“Implant” by J. Grace Pennington

Intense Sci-Fi Adventure

Implant_Resized Gordon Harding is supremely unlucky. After losing his parents, he discovers his health issues mean he has a life expectancy of five more years.

His one hope may be an experimental medical device, but before he can undergo treatment, he’s yanked into a dystopian world that challenges what he thought to be true.

Gordon wakes in a battle-zone world, where a group of worn, desperate rebels hides beneath an energy shield across from the uniform, militaristic control center, where the Head of the Academy of Science can kill anyone on the planet with the flick of a switch. Anyone except Gordon, who was pulled forward in time for the express purpose of destroying the control center.

At first, he isn’t thrilled about the idea. I was afraid Gordon was going to turn out to be a weak, bipolar hero with the way he couldn’t decide who to trust. He pulls himself together, though, and decides to do the right thing, although a crippling lack of self-confidence continues to dog his steps through the rest of the book.

This self-doubt is a major barrier to Gordon’s progress. He’s determined to not get involved, convinced that he’ll only mess things up and make them worse, but his own caring nature gets him invested in these people in spite of himself. His internal battle does have real consequences, and as people around him pay the price, he is forced to realize that indecision is not a neutral stance, and inaction can be as bad as an evil action.

This is an intense read. Several of the twists were foreseeable, if not disappointing. They made me feel smart for suspecting them, while other twists thrilled me with their unpredictability. When characters make mistakes, those mistakes often have fatal consequences, and the stakes ratchet up as the story races forward, even into the resolution.

I must admit, while the time-travel aspect makes this story possible, it also diminishes the impact of everything that happens. Character deaths are sad, but it’s hard to break your heart over them when you know (or at least hope) an alternate ending is possible in only a matter of time. Nevertheless, the characters have no luxury to reflect on this, and as friends and acquaintances fall before his eyes, Gordon must make a stand or accept complicity in all that has gone before.

Ms. Pennington reiterated the theme I enjoyed so much in her previous work, Never. This is the idea that right moral choices must be made, regardless of the pragmatic consequences. Gordon struggles with how to do the right thing, when he’s convinced anything he tries will create a new disaster. His two mentors, while polar opposites in many ways, both teach him that resistance and freedom are worth standing up for, even if – from a physical standpoint – you lose everything by it. You must choose to act, not because you’ll save your friend by doing it or even save yourself, but because it must be done – and if no one else is there to do it, you must.

In the end — no, I can’t tell you how it ends! I’ll just say that although the story resolves, it left some questions unanswered for me to puzzle over and imagine for myself.

Was the rebels’ experiment in time-bending successful? Did they change the world, and the outcome of the war? Or did they just manage to change one boy…and so change all of history with him?

Implant is a gripping tale that I had to put down during the climax to take a deep breath before continuing. And while the theme is profound and the values lofty, the characters’ stories are not yet complete, to me.

(P.S. I just want to say a word about the design. I read a paperback version of this book, and the production values of the hardcopy format are impressive. The volume has a technological/sci-fi feel that complements the sharp cover image, and while I would have chosen a different font, the overall attention to detail is impressive and exciting. I feel happy to have it on my shelf.)


Implant in available on Amazon (here), among other places. The author’s website is JGracePennington.com.

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