is a 2010 science fiction novel by English author Kevin Brooks. Set in London, it follows sixteen-year-old Tom Harvey, an average teenager who is shot in the head while using his phone to call the police, resulting in fragments of the device being embedded in his skull. The incident gives Tom cybernetic abilities, including the abilities to retrieve knowledge, and to intercept and falsify digital signals using his mind. Tom decides to use his powers to fight the gang that attacked him and his friend. The novel has been adapted into a Netflix film of the same name.
The novel begins in the projects of south London, where Tom has lived his entire childhood. Though not an altogether dangerous place, the area is influenced by two local gangs known as the FGH and the Crows. Most of the gangs’ crimes amount to petty theft, but they have been implicated in a number of more serious crimes, including rape and murder, almost always without being charged. The gangs also actively recruit new members, a path that Tom has managed to keep himself away from.
One day, Tom’s friend Danny gives him a new phone, knowing that he can’t afford one himself. He encourages Tom to use it to get in contact with Lucy, a girl he has a crush on. Lucy asks Tom to help her prepare for the upcoming exams, and he agrees emphatically. They arrange to meet at Lucy’s apartment later that night. However, as he walks up to the door, he hears a clamor, and then witnesses a group of gang members, all wearing masks, fleeing the scene with a camcorder. He sees Lucy’s brother passed out; when he sees Lucy unconscious in her room, he realizes that they raped her and took a video recording of the act. Outside, he tries to run to safety, but is shot in the head while calling the police.
Days after the attack, Tom wakes up in the hospital. His doctor tells him that he has been in a coma; instead of killing him, the phone that struck his head embedded itself in his skull. That same day, he realizes that he can see and feel digital signals when he senses nearby phone transmissions. He resolves to use his newfound ability to find Lucy’s attackers one at a time to bring them to justice. Contacting Lucy, Tom learns that she has become a recluse since the incident, traumatized by her rape. He convinces her to leave her house to get a meal with him.
Growing increasingly vengeful about his and Lucy’s attackers, Tom uses his new ability to track down the location of the individual who gave the orders to stage the rape. He finds the leader’s home and breaks in, destroying many electronic devices. He steals a store of cocaine, planting it on Lucy’s aggressors, then sends an anonymous tip to the police. Though he lacks the evidence to get them charged for the rape, he hopes that putting them in jail will approximate the kind of justice they deserve.
Soon, Tom adopts the alias iBoy. He publishes his vigilante acts on the Internet as he tries to take down London’s underground drug trade. Eventually, the gang catches up to him, and his lucky streak ends when they set up an ambush. They beat him up, but he escapes before they can kill him. He makes his way home to find his grandmother is being held hostage. The gang’s boss, Ellman, threatens to kill her and Lucy if he does not return the stolen money. Tom concedes, helping Ellman recover his money, while ensuring Lucy’s safety as she is held hostage by her rapists in an unknown location.
Ellman’s men drive Tom to the place where Lucy’s kidnapping occurred. Tom calls the police, but when they arrive, they find no evidence of the men. Meanwhile, obtaining a gun from her kidnappers, Lucy tries to escape, but fails. Tom musters his remaining strength, causing all the cell phones of Ellman’s henchmen to detonate, incapacitating all but Ellman. Tom and Lucy catch up to Ellman, and Tom knocks him out using his mind. Tom awakes, again in the hospital, but with his grandmother sitting by his side.
At the end of the novel, Tom returns home and finds Danny waiting to apologize to him for revealing his identity to Ellman. He asks for his forgiveness, offering to pay him back somehow. Just then, Tom connects Danny to the rape incident, realizing that Danny may have orchestrated it. He rejects his apology and leaves to meet Lucy. Despite the supernatural content of iBoy
, Brooks merges it with a strikingly modern context, entangling problems of gangs, technology, and adolescence to suggest its proximity to a plausible future.