“Chipless” is a futuristic dystopian where an event (known as the Pulse) has disrupted society. In response, a group of scientists have made a chip that helps regulate the population’s health, happiness, and even what they see, smell, and taste as all part of a very advanced augmented reality simulator. The chip’s—which is implanted in all citizens of The City at one year of age—primary function is to keep the populace from ever knowing that their world is dying, depleted of its natural resources. In exchange for all the advanced technology and not having to worry about their bodies, the land has been sucked dry. The chip keeps the citizens from knowing the true state of the world and therefore freaking out, or rebelling. Something like that, anyway. It honestly got a little confusing because it’s not like everyone lives in The City, there seem to be a lot of people without a chip (like Amber) so the idea of why The City needed this mind control, what the Pulse did or was, or why Kal was so important, got seriously diminished by the fact that having a chip was just so… benign and there were already so many people living free of The City’s clutches.
I thought the concept of this book was really interesting: what would you pay to live in a virtual paradise? Is it worth it to not know which thoughts are truly yours? To sacrifice your personal freedom in order to have all the comforts advanced technology can offer? Even if it hurts the land around you by depleting it for resources? I’ve used augmented reality and virtual reality before for my various jobs, so I found this concept really intriguing! But this main plot point got really muddled with Kal and Amber fleeing The City for rather vague reasons, and then along the way, getting entangled in other conflicts as new, secondary characters get hastily introduced, and then discarded. There was a lot going on, and some of it was more interesting than others. Like, I really enjoyed the truck convoy as it had flavors of Mad Max and the few scenes in The City as it reminded me of the Matrix, but didn’t much care for most of the random travel lodges the two main characters found themselves in as they raced toward Freeland in order to give those rebels the technology needed to disrupt the AR signal. I think? Honestly it felt so minor to just the main characters running around that I don’t really know.
Unfortunately, the dialogue was also a little hard to get into as it was pretty dry, and mainly functioned as all "tell”, so there was no “showing” the reader much of the world. It made it hard to really identify with the characters and feel a connection to them. Although I did like Kal’s awkwardness and his shyness. As someone who grew up in The City, he’s not used to seeing skin, let alone being close to a woman, so it was endearing to see him struggle and grow in this new world he found himself in. But, that being said, Kal also seems to be the luckiest person in the world. Things just happen to him, or for him, rather than him having to do anything specifically to move the plot forward, so I didn’t get that tension that I was expecting for a book that’s classified as a dystopian thriller.
All in all, I still think this concept is great and could make for a really interesting and thrilling story, especially since things like augmented reality do exist in our world so it’s easy to imagine that kind of technology being used for nefarious purposes. But I just couldn’t get into the story or the characters beyond Kal at times. There were a lot of subplots that never got fully explored, and the ending felt more like a hard stop rather than a true ending, but maybe that’s because there are supposed to be more books in this and it will eventually become a series? I’m not sure. But because the idea behind this story and Kal’s character where the only things I really enjoyed, this is a 2.5/3 star read for me. But thanks to the author for sending me a copy for an honest review
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