Autonomous: A Novel

Autonomous: A Novel

by Annalee Newitz


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Autonomous is the highly anticipated debut from science journalist and founder of the science and sci-fi blog io9 Annalee Newitz, a novel that explores humanity's technology and culture in a future where everything—and everyone—is a product.

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?

"Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the Internet."—Neal Stephenson

"Something genuinely and thrillingly new in the naturalistic, subjective, paradoxically humanistic but non-anthropomorphic depiction of bot-POV—and all in the service of vivid, solid storytelling."—William Gibson

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765392084
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 119,775
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ANNALEE NEWITZ is an American journalist, editor, and author of fiction and nonfiction. She is the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship from MIT, and has written for Popular Science, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post. She founded the science fiction website io9 and served as Editor-in-Chief from 2008–2015, and subsequently was Editor-in-Chief at Gizmodo and Tech Culture Editor at Ars Technica. Her book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction was nominated for the LA Times Book Prize in science. Her first novel, Autonomous, won a Lambda award, and her new novel The Future of Another Timeline is out Sept. 2019.

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Autonomous 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everything you could want in a robot/biotech/A I cyberpunk future adventure with likable characters on both sides of the conflict. Highly recommended .
19269684 More than 1 year ago
Because I review books, I do my best to stay on top of what's been recently released via Indie Authors and traditionally published authors. Sometimes I accomplish this. Other times, I'm playing catch up on some of the book stacks in my office. When I spotted Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz, I thought: This sounds like something I'd love to dive in to. At the time, I'd currently been in one physical book, so I purchased the audiobook. It's a sort of cop thriller, but the science fiction bits are what really drew me in. I loved the idea of independent cybernetic beings, and humans with cybernetic parts. Made me think of BladeRunner and The Lunar Chronicles, but more sciency. So Autonomous a good read? Picture Autonomous is the story of three characters. One sells scripts to keep the general public happy. The other is a set of officials who are trying to stop them. The first characters, Jack, sells drugs for a living but has realized the drug she's handling has caused an epidemic of erratic behavior in people. It's been tampered with and not for the better. Her guilt drives her to correct a wrong. The two officials, are doing their best to catch her- it doesn't matter that she's doing her best to make amends... or how she does it. She's guilty and needs to be caught! There was a great deal of potential in this book. Autonomous could have been perfect, but it was just too slow. It didn't hold me enough. The two officials, Paladin (a bot) and his human partner (Elias) were pretty cool, but Paladin was the most interesting of the two. Jack was boring and to me, didn't stick interest at all. She came off as a guilt-ridden Robin Hood- trying to give the people what they wanted. But They Were Drugs! It's written beautifully: prose, scientific subjects and dystopian world building and all, but it just didn't do the trick. Honestly, the world building wasn't that grand- I had trouble figuring it out. I didn't see what the author saw, making it difficult as well. You'll see. Check out Autonomous and become indebted to the drug... or not. Cheers! * Autonomous Annalee Newitz Published by Tor Books, September 2017 303 Pages
Anonymous 11 months ago
Very slow paced with great themes but an anticlimactic ending that left me very disappointed.
CaptainsQuarters More than 1 year ago
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. 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. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for me honest musings. Arrr!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
surrounding AI, pharmaceuticals, body mods, and patent law. Did I miss anything? Very engaging story.
Millie_Hennessy More than 1 year ago
I received this book for free from Tor in exchange for an honest review. This book is challenging to review – there’s so much to talk about, but so much you just need to read! It’s fantastic and deep and exciting and full of biting social commentary (probably more than I picked up on.) In this future, there’s an array of fantastic tech, like perimeter systems for your body that lie invisibly over your skin and can shock people and such, moving tattoos, robotic body parts and other mods (there’s a character who declares he makes custom genitals – that’s right folks, welcome to the real future!) There are self-driving cars, motes of internet in the air (I’ll admit, I really didn’t grasp that bit) and almost anything can be 3-d printed. Jack even has a knife with an algorithm (boy, do I really hate those) that can target certain people! That might sound pretty sweet, but this world has its downsides too. For instance, medicines are patented and unless you can afford to buy the patent you’re not getting the meds. Enter Jack, the pirate who steals and reverse engineers medicines and drugs so that she can sell the drugs on the black market in order to give the medicines away for free (a modern day Robin Hood, if you will). If we thought the healthcare system was built for profit now, it’s got nothing on this version of the future. In addition to pharmaceutical patents, there are franchises. No, not the kind we have now where you can buy your own McDonalds. You buy a franchise to essentially buy your freedom. Jack’s father bought franchises for his children so that they would be allowed to live, work and even attend school in certain regions. Parents who can’t afford a franchise watch as their children are indentured after a certain age. Depending on the contract, the indentured may not live to gain their freedom (this aspect also speaks to the autonomy theme of the book.) Speaking of the indentured, most of the robots are “born” indentured. This is a rather significant part of the plot, as not everyone believes a bot should start their life that way. Most bots never finish their contract, despite ten-year limits. In theory, once their contract is finished, a robot can gain an autonomy key. I could probably write a book’s worth of thoughts on all this, but it’s better if you just read this book. I love the depth Newitz gives to the robots though. There’s a robot who was born autonomous, raised by humans and attended medical school. There’s a robot with a human brain used solely for image processing. There are gender-swaps, despite robots really being non-gendered. There are different levels of bot intelligence and autonomy too. They feel like real characters and I love them. Look, I could go on forever, so I’ll just say this book was a great read. Before I wrap up, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote: “He’s an outsider, too. Everybody is an outsider, if you look deep enough.” If you enjoy medical sci-fi (like Mira Grant’s Parasitology trilogy) and awesome robots with deep personalities (like C. Robert Cargill’s Sea of Rust) with a dash of found family (like Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series) then I think you’ll enjoy Autonomous. I, for one, can’t wait for more fiction from Newitz and sincerely hope we see more of these characters.
Keladin More than 1 year ago
Autonomous is a highly entertaining cat-and-mouse story that muses on themes of healthcare, gender identity, and free will. It paints a future where anyone and anything can be owned if you had the money for it--this includes humans, robots, and yes, healthcare. It's also, unexpectedly, a love story. We switch between two primary POVs--Jack Chen, the anti-patent pirate, and Paladin, the newly minted military bot. Jack is a middle-aged bisexual Asian woman, which makes her a unicorn in the realm of SFF protagonists. She's gruff, kind of jaded, but still tries to root for the downtrodden. But the title of MVP has to go to Paladin. Paladin serves as bit of a contrast to Jack, being young and inexperienced, with a dash of wide-eyed naivete. They are insecure in their body image--believing themselves too big and bulky for people to feel at ease around them--and gets tongue-tied (so to speak) in social situations. The bot nevertheless persists in their efforts to understand and fit in with humans. They are at once endearing and relatable. Seeing Paladin grow in confidence and sense of self as the story progresses was by far my favourite part of the story. We get a diverse handful of secondary characters that orbit these two, all of whom are interesting and wonderfully flawed. On a side note, this is also the first non-Canadian novel I've read that features Saskatchewan and the lower mainland of British Columbia in any detail, so kudos to Annalee for that! Overall, this is a fun, intelligent read, and definitely one of the standout sci-fi novels of 2017.