Autonomous

Autonomous

Book - 2017
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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 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?
Publisher: New York : Tor, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780765392077
0765392070
Branch Call Number: F NEWITZ
Characteristics: 301 pages ; 22 cm

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GillReese
Aug 29, 2019

I really wanted to like this book. like, really. But in the end, I got halfway through and quit. Newitz imagines a world where in the year 2144, people are still throwing around homophobic slurs. Gender identity and sexuality are only tackled in the most bare-bones way, and the writing is difficult to get through. With a character description of "the clean fluff of his hair framed the graceful lines of his face and neck, making him look like a yaoi character" being a real actual line in this novel, the writing feels more like something I'd find on fanfiction.net than in a published novel. At least give me some AO3 writing!
The world and characters are all interesting, but after reading my 50th homophobic slur, I had to tap out.

r
rixonkj
Aug 05, 2019

Fun, punchy, vivid, adventurous. For fans of Cory Doctorow and Margaret Killjoy.

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TripodSnowDog
May 23, 2019

I wanted to love this book so badly, because of its sci-fi premise and the promised LGBTQ+ relationships. However, I found this book genuinely difficult to read. The characterization seemed... weak, and the romantic relationships sudden and forced. In addition, the book tried to tackle issues about gender presentation, identity, and conformity, all without actually tackling them, and the message sent seemed to be "Become what someone wants you to be so they will love you." With that said, having part of the book written from a human perspective and parts from a robot's perspective helped lend credence to the argument that everyone deserves autonomy - after all, if it thinks like a human, looks like a human, and acts like a human, doesn't that make it human?

onehalfofyouth Jan 24, 2019

I cannot wait for this show :O

k
KristiC_0
Aug 08, 2018

Two huge ideas - open-source drugs and true AI - that don't mesh together well. I would have liked to see the smuggling story and the cop story separated into two books. The cop character arc is simply unrelated to the job they happen to be doing.
That said, the book is still thoroughly worth your while.

y
yt373
Aug 01, 2018

Could've been an interesting story, with premises and characters that have plenty of promise. Unfortunately the characters are implausible and wholly unsympathetic, with the exception of Jack (though even she has her implausible thought lines). To spare repetition, I agree with many of the other reviewers' criticisms of the characters. The story, in its barebones events, could have been acceptable had the reader been able to care about the main cast, but instead I found myself rooting for the minor characters who, time after time, were thoughtlessly discarded. I read to the end, hoping the ending would redeem the book but I was disappointed.

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JLMason
Jun 05, 2018

This book imagines a plausible future 125 years from now where there are trade zones (no countries), biotech is used to enhance mood and connect one’s brain to the “internet” through microscopic, airborne motes, indentured servitude of robots and people is common for those who can’t pay to be enfranchised, and large corporations brutally enforce intellectual property ownership. Well done and very intriguing. However, the characters are two-dimensional and we don’t care about them. The intimate relationship between the agent and his robot is unsettling (does the robot really have free will?), but this is not examined. Most of the action takes place in (former) Canadian cities including a thawed arctic and the denouement happens in Moose Jaw by way of Saskatoon. So overall a reasonably interesting story, but not high quality SciFi.

forbesrachel Apr 02, 2018

Newitz addresses quite a few modern issues in such a quick-paced, engaging story, including gender identity,the moral obligations of scientists, and whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. The dichotomous concepts of freedom and slavery are the core themes though, and are examined from quite a few different angles. On the freedom side there is intellectual freedom, legal freedom, individual freedom, and even a type of freedom that one can gain by working outside the rules. As for the other, the author depicts a world where big corporations maintain their "rule" by indenturing people in one way or another. The class divide that they have exasperated through the patent system is key to this, but we also learn more about the different types of enslavement through the characters. There are the humans like Threezed who were raised to be sold, the people who have taken Zacuity (a drug which purposefully addicts them to their work), and there are the indentured bots who must work off their cost to obtain freedom. The majority of the narrating duties are split between the pragmatic pirate Jack, whose morally questionable side-job allows her the chance to do good, and Paladin, a war bot who seeks to understand their burgeoning individuality and sexuality. Both are complex and fascinating from the moment we meet them. Other characters are not as well developed, but are given enough voice-time to understand. While the main cast get their happy endings (which does feel a little out a place, even though it ends in the way we hoped), Newitz leaves one unsettling thought... the matter of justice. As corporations become more powerful, and bind themselves closer to the state, will anyone be able to hold them accountable for their transgressions both accidental and intended? What would it mean for the world if individuals and groups could easily shackle Lady Justice? The brilliantly written Autonomous is a warning against such a world. Our freedom and rights and societal well-being are the cost when these entities are left unchecked and under-regulated.

SCL_Justin Mar 07, 2018

I really liked Autonomous' approach to problem-solving. The story starts off with a pharma-pirate named Jack realizing that she exposed a drug company's shoddy addictive drug that kills people and trying to clean up her mess. We're also following Paladin, a bot who has the task of cleaning up the mess for the powers that be.

While we're in Paladin's head the more compelling part of the story is about the relationship the bot has with the HumInt agent Paladin's partnered with. It's enough to make you forget you're empathizing with a tool of the Man (at least until the action scenes happen and you're very aware of how brutal a robot can be). The hard problem isn't the interrogations and air strikes, it's figuring out how a robot's sexuality might work.

With Jack we get more history and how she turned into a drug pirate in the free-patent revolution. She partners up with an indentured human and an emancipated robot not just to try escaping with her life but to make up for the deaths her involvement caused.

The two storylines give lots of room to explore the concept of owning information to sentience and is well worth the read.

Video review here: https://youtu.be/m9Rrz823xrE

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.

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Hillsboro_BrianS Oct 24, 2018

Hillsboro_BrianS thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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TripodSnowDog
May 22, 2019

"We're going undercover and I need to look a little less pro," Eliasz said, glancing at Paladin. "And he needs to look a little less shiny."

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