Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. One of those connections 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.
Whoa. If nothing else, Bluescreen is an ambitious novel. Wells somehow manages to combine futuristic sci-fi technology, gaming, hackers, with Mexican cartels, recreational drugs and questions about the ethics of automation and displaced workers. Sounds like one heck of a story? It is.
The heroine Marisa is a 2nd generation Mexican American living in an L.A. that has sprawled all the way to Tijuana, past the Mexican border. A semi-pro gamer, and brilliant hacker, Mari’s world is upended when Anja, her friend and team member, gets her hands on a new rich-kid drug. Bluescreen plugs into a person’s djinni, a smart device implanted in their head, and delivers a euphoric high before causing the user to blackout. After assuring her friends that bluescreen is safe, Anja begins acting erratically and almost gets herself killed. Marisa and her other friends, Sahara and Bo, discover that bluescreen is infecting people’s cybernetic implants with a virus. (Did I just use the word cybernetic? I did. I’m married to a Trekkie after all.) Things get worse when the local gangs get involved and a drug war ensues.
So did I love the book? Mostly. It was very fast paced, and intense, but sometimes the technobabble might get to be a little much if you aren’t a die hard sci-fi fan. The entire first chapter is set in the online game Mari plays, but she hardly returns to that world the rest of the novel. There is definitely violence and recreational drug use. No sex, or even any kissing to speak of. However, sex slavery and general references to porn are mentioned. It is a little disturbing, though at least they are always portrayed in a negative light.
One last thing… I’ve got to give a shout out to his dedication page… “This book is dedicated to Hedy Lamarr, an actress and mathematician who, in the 1930s, invented some of the Wi-Fi communications technology that make the internet age possible. She was brilliant and inventive, and the fact that most people remember her for just her looks says more about the world than a hundred books could hope to convey. Let’s change that world.”