Thursday, 9 December 2010

Review: iBoy by Kevin Brooks

iBoy by Kevin Brooks

Series: Standalone but there may be a sequel
Genre: Contemporary Science Fiction
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Release Date:August 12th 2010 (Already Released)
Format: Paperback, 293 pages
ISBN-13: 9780141326108
RRP: $18.95 AUD
Source: Book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Cover love? 
Combining cool graphics and a smooth presentation, this cover is awesome.

Before the attack, sixteen-year-old Tom Harvey was just an ordinary boy.
But now fragments of a shattered iPhone are embedded in his brain and it's having an extraordinary effect . . .
Because now Tom has powers. The ability to know and see more than he could ever imagine. And with incredible power comes knowledge – and a choice. Seek revenge on the violent gangs that rule his estate and assaulted his friend Lucy, or keep quiet?
Tom has control when everything else is out of control. But it's a dangerous price to pay. And the consequences are terrifying . . .


What happens when an iPhone cracks your skull and its electrical components become embedded into your brain? 

Well, in the iBoy world, it gives you superpowers, with skin that lights up in a myriad of pulsating colours, hands that can shoot electricity and a brain that can surf the net, call phones and hack into government networks. That’s exactly what happens to Tom Harvey, and armed with his amazing newfound powers, he is faced with a decision: should he take revenge on the gang that attacked and raped his friend Lucy, or should he take no action at all?

I looked forward to reading iBoy. Having read and liked Being by Kevin Brooks, and being a big fan of science fiction and cyborg stories, I opened this book with expectations of a slightly violent, but absorbing action sci-fi novel. Sadly, this book didn't live up to my hype.

First of all, let me make this clear. Kevin Brooks’ books are not pretty books with brave heroes, a clear villain, clean language and a happy ending. There are sex scenes (less so in iBoy), drugs, weapons, street violence and death, sometimes with a hero who discovers he has been technologically advanced. In the case of Being, the protagonist was an android (robot that looks like a human), and in iBoy, the hero is a cyborg (human with robotic enhancements). There is also frequent usage of coarse language, which I found annoying and excessive. The writing in general was fast paced and very truthful at times, but choppy to convey Tom's thoughts.

However, these combined elements work together to evoke the setting: the streets of outer London. I didn't like this setting, because I thought the iBoy idea, of a boy with the powers of an iPhone,  had a lot of potential to be something big. But a street setting meants that iBoy's powers and scope extended only to attacking the bullies in his neighourhood. Perhaps Kevin Brooks was going for a deeper meaning, such as an exploration of social issues or the abuse of power, but I didn't connect with that.

The technological aspects attracted me, as a sci-fi lover, but I thought it wasn't explored well. Tom is hit by an iPhone, and when he wakes up, he has incredible amounts of power, while we are never given a cool scientific reason as to why. The components are in his brain, but which part of his brain? And why does several chips from an iPhone, embedded in his brain suddenly give him so much power? Such as electricity coming out of his hands? Tom is left alone through the novel to explore his immese powers, and there are many questions I was left wondering with.

Also, the fact that an iPhone 3G is described in this book places a year label (2009) on this story. It's like a "use-by" date. In my opinion, good novels do not indicate a specific date, thus immortalising the story and characters, and limited only by the language. However, I like the use of quotations from articles and the binary chaptering system.

The characters in iBoy weren't very strong. Usually, I relate to a particular character, or have a admire one for all their flawed and postive qualities. I didn't with this book, perhaps because there were little characters and the main character began to act without thought. This was eventually explained, but by the end of the book, what little of Tom's personality had been there previously was not regained.

This book is not as strong as Being was, and I couldn't connect with the characters and darkness in this book. But its inner themes are gripping, and several moments are very intense and action-packed. The male protagonist and his powers relating to a modern device would definitely appeal to a young male audience.


 iBoy at Penguin AU | Interview with Kevin Brooks | Goodreads