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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Shunt by Jason Arsenault is a science fiction tale of planet earth in the near future. PrimaCorp has developed a technology that allows humans to swap their unwanted thoughts and tendencies with someone else on the planet via the use of a small shunt surgically implanted in their necks and connected directly to the neural pathways in their brains. As with any technology, when the military sees a potential use for it, things can become problematic, and often ethics and common decency can fly right out the window. Jade is a young woman who had been fitted with just such a shunt to help her overcome the extreme grief and anguish she was struggling with over the murder of her little brother, a death she blamed herself for not preventing. The shunt seemed like a perfect solution for her until she starts experiencing weird dreams and believes they are linked to her surrogate’s thoughts. Hiring a hacker friend to discover her surrogate’s name and address, she determines to track him down and find out what is really happening. This will lead her on a chase around the world where she will uncover a major conspiracy between PrimaCorp, the government, the military, and one particular rogue employee high in the PrimaCorp structure.
Shunt is disturbingly and chillingly realistic, which makes it all the more fascinating. Author Jason Arsenault has crafted a tale that twists and turns in the best thriller/whodunit style. I particularly enjoyed trying to match the different characters from various arcs in the story to each other. Who was who’s surrogate was a feature of the plot. This is a fast-paced and exciting action story that drags the reader along, caught up in the excitement of what will happen next. I did like Jade as the lead character. Naivety and gentleness in her character made it easy to identify with her and empathize with the awful pain and suffering she had endured, blaming herself for her brother’s death. The idea of these shunts did not seem too far-fetched at all and certainly didn’t tax the believability factor of the story. The author was clearly knowledgeable or had researched well the concept and the possibility of such a product being developed. The idea of replacing our “bad” impulses with “good” ones from someone else was appealing but the question the story raises so eloquently was – where do those “bad” impulses end up and what effect do they have on the surrogate receiving them? In a world dominated by high-tech and the all-important algorithm, this is a timely story to perhaps remind ourselves that we tamper with creation at our own peril. An excellent read that I can highly recommend.