energy aren’t obsolete.  Wind is still used in less populated areas, particularly in the water.  Factories that require massive amounts of energy have complex systems that use combination solar and geothermal.

The biggest energy consumer is the space travel industry.  Space shuttles get power from solar power and large electromagnets that store massive charge and use currents to get the ship off the ground.


Career Training in Secondary School

When children enter secondary (high) school, they select courses to take to train for a career, similar to today’s college experience.  Below is a list of some of the more popular fields of study:

Art: Ancient Language, Architecture, Extraterrestrial Architecture, General Arts, Music,
Beauty: Color Theory in Advertising, Cosmetics, Fashion
Engineering: BioEngineering, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, RoboEngineering
English: Ancient Literature, Journalism, Publishing, Screenwriting
History: Culture, Languages, Theology, War Science, World History
Nature: Conservation, Geologic Time, Meteorology, Oceanography
Science: Business, Cosmetology, Economy, Genetics, Geology, Medical
Space: History, Theory, Travel
Technology: Networking, Programming, Space, Transportation


Cosmetics/Genetics Fusion

No one gets plastic surgery done anymore, that’s too much work.  This universe’s technology has reached a point where genetics can be fused with cosmetics so that people can manipulate their appearances, as well as dramatically reduce risk of disease.
Simple operations like a change in eye or hair color (dying hair isn’t permanent enough) simply require an injection of nanobots that do the job and get expelled with waste.  More difficult things like ensuring your child doesn’t exceed a certain height or ever have a heart attack may require breathing in prescribed gasses, taking pills, etc.


Culture Museums

History is precious.  That’s why culture museums exist all around the world.  They have exhibits that show what it was like to live in every time period since recorded time.  Some things showcased are:

Ancient…
Art
Books/Manuscripts/Texts
Computers
Fashions
Inventions
Maps
Musical Instruments
Tapes/CDs/Music Players
Relations Records
Religious Relics
Robots
Vehicles
…and more!

Culture exhibits can consist of, but aren’t limited to actual items, models, text descriptions (received via A.R. feed), voice/music recordings, tour guide speeches, shows, holographic personalities, etc.

These facilities house the greatest treasures in the world, and also the most advanced security systems.  Obviously everything in these museums would sell for a handsome amount of money, so they frequently deal with attempted robberies.  Yes their security is impressive, but it’s still puzzling why NO ONE EVER SUCCEEDS.

Europium

Europium became the most amazing element when discovered on Jupiter’s moon Europa in 2036 on the TitanXVIII mission launched by the Soviet Union.  Surprisingly, it can exist in three forms as water can.  When fused (as a solid) with other metals like steel, it makes an alloy 467% stronger than any steel alloy created prior to Europium’s discovery.

The element was first discovered in its liquid form by IN-Ground Retrieval Impenetrable Drillbots (INGRIDs) that were drilling through Europa’s oceanic crust.  They came across another liquid layer between the crust and the iron core-liquid Europium.

Samples were brought back to the ships laboratory for testing, and it turned out to be a non-toxic substance.  The biggest shocker was that is became hard when it came in contact with a small robot’s metallic arm.  Being the crew’s biggest finding, the mission ended three days early and TitanXVIII returned to Russia and sent Europium samples to Japanese, Chinese, Indian, American, English, and Canadian labs.  A decade later in 2046 it entered the industrial world.

Europa (pronounced /jʊˈroʊpə/ ( listen);[11] or as Greek Ευρώπη) is the sixth moon of the planet Jupiter. Europa was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei (and possibly independently by Simon Marius), and named after a mythical Phoenician noblewoman, Europa, who was courted by Zeus and became the queen of Crete. It is the smallest of the four Galilean moons.
At just over 3,100 kilometres (1,900 mi) in diameter, Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon and is the sixth-largest moon in the Solar System. Though by a wide margin the least massive of the Galilean satellites, its mass nonetheless significantly exceeds the combined mass of all moons in the Solar System smaller than itself.[12] It is primarily made of silicate rock and likely has an iron core. It has a tenuous atmosphere composed primarily of oxygen. Its surface is composed of ice and is one of the smoothest in the Solar System. This surface is striated by cracks and streaks, while craters are relatively infrequent. The apparent youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the hypothesis that a water ocean exists beneath it, which could conceivably serve as an abode for extraterrestrial life.[13] This hypothesis proposes that heat energy from tidal flexing causes the ocean to remain liquid and drives geological activity.[14]
Although only fly-by missions have visited the moon, the intriguing characteristics of Europa have led to several ambitious exploration proposals. The Galileo mission provided the bulk of current data on Europa. A new mission to Jupiter’s icy moons, the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM), is proposed for a launch in 2020.[15] Conjecture on extraterrestrial life has ensured a high profile for the moon and has led to steady lobbying for future missions.
-excerpt taken from Wikipedia


Port Grid

This universe has an interesting technology in it’s urban areas.  Affectionately called the “Port-Grid”, a literal grid of short range teleportation devices can take anyone with a GridPass to any other on the grid.  This is accomplished by molecular scrambling and consciousness upload/download.

With anything great, there are complications.  If one overuses the Port-Grid, they are more likely to get colds, migraines, and (in extreme cases) genetic mutations.  The act of teleporting weakens the immune system, and too much consciousness upload/download can give one a massive headache.  Genetic mutations occur because of an excess of molecular scrambling.  The more your molecules scramble, the less likely the are to arrange themselves properly on the other side.

Robotics

Over the years robots have been integrated into the society of this universe.  Here’s an explanation of some common robots, as well as some not-so common ones I may have referenced.

NAT: (Nursing Assistant and Technician)  If you have a doctor’s appointment, this friendly robot will likely greet you at the door and bring you to your human doctor.  She mainly assists doctors and nurses and does odd jobs around the hospital building, but she’s also quite social and is programmed to have “emotion”.  NATs see just about everything in hospitals, so she’s able to wirelessly set off fire alarms, other alarms, announce over intercoms, and contribute to the hospital A.R. feed.

INGRID: (IN-Ground Retrieval Impenetrable Drill)  This is a non-humanoid robot built only to serve its function: drill. (why they gave “her” a human name we may never know.)  It is commonly used for construction and space missions.  It can sense light, hardness, temperature, and sound.

NOAH: (No One At Home)  Handy and polite, a NOAH robot will greet visitors when his house’s residents are away.  NOAH’s most amazing feature is his ability to exist physically and digitally so that he may greet physical visitors as well as inform online messengers/chatters/callers that the recipient either doesn’t have his/her A.R. on, or is screening their calls.  But of course NOAH’s too polite to say the latter…

SISTOR: (Secret Information STORage)  Tell this little bot anything you want, save files to it, tell/give it anything you want kept safe and hidden and it won’t give it up until the person that gave it to it needs it.  That’s right, only the SISTOR’s owner can make transactions, so don’t bother trying to get one to cough anything up.  It’s just like your trusty sister…

PDrone: (Police Drone)  This robot assists police officers out on patrol.  It’s equipped with lie detectors, fear detectors, a taser, and who knows how many other weapons!  They often work in swarms to catch criminals, and they can contribute to the police station A.R. feed.

RAVER: (Recorded And visual Arts Robot) Want to have a rave right now?  This robot makes it easy by acting as DJ, sound man, light man, and even dancer!

That’s all for now, but don’t worry…there’s more!  Let me know if this universe is intriguing you!