I’m always up for a good science fiction ethical quagmire, and I enjoyed Robopocalypse, so Amped by Daniel H. Wilson seemed like a decent bet. It wasn’t until I was 80-some pages in that I recognized something amiss:
Apparently the world of Amped has next to zero women.
I don’t usually spend my time calculating the demographic composition of characters in a novel, but Amped was so egregiously male it was impossible not to notice. Because I expect to be accused of exaggerating, I went back through the book page by page and counted every person whose sex is identified, no matter how insignificant.
90 total sex-identified characters (including groups, such as ‘groups of teens’ and ‘several amps’).
15 female. 16.67%
Of those 15:
– Samantha Blake, who’s dead by the end of the first chapter.
– “girl wearing a short skirt and a pair of sunglasses” noticed in passing.
– Police officer who says “hey” as protagonist flees.
– Tammy Rogers, a name at the top of a faux lawsuit decision
– “a couple” I’ll heteronormatively define as one male, one female, mentioned in passing.
– Bank teller with no dialogue who gives protagonist his money.
– Monica, off-stage wife of protagonist’s friend. Mentioned once.
– Lucy Crosby, the love interest.
– Miranda, identified (but never seen) as one of three trailer park residents.
– “my folks”, never seen, parents of a character that again, I’ll define as one male, one female.
– “…Old lady barfs up her nachos”. Only reported, never seen, so might be hypebole.
– Representative of Homeland Security, identified as ‘she’ in a faux newspaper quote.
– Janet Marino, the name attributed to a faux newspaper article.
– Unidentified “I hear a woman screaming from a trailer”.
In short, we have TWO female characters and one pitches herself from a roof seven pages in. The other, Lucy, is a Mary Sue created solely for the romantic attention of the protagonist. She’s thin and blonde , of course.
Wilson even manages to commit the ever-annoying trope of a father and son with absolutely no glimmer of a mother. Did the Dr. David Grey’s talents include growing a fully functional human being in a petri dish?
If this had been Wilson’s first novel, he’d have an excuse (even if it was only “I’m a privileged tool, but I’ll do better next time”). But seeing as it’s not, and that Robopocalypse managed to present women as something with substance, I really have to wonder what happened here. Where were his first readers, agent, editors and publisher? Was everyone so drunk off his prior success that they didn’t bother reading the manuscript?
The world of Amped had a lot of potential, but despite some great turns of phrase, Wilson doesn’t deliver. Not just because he’s oblivious to half the population (the half that also makes up the vast majority of book buyers and readers), but because he dodges the deep ethical questions that would’ve made this book required reading in classrooms. Truly unfortunate.