NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Monday, September 24, 2012

REVIEW: Wired [Full link to blog for email clients.]

[Still recovering from surgery, but I have owed y'all this review for some time...]

It's not often that I take a recommendation that somebody gave me for book, then turn right around and recommend it to others.  However, I'm making an exception for the book "Wired" by Douglas E. Richards.  The book is part mystery, part adventure, and all science fiction.  The story starts out with David Desh, retired special forces operative, who has been tasked to hunt down Kira Miller, a dangerous terrorist.  Miller is a molecular biologist who's been experimenting with viruses that can deliver diseases tailored to specific populations and racial groups.  The target is not just a psychopath, but a genius, and a deadly one

The truth is much more convoluted and David  soon discovers that Miller has been experimenting with ways to enhance human intelligence… and succeeded.  She is always several steps ahead of David, and seems to know exactly what he's thinking and planning.  Despite the fact that she knows that David's job is to track her down and deliver her to the authorities, she tries to convince him that she has been framed, and is being tracked for her knowledge of how to increase human intelligence by several orders of magnitude.

I'm fond of thrillers and adventure novels, so I was prepared to like the novel from the start.  I wasn't entirely sure if I would be happy with the neuroscience, but the book was recommended to me by a person who really does understand physiology and pharmacology.  The author, Douglas Richards, has a masters degree in molecular biology and yes, he got the brain science right. Wired takes as its central principle something that I have discussed in many columns, articles, and panel discussions – namely, that memory and cognitive performance is less about the number of neurons and more about the number of connections between neurons.  The central "gimmick" of Wired is that any changes to intelligence require fundamental changes in the chemical neurotransmitters and receptors that mediate information transfer between neurons. It doesn't hurt that it's pretty good story and adventure.

I might have a few quibbles with the experiences of the principal characters in their heightened intelligence state, but I held my tongue and kept my preconceptions in check.  I felt vindicated in the end with the epilogue and set up for the sequel "Amped." In all, I think Wired is an excellent story and well worthy of recommendation.

Until next time, we'll have to settle for caffeine to keep us Wired and wait for the next installment of exciting science news to get us Amped

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