Radioland by Matt McHugh © 2011 Amazon Digital
Family man, Stephen, becomes addicted to a mind radio device that allows one to tune in on emotions experienced by others and thereby achieve an emotional rush. The addiction causes Stephen to become emotionally distant from his wife and his son, Steven, Jr., and the addiction ramps up when Stephen taps into the mind of a soldier in combat through a military mind device he is not supposed to be tapping into, and which he is warned to never, ever attempt to broadcast through. So, you know what Stephen is going to end up doing.
He does, and he gets in trouble for it, and that was basically the story. Stephen engaging with the soldier was touching at times and pathetic for how he provided a stranger what he refused to provide his own wife and son. Other than a few brief spats about Stephen spending too much time with his toy, we don’t see the effects of the addiction on wife and Jr. I wish McHugh would have made more of the family angle, as it was the only real source of conflict for Stephen, except for the last paragraph where he gets in legal trouble. Stephen, himself, has little problem with the addiction until his combat soldier’s frequency quits broadcasting for a reason you can easily guess.
The Stephen/Steven thing was confusing and only served to set up a brief mistaken identity bit at the end that advanced the story not one bit. The radio land of emotions is not a new concept, see Being John Malkovich, and McHugh failed to lay any junk science foundation to make his concept sound believable. Radioland fell short in the sci-fi, make-me-wonder department, as well as in the conflicted-main-character and surprise-me-with-a-twist departments. About all it had was a bittersweet relationship going on between Stephen and the unnamed soldier, which wasn’t enough for me.
It’s only available on Kindle, so I can’t recycle any paper. I’ll recycle the megabytes.