Bookbub Bargains: My Review of 'The Amplified'
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
In my research on how to 'Author' I decided to check out the services that a lot of authors buzzed about. One of these is often referred to as the 'coveted Bookbub'. Authors speak often about 'getting' a Bookbub and how much it costs, but almost universally agreed that it was worth the cost in follow-on sales.
Further research into this told me that Bookbub is a website that users sign up, choose their favorite genres, and receive daily emails with free or discounted books in their chosen genre. Because they have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, authors pay for the privilege of having their books in these emails. The included books, however, aren't just the work of anyone willing to pay. Bookbub curates their lists, so an author must be chosen, AND willing to pay, in order to be featured.
Wanting to understand what they were offering better, I decided to sign up and see what I got in my email - what did I have to lose? My first few emails I dutifully clicked on each book in the email, read the blurbs, and checked out the reviews. For books that asked 99 cents to $1.99, I was easily deterred by a few bad reviews. Books that were listed as free I was a bit more willing to give a chance, but I still passed up many that I was interested in but were rated 4 stars or below on Amazon.
Eventually I decided that really my problem was I didn't want to have a kindle full of books I wasn't confident I would enjoy, and that I was just not giving these authors, who had paid a lot of money to give me the opportunity to read their book for free or deeply discounted, a chance. So from then on I downloaded books that I thought the premise sounded good, even if they had some negative reviews.
And the ebooks piled up.
I have been working so diligently on my writing that I have only been reading for ten or so minutes before bed, and for that I typically choose a story I've read many times because I don't want to get caught up in a good book and not go to sleep. It's a ritual of sorts, rereading books I know by heart, to put myself to sleep.
A boring ritual.
So I decided that I would make it a point to start reading at least one new book a week, even if it was just a few chapters here and there. If I found myself getting too into the story and not settling down to sleep, I'd switch to one of my old stand-by's and then lights out. Once finished I would post a review here. Bookbub offers are only available for a day, so anyone seeing this won't get the bargain I did. However a good review from me should tell you it's worth picking up.
This week I decided to read The Amplified by Lauren M. Flauding.
I liked the premise of this story - dystopian future, people live in loosely defined 'Communities' and at the age of 15 are offered the opportunity to become Amplified, receiving a high-tech implant that allows them to be superhuman. There's a threatening 'other', The Dissenters, and the story is told from the POV of 15-year-old Mari, who can't wait to become Amplified.
As the story goes on, Mari learns more about the costs of being Amplified and that it may not be as great as she thought.
I thought the story had a lot of good points and creativity. The author clearly thought through a lot of futuristic challenges for the characters and described them in detail.
I found a lot of things annoying. Firstly, the author goes into painstaking effort to explain how Amplified people can command themselves to do anything, including one person who commanded themself to go to sleep, which yielded fantastic results for someone who had trouble sleeping. So why does the main character not use this ability when she struggles to go to sleep? There are several times in this story that she can't sleep, and during one she says she knows she could command herself to sleep but for some reason didn't feel like it. Huh? After that, it's not mentioned again. She can't sleep, she's too restless, so she gets up and goes to cause trouble.
The book also spend a good deal of time setting up two rival boys for Mari's affections, one of which is a long-time friend that she discusses over and over again how she's not interested, and the other is a boy who, with the miracle of Amplification, turned himself from a 300-lb fat kid into a hottie in 3 days. By dismissing the science that the Amplification seems to be based on, which specifies that it just manipulates nerves and muscle tissue and isn't a magic device, this just reads false. She mentions a couple of times that this boy is better-looking now that he isn't fat, but never really expresses interest in him until the other boy tries to make a move. Then, out of nowhere, a third boy comes into the picture and suddenly we're told that she and this boy had a special relationship long ago and all of a sudden there's all this wistful romantic angst... then (trying to avoid spoilers) the MC makes a decision and she's now back home where none of the three boys are or will likely be, and the book ends. Huh?
I felt like a lot of the things in the environment don't make a lot of sense, and the author never really explained them. For example, the 15-year-olds have to board a giant hover craft that apparently flies slowly around to the different 'Communities' (no real explanation about what these are, how far apart they are, etc) and have no safety barriers around the edges... but they're designed to be a training camp for kids learning their newfound abilities with the Amplifiers. Okay... but why are they in the air the whole time? They're not stealth craft. It's never really explained what the purpose of this very inconvenient and dangerous training environment is, exemplified by someone almost dying the first day. Also, they eat only capsules for nutrition and hydration (sure), but Mari's community is a farm. So, they grow actual food, to be turned into capsules? Surely at this point they would be synthesizing food and that is why it would be in capsule form? Mari apparently has an 'ancient device' that she listens to music on with 'wires that attach to her ears' - sure, I'm sure an iPOD still works and can be charged in this far-distant future, and just happens to be loaded with 'ancient music'. They have dissolvable disks that when attached to your temple play an entire movie...but you can't stop it once you start one. Huh? Same goes for commands for the Amplified: They can't stop themselves once they've given a command, even if they want to. They can't override their own commands. This seems like the height of stupidity for a technological marvel that can make you do anything. Surely there would be a fail-safe?
There's also a rivalry/antagonist that's set up in the first few chapters and then just fizzles out, he never amounts to a real threat. Why bother?
(Spoilers) Eventually the story ramps up to an assessment they have to pass in order to remain Amplified. If they fail, they have their Amplifier removed and are referred to as a 'clam'. (Why clam? That's so random, and it's never explained either) and Mari passes, but the creepy governor offers her a position as an elite and she believes it's because he wants to control her with his ability to override the Amplified, so she chooses to have it removed and ends up back home, The End. I get that it's a series, but there's no feeling of resolution to this story. It just kind of ends. I suppose we're supposed to assume Mari's going to hook up with her Dissenter-former-boyfriend but it's just so.... meh.
In summary, I feel like the story had a great premise, but too many half-delivered storylines and half-baked ideas just ruined the intrigue. I finished it, but I have no interest in reading the rest of the series.
For that reason, I rate this a 2 out of 5 stars. It's okay, but really needs a rewrite to be a good book.