2 out of 4 stars
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What would you do if you could travel through the pathways of the Internet? Collect and manipulate data online and store the information in your brain? Teleport yourself through optic cables to the place you love most just by displaying it on a computer screen? Ah, raise your hand (or share this review, it’s your choice!) if you would electroport yourself with me to Iceland or to the Scandinavian peninsula to admire the midnight sun.
Anyway, the list of options would be endless. You could use your superpowers to help people or to right the wrongs life gave you. You could steal money from every illegitimate organization on the planet and divert it to the poor and needy. You could buy a luxurious home, a shiny sports car and, why not, an entire Caribbean island. Or you could spend a fortune to impress a young woman just to have her killed that same night because you were an idiot and let the bad guys catch you red-handed.
Alex Fine, the eighteen-year-old protagonist of the sci-fi novel Superhighway by Alex Fayman, manages to accomplish all of the above and much more. Raised in an orphanage in the poorest part of Los Angeles, after getting adopted and returned to sender twice, he decides that life as an adopted child is not for him and chooses to remain with Ms. Jenkins, the head administrator of the orphanage who loves him as if he were her own son. Brilliant and extremely talented, he is headed for a bright future despite his background. Except, one night, while trying to reconnect the computer after a blackout, he finds himself centrifuged into the psychedelic superhighway of pathways, cables and digital cabinets called the internet. He quickly realizes that he can travel through the net and reach any place simply by displaying it on the screen.
Once past the initial shock, Alex starts posing himself the big question. Why me? And that’s where Spider-Man’s uncle should have made his cameo. With great power, comes great responsibility. Alex knows this and already envisions himself as a futuristic Robin Hood. Nevertheless, we follow him as he electroports himself from one bad choice to another with such ease that I couldn’t help but scream in frustration throughout the entire book.
There is a deep moral coming with this story. If we had the ability to make everything right and fair in the world, would the world really be a better place? Or would our good intentions do more harm than good? And how big of a role would our common sense play in the realization of said intentions? The line between what is right and what we think is right is very fine and frayed by our personal experiences. This is what I admired most in Superhighway. Alex is young, immature and beset by the absence of a real family. It’s a terrible combination that leads him to terrible choices which cause him to rethink his actions when it is too late.
Sadly, despite loving the idea, I did not find the execution to be outstanding. I cannot bring myself to like Alex. I found him extremely immature, even for his age, and pretty one-dimensional. Most of the narrative revolves around how hungry he gets when he travels, about wasting stolen money on luxuries or about his sexual experiences. No matter how typical of a teenager this can be, it ends up falling short of providing a real internalization and Alex keeps repeating the same mistakes. He goes for the big fish, he gets into trouble, he doesn’t know how to handle the mess he got himself into, he electroports himself away from the mess. Repeat.
But, credit where credit's due, the idea of electroportation was original and the way that Alex used it was well thought out. In addition, Fayman’s fervid imagination conceived a fantastic rendering of the internet, where packets of light speed along the cables and microscopic libraries contain stacks of gazillion data. Alex himself becomes nothing but a yellow light and the reader can feel all of the energy.
I’m not entirely sure the book was professionally edited, since I spotted a few words that were either missing or repeated twice, some messed-up tenses and missing inverted commas. Nothing that could affect the reading, anyway.
All these things considered, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars and would recommend it to every sci-fi enthusiast. As for young adults, even if the protagonist is a teenager, please notice the portrayal of explicit sex scenes, alcohol, drug use, and graphic violence.
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