Years ago when I was in college, a friend of mine in the psychology graduate department asked me (and a bunch of other students) to participate in an experiment he was conducting for his thesis. It sounded interesting (and required no drilling into my skull) so I volunteered and showed up at my assigned time. He proceeded to place a cloth net over my head that contained a bunch of holes where wires would be inserted and connected to my skin. It looks cool in the TV shows and movies, but what you don’t see is the gunk they coat the wires in to make a good connection to skin… that stuff was like the gel-from-hell and when the experiment was over, my hair was all over the place and funky.
During the experiment, I learned a little bit… mainly about brain waves. I don’t remember a whole lot about the experiment (other than sitting in a dark room and watching words flash here and yonder) but I do recall being given some color printouts showing my brain activity in various stages… words like alpha, beta, and delta waves were tossed around. I’d forgotten all about this brain wave stuff until I tackled a new techno-thriller titled The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet. The first thing you should know about the author is this: as a neuro-engineer, he’s fully qualified for writing this story. It’s a fiction story, but you can tell just a few chapters in that the author knows his stuff, and this tale has that cutting-edge realism that many fiction authors have to fake.
The story focuses on two individuals: Chuck Brenton, a neuroscientist, and his soon-to-be business partner, Matt Streegman, a mathematician who has an extremely personal reason for hunting down Brenton and offering to assist him with a problem he’s been facing involving remotely controlling objects with one’s mind.
It starts simple enough–trying to control software on the screen using mental commands or trying to rotate a motor’s spindle on a piece of heavy machinery equipment. Pretty soon, the business partners have a small collection of test subjects who are starting to show efficiency at their various personal skills (such as an artist trying to create art on a screen with her mind). The practical applications begin to appear… and then the company gets noticed. One of the business partners makes a deal with a government agency, and the next thing that’s happening is the project has a secretive side in addition to the more public one.
But the business applications as well as the military applications pale in comparison to a sudden breakthrough that defies known science. The small group does its best to keep this breakthrough a secret, but that secrecy comes back to bite them when their new “silent business partner” begins to question their loyalty.
The God Wave was a fun (and fast) read… the tension ratchets up and I couldn’t put it down as the danger to the team begins to climb. Secrets on both sides are revealed a little at a time, and in the end Brenton and Streegman must decide on what is not just best for their small company, but what is best for the country and ultimately the world.
As techno-thrillers go, this one’s a fun ride. I’ve seen the Star Wars Jedi toy where you use your “mind powers” to make a ball move up and down in a tube. It’s coming… no doubt. The God Wave has me actually looking forward to the day when I can control the software on my screen with my brain, not my hands. It also has me a little wary about the completely unknown uses that will undoubtedly pop up when a new technology is introduced.
Note: I’d like to thank Harper Voyager for providing a review copy. The God Wave is out now.