New technology records the highlights of emotional experience for others to share. Buy a helmet and you can feel the exhilaration of an Olympic ski jumper, or the heat of a lucid dreamer's erotic imaginings. Commit a crime, and you may be sentenced to endure the suffering you inflicted on others.
But such recordings may carry more information than the public has realized. What will criminals learn about their victims? When a husband is wrongfully convicted of injuring his wife, how will their marriage change? And what uses will a sociopath find for recordings of the experience of death?
*May Contain Spoilers*
Karen Wyle has created a way for anyone to experience anything in her novel, Playback Effect. Going farther than virtual reality, Playback technology allows participants to feel, hear, and live any experience by sharing the memories of others. Snowboarding or skydiving, picnic in the park or sensual night of romance? Everything is possible. Sounds exhilarating, exciting.
Any negative side effects?
Hal, Wynne, and Arthur are the main characters. Hal and Wynne are married, but Wynne previously dated Arthur, who is now a police detective. Hal is an artist, forgetful, consistently late, and tends to lost himself in his work. Wynne is a dreamer. She can create vivid dreams that she's able to record and sell through an agency, kind of like a movie rental. When Hal's city sculpture is blown up by a bomber, Wynne is caught in the tragedy. Arthur is involved in the investigation and believes that Hal is the criminal.
Arthur seems like a stand-up guy. He is a policeman and he hates to break the rules. Readers will be able to connect with him through an emotional channel. He's still interested in Wynne, though he is kind and respectful enough not to step between her and Hal.
Hal changes a lot through the course of the novel. The traits previously mentioned describe Hal's personality at the beginning of the book. Because of the playback effect that everyone is about to catch on to, Hal evolves into a better husband, becoming more empathetic and understanding of his wife. Readers will see the dynamic of his relationship change, making him a more likeable character.
Wynne will form an immediate connection to readers as she is a victim of the bombing. Sympathies will lie with her from the beginning to the end of the book. Her survivor label will bring her close to readers as they come to care for her and wish the criminal responsible be brought to justice.
The plot is a bit complicated, but not too difficult to follow. After the bombing, Wynne is seriously hurt and Hal is arrested. He is subjected to his wife's playback of the bombing and her suffering, as is often the punishment for prisoners and other criminals. With the help of a lawyer, Hal is released with an apology and a threat that he may still be the culprit they're looking for. During the bombing, a playback is accidentally recorded of a boy dying which causes an upheaval, as this is the first time that has ever happened. The bomber, meanwhile, is searching for his next target, but the idea of a death playback may be too good to ignore.
Rating: 3/5 Cups