About the book (via Goodreads):
Four people. One study. The internet-access brain implant to bind or destroy them all.
Art-school dropout Chandra would do anything to apologize for her role in her wife’s coma—including enroll in the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant.
At first, the secretive research compound is paradise, the perfect place to distract Chandra from her grief. But as she soon learns, the facility is more prison than resort, with its doctors, support staff, and her fellow patients all bent on hatching plots of their own, no matter how invested they might seem in helping her communicate with her wife.
Making matters worse, a dark wave of uncertainty crashes down on the compound, forcing Chandra to become an unlikely but pivotal player in conspiracies stretching from the highest levels of the North American Union government to the lowest dredges of its shadowy hacking collectives.
To save herself and her wife, Chandra and her newfound friends from the study will have to overcome the scheming of a ruthless tech magnate, the naïveté of an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and the relentless pursuits of an investigative journalist, all of whom are determined to outpace the others in their own quests to resurrect lost love, cover their tracks, and uncover the truth.
When Chandra signs up for to be one of the first humans to test EMPATHY — an implant that gives its host mental access to the internet and a means of connecting with others telepathically — she is swept into an electrifying swarm of secrets, hidden agendas, and challenges that threaten to shatter everything she thought she knew.
R.R Campbell’s science fiction, IMMINENT DAWN, delivers exactly what it promises: a Black-Mirror-esque sci-fi thriller delving into the dark relationship between humans and technology — complete with all the thrills, brain hacking, and conspiracy theories to keep you reading.
What I loved:
Imminent Dawn begins with a strong opening. Chandra, one of many trial subjects, is the first human to wake without suffering from seizures or other severe reprocussions. Out of all the characters in the novel, I felt her backstory was the most compelling for me. Immidiately, I was made aware of her mind — of her grief and guilt over her wife’s coma, of a kernel of hope that she might be able to set things right. The fact that she’s desperate and brave enough to stick a chip in her brain to make amends with her wife? It really is a testement of her character.
Now, the world in Imminent Dawn isn’t set light-years away (like Blade Runner or Star Trek).It doesn’t feature space travel, aliens, or even high tech robots that take over the world, but frankly, I couldn’t care that it was missing those oh-so-typical science fiction themes because it disturbed me with its realistic possibilities of what life could be in even a hundred or two hundred years. It features technology we partially already possess and exposes the darkside of our relationship with it.
I really liked how estranged I was by the mere thought of putting a chip in my brain that no only let me access the whole World Wide Web, but also carry on conversations with people INSIDE MY BRAIN. People already walk around with their noses in their phones; imagine what it’ll be like if their phones were in their minds. I know, I know. I’m getting off topic. My point is, I loved how much Imminent Dawn thoroughly disturbed me. And for the sake of not spoiling it for others who haven’t read the novel, all I will say is this: brain hacking. It’s a thing. A really, really creepy thing.
Campbell manages to balance the technological world-building with the character-driven plot, which makes Imminent Dawn more pleasurable to read than some science fiction novels I’ve read in the past. Although there are certain characters I felt could have been more fleshed out (Wyatt, I’m looking at YOU) and at times, the characters got themselves into an unholy amount of trouble I personally felt they should have been equipped to confront, these chinks in the chain reveal a fundamental truth about humanity: it goes on, even in the face of something new, scary, or impossible. And the near future doesn’t = super smart humans who can kick ass and take names (though they will certainly exist, I’m sure). Yesterday, today, tomorrow…
People will be people. The only thing that really changes are the tools we use to get where we want to go.
In addition to all the super-creepy brain-tech and conspiracies galore (which I’m not mentioning because I refuse to be a SPOILING SUSIE), Imminent Dawn is the longest novel I’ve read so far this year. It’s unique to me because it features not one, but FOUR points of view: Chandra, Meredith, Ariel, and Wyatt. Though I am not a super huge fan of the multiple POVs in this novel (I’ll get to why in a minute), I did enjoy the broad perspective this afforded me as the story unfolded. Not to mention, the only other book I’ve ever read with this many POVs was Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. So it’s a rare thing for me to encounter. Overall, I think the viewpoints of these four characters really brought the story together, leaving no loose ends or questions that might otherwise drive me crazy. It also showcased just how different Ariel, Chandra, Wyatt, and Meredith are — and how they come to grips in the face of this technological turning point.
What I wasn’t crazy about:
Although I am a fan of multiple POVs (usually 2 POVs is the sweet spot for me), I did struggled a smidge with the four alternating POVs in Imminent Dawn. As the plot thickened, as backs were stabbed, as secrets were had, as everything hit the fan in a spectacular display of splattered brain matter….it became more difficult to keep up with all the plot threads. I’m sure there’s something I missed or forgot or read (but didn’t understand) because the plot became increasingly complicated as it went on and this, paired with the multiple POVs, was a struggle for me. However, it didn’t ruin the story. It just meant I had to read more slowly ^_^
Overall, Imminent Dawn is a thrilling page-turner sure to leave its readers haunted by the EMPATHY trials and disturbed by the realism that jumps from every line. It left me with valuable questions about the power technology imposes in my own life and to imagine a world in which the boundaries between man and machine are breached. If you like stories in the vein of Ted Chiang with twists sure to send thrills up your spine, Immediate Dawn will appeal to you.
It certainly did to me.
r.r. Campbell is an author, editor, and the founder of the Writescast Network, a podcast collective for writers, by writers. His science fiction novel, Imminent Dawn, debuted at number one for new releases in LGBT Science Fiction on Amazon, and his first novel, Accounting for It All, was well received upon publication in November 2018.
To date, r. r. has also been published in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow, Erotic Review, and with National Journal Writing Month. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife, Lacey, and their cats, Hashtag and Rhaegar.