Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
autonomous (Annalee Newitz)
Author: Annalee Newitz
Publication Date: Available Now!! (hardback/ebook)
Well me mateys, while this be an interesting read, it certainly wasn’t what I was expectin’. I somehow expected it to be much better. It started out with a brilliant quoting of “the last Saskatchewan pirate” which be a shanty that all me crew should know and love.
Side note: if ye haven’t heard it then take a break and click on the link in the title above and give it a gander. Then come back and finish reading this log post. That be an order!
The first main character we meet is the awesome pirate, Jack. Ye see Jack is a reverse pharmacological engineer who takes lifesaving drugs from the major tech companies and recreates them in order to give them to the poor. A pharma pirate Robin Hood. Yup I was on-board immediately. Jack sells other black-market “non-necessary” drugs as her side gig to make the money fer her larger calling. Only she just released a reversed batch of drug called Zacuity to get said funds and unfortunately it be havin’ unintended consequences. Like death. Which goes against Jack’s ideals and desires. Can she make it right or will the pharma companies catch up with her and run her through first?
So yes great beginning. The central theme of the book seems to be that money in this version of the world does not make ye free and that everyone is either a literal slave to society or intellectually so. The world building was well done and realistic. The patent law in this book was a lovely concept. Everything belongs to someone else (usually a corporation) and so how money and information flows can be a mess. It isn’t overbearingly done. I’m just a nerd.
In addition to Jack there be robots and indentured humans and scientists etc. This is where I found most of me enjoyment of the book. I loved Paladin who is one of the military bots sent by the pharma to get Jack and to help quell any information about their drug having adverse consequences. Frankly Paladin was the reason this book was worth reading. Paladin is a recently made bot whose has the most growth in the novel. I very much enjoyed the perspective of this bot in terms of inter-robot interaction, trying to figure out how humans work, and personal exploration of how programming affected thought. Me other favourite character happened to also be a bot raised by human scientists.
Unfortunately I found most of the humans to less multi-dimensional. Jack has so much promise and then makes extremely odd unintelligent choices while on the run. The human side-kick to Paladin has a sexual urge for the robot and the subplot got tiring. Also the pacing was uneven and several times made me want to stop reading. And the ending was abrupt and extremely unsatisfying. I am not unhappy that I read this but it ended up being just okay. Awesome ideas but not enough payout. I am not saying don’t read this book. I just think there are better robot related books out there. Check out a recent read, sea of rust, for example.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!
Netgalley’s website has this to say about the novel:
When anything can be owned, how can we be free
Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.
Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.
And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?
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