A dozen or two science fiction books I read as a kid always stood out in my mind, even if I’d forgotten their titles, authors, or even plots over time.
After posting on a forum recently asking if anyone could remember a book from the 1980s about people with slots in their neck, and chips that allowed them to perform functions and even slot personalities, someone responded with “The Integrated Man”.
Indeed, that was the book, and so I recently reread The Integrated Man by Michael Berlyn. I think I only read it once before, about thirty years ago, and yet it always stood out in my mind.
I was not disappointed on the reread. Plotwise, it’s about corporate power and employee slavery. The workers are given implants that allow them to slot a chip (console gaming style) to allow them to do their tasks, essentially turning them into biological robots. The protagonist, fighting to take down the ruthless company head, has his personality embedded on a chip, so that he can go from body to body, and he’s replicated on four chips, so he can exist four times over.
It blew my mind as a kid. As an adult, I recognize that the writing, characterization, and plot is a bit thin at times, but the core idea is just as tantalizing as ever. Brain implants, purely fiction thirty years ago, are now maybe twenty years away. And even without the implants, we’ve turned corporate workers into cogs that often don’t see the bigger picture and true impact of the companies they work for.
The Integrated Man is out of print, and not available for kindle, but a few used copies are available on Amazon.