I love social commentary in science fiction. To me, it is what the genre is meant to do – use future-oriented thought experiments to comment on our current social climate from a new and intriguing viewpoint. And while I often have literary pretensions, praising SF writers whose prose is both functional as well as beautiful, I have just as much respect for prose that makes for a fun, easy read. Lauren C. Teffau’s debut novel Implanted is just that – a rollicking good read.
The novel explores ideas of connectivity. Where the media and many pessimistic SF narratives condemn the current reliance on the internet, smartphones, and social media, Teffau takes a far more balanced view. She shows us just how beautiful a connected life could be. While this might be the general view taken in the novel, that does not mean the alternate is swept under the rug. Teffau is so even-handed in her approach to the thought experiment of the novel’s set-up that it really is left up to the reader to make up their own minds as to where they stand.
Implanted follows Emery Driscoll as she graduates university and embarks on her first job. But her career takes a sharp u-turn as she is blackmailed into becoming a data courier for a security company. But how do you keep data secure when everyone is connected at all times and at constant risk of infection or hacking? Data is encoded into Emery’s blood, requiring her to deliver data physically. When a data drop for the government goes wrong, Emery must unravel a city-wide conspiracy.
This really is a fun novel. It’s a hard book to put down as it is simply a joy to read. The simplicity of the prose and fairly traditional adventure-conspiracy plot make Implanted light-hearted and quick to plow through. While the novel is of a familiar, trope-heavy breed, it is far from predictable. The characters are flawed and interesting, the world intriguing, and the conspiracy is well-executed.
Teffau is a member of Romance Writers of America, and her interest in romance plays out well in the novel. The romantic elements build in a natural way. While the reader can see that the romantic leads will work things out by the end, the enjoyment comes from seeing how it is achieved. And with the incorporation of the digital landscape into the complexities of successfully navigating a relationship, Teffau is able to explore ideas of communication in relationships in a unique way.
Implanted may not be a novel you will spend months thinking about or proclaiming as the most brilliant read of the year, but you will have a damn good time reading it. And this certainly bodes well for the debut author, who has found at least one reader eager to devour her stories and ready to see where she will go next.
Verdict: Fun, familiar, and fast-paced. Implanted is pure entertainment with a positive take on an otherwise dystopian future