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Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Mad Skills in the USA - or Buy Mad Skills in the UK

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pub: Ace/Penguin. 306 page paperback. Price: GBP 6.99 (UK), $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-441-02012-6).

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Teenager Madeline ‘Maddy’ Grant has an accident with her step-brother leaving her severely brain-damaged. The Braintree Institute offers experimental surgery implanting a computer via electrodes. The side effect of this is to enhance her intelligence which results in her being less able to cope when she returns to school. Her parents accept an offer by the Institute to let them look after her for a few months and they leave her at a rehabilitation village that can get her to adjust to normal life. Except this normal life includes a talking racoon that advises her of the danger she’s in and a credit card that suddenly goes into debt. She also dreams of attacking people and when she flees, she bumps into her now alive step-brother.

Nothing is ever what it seems in this book, ‘Mad Skills, by Walter Greatshell, and it gets to the stage that whatever I say is going to be spoiler as another layer is peeled away. The story is essentially about identity and how people can take it away from you to do what they want you to do. The interesting twist is changing your perception of what everything is to accomplish this. In this case, by a computerised cyborg implant. The village reminds me of a certain Village from ‘The Prisoner’ but I think that’s an acceptable trope to be used here.

Control is everything and I think this book will make you think about ulterior motives. I don’t think technology is quite up to this yet but it’s not far off. Listen to talking racoons. They might know more than you do.

GF Willmetts

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This book has 21 votes in the sci-fi charts

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