Cover of Bluescreen by Dan Wells. Art by Sebastien Hue.
Art by Sebastien Hue. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: Bluescreen

Author: Dan Wells

Nutshell: In a very, very believable future, the smartphone is an implant in your brain, and everything you can do with it, you can do overlaid on the real world. Everything the internet has to offer (and more, because this is the future, you guys.) available in an eyeblink.

Marisa is a gamer and a hacker in this world, a world that’s surprisingly normal. People try to get by, and there never seem to be enough jobs (fewer, now that so much can be done by robots), and schools assign homework. And people do what they can for fun.

Marisa’s friend Anja experiments with body hacks for fun. But when she picks up a sensory-overload app, a drug in digital form, Marisa and their team find a deep, dark, scary hole in the world of digitally-enhanced life. And in order to rescue Anja, they’ll have to go all the way to the bottom.

Read-alikes: Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde


It is so hard for me to ramble about books I shot through like this one. Downloading it to my brain might have been faster, but I wouldn’t lay bets if I were you.

I loved this book unequivocally. Cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres, and this book hit all my expectations in subtly twisted ways, and then pulled a satisfying conclusion out of the middle of the tangle, shook it once to get out the wrinkles, and sent it home.

(That was a terrible metaphor. I’m usually better at this sort of thing.)

One of the subtle twists I like was the character who takes the Bluescreen drug, Anja. (By the way, if you’ve heard the phrase “blue screen of death” and wondered: yes. That is absolutely the connection you should be making here.) Characters taking drugs usually, in books, are so resistant to the possibility that they could be harmed by them. Anja starts out like this. “Oh, I know it’s a drug and it totally knocks me out, but it’s allll gooooood!” So when her friends try to confront her after the drug has negative effects, I was prepared for some hardcore denial. And, to my delight, she became appropriately panic-stricken and desperate to change her error.

The other subtle twist I noticed is a spoiler. But I was much impressed with it. {One of the characters has a secret that he tries to reveal in the eleventh hour to Marisa. His secret is that he is the villain, a confession that is usually followed by either “but I’ve seen the error of my ways!” or “but I was being used all along!” Neither of these cop-outs followed his revelation.}

The world was one that was both believable and a little bit frightening, and Mr. Wells managed to convey it without sending me into my closet to hide. (Yes, there are imagined futures that frighten me enough to hide from the real future. Yes, I know this is irresponsible.) Even though it was grim, it was suffused with enough potential and optimism to keep it from being a really dangerous book. It was a likely future, but I didn’t think that it was necessarily a hopeless one.

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