ARC Review: Bluescreen

Bluescreen by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: February 16, 2016

Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. That connection is a djinni—a smart device implanted right in a person’s head. In a world where virtually everyone is online twenty-four hours a day, this connection is like oxygen—and a world like that presents plenty of opportunities for someone who knows how to manipulate it.

Marisa Carneseca is one of those people. She might spend her days in Mirador, the small, vibrant LA neighborhood where her family owns a restaurant, but she lives on the net—going to school, playing games, hanging out, or doing things of more questionable legality with her friends Sahara and Anja. And it’s Anja who first gets her hands on Bluescreen—a virtual drug that plugs right into a person’s djinni and delivers a massive, non-chemical, completely safe high. But in this city, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and Mari and her friends soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that is much bigger than they ever suspected.

Set in 2050, Bluescreen is a futuristic dystopian story of what happens when you get too lax about privacy. In this futuristic world, nearly everybody is hooked up directly to the internet, via the djinni (which is an implant that helps the user log in directly, connected to their brains) and for Marisa, a gamer, it is a necessity. She and her friends, as well as nearly the whole city population, depend on it – much like how we depend on our cell phones right now. The concept of allowing something as invasive as an implant, particularly one that is linked directly to your brain and can influence your perception might seem ridiculous, but is well within the realm of possibility. We might very well sacrifice privacy for comfort, and this is kind of the central idea of the story.

When a friend of theirs takes a digital drug (that simulates a high in the user), but becomes infected with a malware, they realize the conspiracy runs deeper than a simple infected drive. Using their superior hacker skills, and all around programmer knowledge, they chase down leads to the origin of the drug; their methods are not entirely legit, which makes it even more thrilling. It is a fast-paced action thriller story, I’ll give it that, but it doesn’t make us invest much in the characters besides what they are wearing (trust me, you will know what they prefer to wear more than what their dreams are). Even Marisa, who is the protagonist, feels disconnected from the reader – why she does certain things, why she is drawn to a drug dealer, of all people, what is her idea of the future, what does she think about the hell that her city is.

While it doesn’t do much for the characters, the future is built up very well. Starbucks is still annoyingly present, there are rock-music hearing grandmas, pre-teens still look up their older sisters, cartels are very much in business (Mexico is now safer than the US) and oh, advertising is now super-personalized (shudder). The way Marisa and her friends use the system to their advantage is very entertaining, and a bit scary how they illuminate the pitfalls of each system. The privacy we take for granted can so very easily be exploited by someone who puts their mind to it; yeah, it is pretty terrifying. Overall, I would say, the book is long but interesting throughout; it is certainly enjoyable.

Received a free galley from Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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