Book Review: Project Utopia: A Novella, Pam Mosbrucker (2013)

Friday, February 28th, 2014

What just happened?

two out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program. Also, this is not a spoiler-free review.)

Based on previous Goodreads reviews, I had high hopes for this novella. Or moderate expectations, at the very least.

The seed of the idea that forms the root of the story is certainly promising: Some time in the not-so-distant future (2075, to be precise), scientists have developed a biochip that will potentially face of humanity. With a name like “Project Utopia,” you’d expect this advancement to be downright revolutionary – curing all disease and eradicating poverty, for example – only not so much. Among its many functions is the ability to store vast amounts of information (thus eliminating the need for passports, drivers licenses, and the like) and dispense medications remotely. Convenient, yes – but hardly utopian. And it’s not difficult to see how such tools could easily be misused: for example, medications might be dispensed without the patient’s consent, thus enabling the forcible medication of those with mental illnesses, or allowing the government to prevent reproduction in certain “undesirable” citizens via involuntary contraception.

Some of the biochip’s controls are downright dystopian: from anywhere in the world, and with just a few keystrokes, a programmer can command a biochip to make its host fall asleep, turn himself in to the nearest police station, enter quarantine – or die. Yup, there’s a kill function. I’m sure that the higher-ups at Intelli Inc aren’t exactly advertising that last advantage, but still. Common sense, people.

(More below the fold…)