Review: iBoy

iBoy
iBoy by Kevin Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an odd duck of a book. It quacks like improbable SF, but is actually more of a coming of age story, about morality and when you have unlimited power, how and when should you use it, and the law of unintended consequences. Tom lives in a crowded council section in London, in a 34 floor tower, in a block of 7 of them. They are riddled with gangs and drugs, etc. He lives there with his Grandmother, secretly falling for a childhood friend Lucy who lives in the same tower. One evening, as he stands outside the tower, thinking about trying to go see this girl, and somehow get her to see what he feels, someone shouts his name from up top, and something fall from the building and lands on his head, splitting his skull open. It was an iPhone. But at that velocity, it hit so hard that pieces of the plastic case, and the phone’s chip were embedded into his brain and couldn’t be removed. So he goes home after a few days, and finds out that in the meantime, his friend Lucy had been gang raped by a group of thugs in the building, from one of the prominent gangs in their section of the blocks. He feels rage and impotence. What can he do? He eventually tries to talk to Lucy, but she is scared, and knows that if she tries to go to the police and tell them who did it, retaliation to her brother, who was already beat up in the first attack, and her mother, will follow, and could lead to their deaths. Tom knows the same could happen to Lucy even if he tries to report it, or he and his Gram could be in danger. That’s how the gangs operate – fear and intimidation. But then, he decided to take matters into his own hands and dispense his own brand of justice. You see (and this is where the improbable meets SF), the pieces of the iPhone lodged in his brain have fused with his neural network and have allowed him access to the world wide web and just abut anything that is on-line, anywhere, without really having to hack. He is iBoy. So he can hear phone conversations, find out who is up to what, pinpoint locations by phone GPS signals, etc. And so he begins his own campaign of fear and retribution. Never pushing it to the limit, but not quite something that sits morally right with him. It is a struggle, an internal one, since he know if he does nothing, Lucy’s attackers will go free, and keep on doing this. But if he does something that will get them in trouble, and cause some fear, maybe, just maybe, things will change a little. An interesting, if implausible tale of what it means to have unlimited power, and the rights and responsibilities that go with it. An interesting read.

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