Book Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself.

If one science-fiction themed blog post wasn’t enough – see Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – here’s a second.

The Happy Chip is a story about a revolutionary nano-chip which allows people to monitor their physical health and emotional well-being; it can even guide life choices and personal preferences.  However, writer Brad Davis begins working for the company responsible, and soon learns they have plans to create new chips – this time with more horrific side effects including suicidal tendencies, monstrous rage, and instant death.

My Photo [The Happy Chip].jpg

When choosing a book to review for Rosie’s Book Review Team, the tagline and premise of The Happy Chip immediately caught my eye.

The beginning was shocking and instantly places the reader in the midst of this dystopian technology, forcing you to work things out for yourself. I liked this – not everything needs explaining straightaway.

Yet when explanations are needed, some of the scientific jargon surrounding the biology and nano-chip technology was somewhat overwhelming and in places not particularly clear. Meredith is a science communicator and has worked with science journalists and written various pieces himself, so it is natural the scientific language would be detailed. However, overly scientific jargon can easily become confusing to the “average” reader.

Furthermore, there was a lot of gun terminology that was lost on me. As a reader from the UK, guns are not a part of everyday life; I don’t know anything about them and so specific details regarding models and rounds were seemingly unnecessary to me.

I liked the concept of monitoring and altering emotions and choices at will, as it is reminiscent of other works such as Brave New World and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and raises classic dystopian questions such as “What is free will?” and “What makes us human?”.

The new chips – engineered for different outcomes whether implanted in males or females – was an effective, if not a little stereotypical, threat.

I enjoyed the subtle manipulation of people (wouldn’t in real life obviously, unethical, ew). However, some of the descriptions of characters’ emotional states could have been developed further as they weren’t very detailed.

Pacing was also something I felt could have been improved. Halfway through The Happy Chip, it felt like I was at the climax of the novel. Perhaps the narrative would have been better split into two shorter stories. However, this is simply personal preference (I haven’t been taken over by a nanochip just yet).

I did enjoy The Happy Chip, although Meredith’s storytelling techniques could be improved.

Star Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Happy Chip is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or

– Judith


Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do androids dream? Rick asked himself

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction, post-apocalyptic novel by Philip K. Dick. It is set on Earth, which has been damaged by a global nuclear war. The book is about Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who is tasked with destroying escaped androids that are too human-like and have gone rogue.

I really liked this book – I read it in just under two days.

The only other work I’ve read by Philip K. Dick was The Man In The High Castle, which I had mixed opinions about. You can read my review of it here.

In comparison, I much preferred Androids. There are lots of science fiction motifs that don’t weigh the narrative down with jargon as things are clearly explained throughout.

I especially liked the Mood Organ, a device with the ability to change the user’s emotional state at the press of a button. It’s simultaneously desirable – to help you get over bad moods – and problematic, as anyone who has access to your Mood Organ has access, and therefore control, over your inner emotions and thoughts.

Androids, like The Man In The High Castle, was very character driven. This time however, I actually found all the main characters likeable and interesting in different ways.

Although, in some places, I thought Androids was a little too theological and philosophical when discussing the godlike figure of Mercer (which I still don’t fully understand) but this didn’t trip me up enough to spoil my reading.

The title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a nod to Rick’s desire to own a real, living animal but only owns an electric imitation sheep. Most animals became extinct in the wake of the nuclear war, dying of radiation poisoning. However, his neighbours believe his sheep is real, granting him a perceived level of status. Yet it raises the question; if Rick’s neighbours already believe an electronic imitation is real, what difference does it make if it isn’t?

The narrative was quite dark in places, with some sinister but enjoyable plot twists. Androids introduces themes such as empathy and sympathy, reality versus artifice and questions what it really means to be human, a question I think is a prevalent subject in popular culture today.

Robotics is a modern science which seems to have become even more popular in recent years. Channel 4 adapted Philip K. Dick’s short stories into a sci-fi anthology series just last year – titled Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – and in 2015, the TV series Humans made its debut, exploring robotics, artificial intelligence and the social impact of increasingly human-like androids on families and the world.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a fascinating and entertaining read –  I definitely recommend.

– Judith

Book Review: Brave New World

In the not-too-distant future, genetic science and applied psychology have bred an ideal society. There’s no disease, no-one ages and everyone is perfectly content, conditioned to serve the greater World State. Everyone, that is, but Bernard Marx.

‘”How can I?” he repeated.

“No, the real problem is: How is it that I can’t?”‘

Similarly to Orwell’s 1984, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is about an all-powerful state, that controls the behaviour and actions of the population to preserve its own stability and power. It is set in a futuristic London, where citizens are engineered through artificial wombs and indoctrinated into predetermined castes.

There are three main characters: Lenina Crowne, popular and sexually desirable, Bernard, a lower-caste man who is not popular nor desirable, and John the Savage, a man in exile because he was conceived and born naturally.

Each perspective reveals an aspect of this new world to the reader.

‘”You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it.”‘

Bernard is initially heroic, inwardly critiquing the regime and encouraging individuality of the self. Lenina is treated like a piece of meat, and doesn’t seem to notice or care because ‘every one belongs to every one else, after all’. That is, until she becomes confused by feelings of desire and attraction. John is horrified by the thoughts and actions of the citizens, whose sexually promiscuous, drug-induced, shallow and self-centred behaviour clashes with his own views.

Brave New World was really quite weird to read.

The first chapter opens on a tour around a Willy Wonka-esque factory, except it is not chocolate that is being manufactured, but humans. The unusual scientific jargon continues throughout the book, so it was difficult to follow everything that was happening.

The themes of control and consumerism are portrayed in a striking and unsettling way. Instead of faith systems, there is instead a high reverence for technology, sex, and drugs – known as Soma – which clouds citizens’ thoughts and memories to reinforce the belief that life is good.

‘”What you need, is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.”‘

This is abundantly clear in the replacement of the name of God with the Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. As characters utters exclamations such as ‘My Ford’ and the ‘Year of our Ford’ – and it is no coincidence that ‘Lord’ and ‘Ford’ rhyme – this underlines the real issue of this new world; not that religion doesn’t exist, but that any free-thinking and all forms of belief have been eradicated and controlled by the state.

Brave New World has startlingly violent moments designed to shock, rather than satirise – particularly in the ending. I think it is one of the most horrific dystopian novels I’ve read.

I still don’t fully understand this book, but if you want to be horrified and intrigued by dystopian literature, I suggest you try Brave New World.

– Judith