Connect, by Julian Gough

Connect, by Julian Gough book coverGenre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Nan A. Talese
Published: 2018
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Reviewer:  Lynn Nicole Louis

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In Connect, author Julian Gough serves up a fast-paced thriller that blends elements of cyberpunk, high-tech, terrorism, and apocalypse to deliver a read that sometimes stumbles, but in the end delivers a fun and satisfying read..

Colt is an autistic 16-year-old who lives with his mother Naomi in an isolated house located somewhere in the Nevada desert. Colt doesn’t do too well in the real world; instead he spends almost all his time in the virtual reality he access through a head set, a VR world where he’s one of the main characters and programmers.

Naomi is a scientist, a biologist to be specific, who’s been doing research on ways to regrow human limbs and promote other types of human augmentation. Needless to say, the US government is especially interested in her work and keeps close tabs on her, primarily through her ex-husband Ryan, who’s high up in the government’s anti-terrorist efforts.

Naomi carries some heavy baggage related to childhood abuse, baggage that has expresses itself in self-harming sexual relations. Ryan, her ex, was, for a while, the perfect fit, as he sought power and control over others, especially women.

Colt’s in the know on Naomi’s scientific research; in fact, he’s made some contributions. When Naomi exhibits a reluctance to publish her findings, Colt does it for her, and that sets off a chain reaction of events that puts their lives in danger. Add into this Colt’s self-experimentation with Naomi’s augmentation protocols, the results of which turn in him into a sort of super-intellect, while at the same time mitigating some of his autistic tendencies.

His newfound capabilities make him a target for his father Ryan, who wants to use him to fight America’s enemies. Not even computers are able to see the patterns Colt can now detect, even in vast amounts of data.

Naomi and Colt end up on the run, trying to escape the automated hunter/killer systems Ryan developed for the the government, and has illegally deployed against them. Think Skynet here.

Overall, the story is fun, but in some places the energy falters and the situations come across as bit too contrived. Colt is a Data from Star Trek; there seems to be nothing he can’t figure out, except, of course, how to interact normally with other people. A love interest develops out of nowhere that has him overly obsessed. The climax of the novel felt like a cross between the Matrix and a Star Trek Next Generation holodeck adventure.

The VR world was never well enough defined or explained for me to accept it. It was “too” real to be real, if that makes sense.
Despite these few stumbles, the novel asks some good questions about what the “good guys” should do to protect themselves from the “bad guys”. This, I suppose, begs a bigger observation: in a war, no one thinks they are on the wrong side.

If you like the old school cyberstuff by the likes like Gibson and Sterling, or movies like Matrix or The Thirteenth Floor, you’ll probably dig Connect.

I wouldn’t say this is a YA book. A mature 16 or older would probably do.

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