Autonomous

Autonomous

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
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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 cant 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 Jacks 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?
Publisher: New York : Tor, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780765392077
0765392070
Characteristics: 301 pages ; 22 cm

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JessicaGma Dec 14, 2017

I was going to add a comment here about how I enjoyed the book and such, but I now wish to read the book that PearlyBaker (who commented below) would write. I thought the premise was good with Jack being chased down by the corporation for IP stealing was great. A nice companion to this might be Walkaway by Cory Doctorow, where they too steal IP and provide goods for those who cannot afford them.

Beatricksy Dec 12, 2017

I was excited for this: drug pirates stealing formulas, duplicating them, and passing them out to the masses for enrichment. It sounded like the start of a really cool cyberpunky novel...but it went nowhere. It didn't properly explore its landscape, which is the bread and butter of SciFi. We didn't talk about how we'd reached this point, or what it meant for society in general. It was just a fact of life. The characters are flat, based purely upon their relationships. They don't seem to have any real personalities of their own beyond their sexual relations to each other. And the whole robot/human relationship was incredibly uncomfortable, with the way the agent mistreated Paladin. Mistreatment. A distinct lack of understanding for how robotics work despite it being basically his job, Paladin's distressing childlike innocence, the unnecessary pronoun swapping purely to make Elias happy since it's made abundantly clear that pronouns mean literally nothing to Paladin... It's not a story of LGBT empowerment as it seems to want to make you believe; it's weird and uncomfortable. It had some good ideas, and the discussion of robotic enslavement is fascinating, but there's so little to like in a book this long and meandering.

Michael Colford Sep 28, 2017

Annalee Newitz's debut novel, Autonomous, is a bit of a bait and switch. Newitz pits two forces against each other, both being fairly morally ambiguous. The year is 2144, and Jack is a pirate, basically a futuristic Robin Hood who fights against patent holders who make designer drugs that could help society impossibly expensive and unable for most people to obtain. Jack reverse engineers these corporate drugs and make street versions available to the public, acting as a great equalizer. But one of the drugs she reverse engineers starts killing people, she realizes that she must do something to both stop the spread of this drug, and also come up with a way to counteract the effects of bother her reverse engineered drug and the corporate drug that it was based on.

On her trail is law enforcement, who hold this piracy as the source of the problem, and send a team out to find and stop the pirates. Eliasz is a human officer, and his partner, Paladin, is a newly aware robot, military grade who is really just learning how to interact with humans. Their part of the story focuses both on their pursuit of Jack, and the developing relationship between the two.

Newitz creates a very plausible future world from strands of today's issues in bioengineering and copyright. While Jack is clearly breaking the law, and perhaps even occasionally making some bad decisions, her heart is clearly in the right place, and I read those around her as the "good guys." The problem is Paladin and by extension, Eliasz are just as much, if not more so, the protagonists of this story (as telegraphed by the title of the novel.) Therein lies my problem.

Paladin and to a far greater extent, Eliasz, are not very interesting characters, are much more hateful in their actions, and much more implausible in their discoveries. Yet by making the arguably the protagonists, Newitz expects us to care about them, and possibly even to root for them? While the novel didn't end as badly as I feared it might, it still lacked a certain satisfaction by focusing so much on the two less interesting characters. The bones of a great science fiction story are there, but the focus was too askew for me to enjoy it fully

p
PearlyBaker
Sep 25, 2017

There was a snitch from the Class of '87 who ruined and ended a 20 year tradition of students drinking on the Latin field trip. It's litcherally why I took Latin for this field trip of In Vinum es Veritas. My punishment during my 10 day suspension was to push mow a 6 acre lot that took me three days at which point I had to start over blisters be damned. Today I started work on my new farm which took me 8 hours to mow with a tractor. I'll get my technique down though. Anyway, I've been anticipating this book for over a year and pre-ordered the day it was available. I loved it but the drug they are on reminds me of me. I sat in inertia and depression for 3 years but big ups to Power Life Yoga who got me moving again and I have not stopped since. Once I get zeroed in on a project like my organic heirloom micro-farm I can't stop. Once my fingers hit the soil or the blade touches the grass I am engrossed and usually listening to an audio book thus killing two birds with one stone. Like in the book I do not hydrate enough and do not quit until it's too dark to work. This novel was incredible and probably close to accurate with singularity. However, I do think since we weaponize every new technology that it was mayhap a little soft and less dark than it might be. Like Sam Harris said this week, "We will only get one shot with Ai and we could become extinct if we do not do it correctly." I'm sure between Putin, Rocket Man, Isis, Xi Jinping and The Dotard it will be just fine. Oh and I hear the snitch is in to pegging these days and I am sure he is someone's confidential informant after getting busted with an 8 ball and a quarter pound of pharmaceutical grade amyl nitrate, but I judge no man. I sometimes think robots could do it all better anyway. We all help slow kill the earth and all her inhabitants with Dupont and Monsanto whose products and poisons we use everyday. I sure hope Annalee keeps writing fiction. It's like Robert Zimmerman said, "Someday, everything is gonna be different, when I paint my masterpiece. " This just might be it for her?

JohnK_KCMO Aug 15, 2017

Newitz's debut novel is action-packed, thought-provoking SF at its best! She tackles questions of identity, autonomy, gender, AI, biotechnology, corporate ethics, medical ethics, ecological collapse. But it's never unwieldy, never preachy, and her writing is confident, with an assured style and deep characterization. Highly recommended for long-time SF fans and new readers alike.

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