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: Starclimber

Starclimber is the final book of the Airborn trilogy by Kenneth Oppel, a series of young adult steampunk books, set in a world where the aeroplane has not yet been invented. You can read my review of Airborn, the first book, here and my review of Skybreaker, the second book, here.

As the title may suggest, Starclimber is an adventure into outer space. The protagonists Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries board the Starclimber ship and journey to the stars. Kate is determined to escape the constrictions of upper-class society, as well as prove there is life beyond Earth, and Matt wants to prove his worth both as an “astralnaut” and a man worthy of Kate’s affections.

Starclimber begins with another exciting opening – every start to the Airborn series has been full of action and interesting characterisation – but unfortunately, the plot was pretty much the same to its predecessors Skybreaker and Airborn. In my Skybreaker review, despite my praise for Oppel’s storytelling, I said my expectations were for the next book to breakaway from the same narrative, with the same character stereotypes and narrative arc. Sadly though, my expectations weren’t met.

There is danger, there is adventure, there is a traitor, there is conflict between Matt and Kate, there is a discovery of a new species, there is a friend to provide comfort and comic relief; all of which has happened before. This was a little frustrating because although I knew I was reading a new book, it felt like reading the same story again!

Speaking of Matt and Kate, Kate develops into a horrible young woman. She claims she is criticised for being independent and headstrong, and so joins the suffragette movement to empower herself. Yet, this is not the Kate de Vries which has been presented to the reader at any point. Throughout Starclimber, Kate is nothing but rude, haughty and selfish. Yet when Sir Hugh Snuffler, Kate’s scientific rival, displays these same characteristics, he is met with disapproval by the other characters, and is subsequently made the butt of all the jokes.

To me, this came across as if it’s perfectly acceptable for women to be rude … because of feminism, but men aren’t allowed to be rude … because the author said so.

In my first review, I criticised Airborn for using the word ‘tingle’ to describe absolutely everything Matt felt. In Starclimber, the word ‘chuckle’ was used far too frequently – 24 times to be precise – in a short span of pages, so I would read the word ‘chuckle’ every 3 pages or so. This is a word I particularly have a grudge against anyway, so it was really quite difficult to convince myself to continue reading the story!

However, despite my annoyances with the characters, and their incessant chuckling, I did really like the plot of Starclimber.

Its action sequences felt the most dangerous and exciting out of any of the series, perhaps because space is still so unknown to today’s readers; anything can happen, and the risks of space travel are still immense. I thought Oppel’s designed method of space travel, rising up a reinforced, electrified cable, was a really creative way of imagining old-fashioned space travel.

Furthermore, the ending was sweet, and tied up the series really well – so often nowadays stories get dragged out by unnecessary cliff-hangers and more sequels, so it was nice that this series had a definitive ending. In a way, I’m sad there aren’t any more books, but I also think the stories work well as a trilogy, and to add more would spoil that.

If you’ve read Airborn and Skybreaker, I recommend Starclimber. If I had to choose a favourite of the series however, I’d probably choose Skybreaker.

– Judith