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Autonomous

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Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addi Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.


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Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addi Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.

30 review for Autonomous

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

    Jack has a history of aligning herself with rebel causes. She is pirate in the sense that she reverse engineers drugs and distributes them to the public for reasonable prices. When a stimulant begins to manifest deadly addiction, Jack sets out to try and bring down the manufacturer responsible for overlooking the side effects. Having distributed a knockoff version of this drug, Jack finds an agent/bot duo, Eliasz & Paladin, hot on her tail. So really, I must say the only area in which this book m Jack has a history of aligning herself with rebel causes. She is pirate in the sense that she reverse engineers drugs and distributes them to the public for reasonable prices. When a stimulant begins to manifest deadly addiction, Jack sets out to try and bring down the manufacturer responsible for overlooking the side effects. Having distributed a knockoff version of this drug, Jack finds an agent/bot duo, Eliasz & Paladin, hot on her tail. So really, I must say the only area in which this book met my expectations is the writing style. I think the straightforward prose worked well alongside the scientific subject matter & provided a good contrast between the expectations of the society (slavery) and the desires of the main characters (autonomy.) But unfortunately, this positive stands alone in a sea of negatives. First up is the characterization. I can't tell you with honesty that I connected with any of these characters. I wanted desperately to like Jack, but I think the "Robin Hood" label from the synopsis is a bit of a reach. Yes, she wants to give to the poor but not necessarily at the risk of taking from the rich. This label set up an expectation in my mind that the character did not meet. Her personality is mostly flat & uninteresting & there's too much of a focus on who she's sleeping with at any given point in the story. Eliasz & Paladin are characterized almost entirely through their interactions with each other. We get the sense that Eliasz is a tough, does-what-needs-done type & Paladin in an innocent, curious bot. Paladin is probably the most interesting character in this book, but I am incredibly disappointed over how the situation between these two characters developed, and so I'll save those details for the spoilery section of my review. Next is the world building. Or mostly lack thereof. From what I understand, there is a system of indentured servitude amongst humans & bots. Pharmaceutical companies have a strong presence in the everyday lives of citizens. But what else??? I can't tell you much about this world otherwise. How did it come to be? What's the political structure? How do cities function? There's some talk of holographic info screens only the user can see & watches with internet panels but nothing incredibly distinct from the technology you'd expect to see in a "futuristic world." Now for the plot. Do you ever read a book & feel as though its ending is a foregone conclusion? That's how I felt reading this book. It takes forever for the plot to develop. Usually I'm a fan of a slow build, but none of the sections prior to the climax served much of purpose or held my interest & thus ended up feeling like slow trudge through thick mud. On top of this, there is entirely too much emphasis on romantic engagements between characters & it took me pretty far out of the story. ***Below this point I'm going to discuss a development between Eliasz & Paladin that DID NOT sit well with me at all. It will contain spoilers, but I think at the very least it deserves to be pointed out since this book is being hailed as LGBT+ friendly.*** So for most of this book, there is sexual tension between Paladin & Eliasz. Paladin can read Eliasz's physical reactions & notices things like his heart rate speeding up whenever they're together, or him developing a boner occasionally. Paladin begins wondering if sex with Eliasz is a thing that can happen, and decides to research the topic in his down time. Eventually a conversation pops up between the two where Paladin is testing the boundaries of Eliasz's interest, and brings up the topic of military bots receiving sex education. He may have mentioned it in a m/m context, I can't remember. Elias responds by saying something like "I don't know anything about that, I'm not a faggot." So Paladin, having never heard the term "faggot" before, decides to research it & try to discover why there's such a discrepancy between Eliasz's physical reactions vs. what he says. Paladin also discovers that the human brain he has been implanted with once belonged to a female soldier. Upon revealing this information, Eliasz asks Paladin if he should start using female pronouns instead of male pronouns. Paladin, realizing that he probably won't be able to sleep with Eliasz if he keeps projecting a male persona onto him, says yes & begins using she/her pronouns. A couple scenes later, Paladin & Eliasz are sleeping together. Because Paladin's a female now, and Eliasz doesn't have to worry about being a "faggot." During sex, Eliasz is saying things like "I knew I wanted you. I must've known subconsciously that you were really a female." For the sake of not ruining any more of the plot, Paladin & Eliasz live happily ever after. Now, this entire set up leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. There's no real addressing Eliasz suppressing his sexuality or his homophobic use of the word "faggot." We find out that a childhood bully called him a "faggot" once, and can assume he's perhaps a bit sensitive about being considered gay, but there is no moment where adult Eliasz realizes that being gay or bisexual is not a negative thing. There's also no meaningful discussion about Paladin's gender identity. There's a lot of emphasis on how pronouns mean nothing to bots, and are entirely used to make humans feel more comfortable. So Paladin's switching from male to female pronoun use doesn't effectively create a transgender robot character, because Paladin expresses multiple times how he could care less about gender identity as a whole. Paladin changes his gender identity entirely to assuage Eliasz's fears about being gay & the fact that that path is presented as their only path to happiness together sort of throws up warning flags in my head. The narrative tries to spin it as the first real moment of agency Paladin experiences, but it doesn't change the fact that the motivating thought behind the decision is "As a male I can't sleep with Eliasz, as a female I can, so I guess I'll be a female for his sake." Like??? I'm not sure what exactly the takeaway is from this plot point. If the book wanted to tackle the idea of a transgender or nonbinary robot, I think it missed the mark entirely. It doesn't help that Eliasz comes off as an asshole & is never corrected or made to acknowledge that he has homophobic tendencies. For all intents & purposes, Eliasz & Paladin run off into the sunset together & that's the end & we're supposed to be happy about it I guess? Perhaps if the event of their forming a couple had not been spun in such a sympathetic light, I would be less uncomfortable. Because no, I do not sympathize with Eliasz, & it's difficult to see the conclusion of the best character in the story be what I'd consider an abusive relationship disguised as a "happily ever after." Now, important thing. I'm not telling you to boycott this book. Go read it & see for yourself how it makes you feel. I actually would love to hear more opinions about this particular point of the story. I've talked with a couple people who agree with me that it doesn't make much sense, but my opinion is just that: an opinion. Even outside of this major issue, I didn't enjoy this book much. The synopsis sounds amazing, but the story does not deliver. Much of the time I felt as though I were reading a Young Adult Science Fiction novel, and I couldn't connect with it in the way I hoped I would. Thank you Kaylin for reading this with me (at least for 38% of the time, haha!)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wil Wheaton

    I loved this. It did for AI and Patents and Biotech what Neuromancer and Snowcrash did for the Internet. The stuff I loved the most is all spoiler-y, so I'll just say that there are two competing narrative characters, who are at clear odds with each other, and each is the villain in the other's story. The thing that Annalee Newitz does so well (and she does everything well in this book) is to make each of these characters not only the hero of their own story, but to allow us to identify with the I loved this. It did for AI and Patents and Biotech what Neuromancer and Snowcrash did for the Internet. The stuff I loved the most is all spoiler-y, so I'll just say that there are two competing narrative characters, who are at clear odds with each other, and each is the villain in the other's story. The thing that Annalee Newitz does so well (and she does everything well in this book) is to make each of these characters not only the hero of their own story, but to allow us to identify with them when they take control of the narrative. Each is flawed and tragic and heroic in their own way, and I can't recall the last time I read a book that handled the conflict so elegantly. I highly recommend AUTONOMOUS.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    Man: Hey Blue Bot, you’re looking good. Blue Bot notices Man’s erection. Blue Bot: Did you want to have sex? Man: No! I’m not gay! Blue Bot researches humans on the internet. Blue Bot replaces its blue carapace with a pink one. Man: You’re pink?!?! Why are you pink? Pink Bot: I decided this was me. Do you want to have sex? Man: Yes! After sex. Man: Did you enjoy that? Pink Bot: I enjoyed that you enjoyed it. Man: I knew you were a woman. The best I can say about this book is that it reminded me of Malka Old Man: Hey Blue Bot, you’re looking good. Blue Bot notices Man’s erection. Blue Bot: Did you want to have sex? Man: No! I’m not gay! Blue Bot researches humans on the internet. Blue Bot replaces its blue carapace with a pink one. Man: You’re pink?!?! Why are you pink? Pink Bot: I decided this was me. Do you want to have sex? Man: Yes! After sex. Man: Did you enjoy that? Pink Bot: I enjoyed that you enjoyed it. Man: I knew you were a woman. The best I can say about this book is that it reminded me of Malka Older’s The Centenal Cycle. Near future topically focused stories with lots of factions, nerd love, and chasing. Also the covers... But this was not as good by a long shot. It also had the worst sex scenes I’ve ever read. “When they kissed, she could taste the political analysis he’d described during the Freeculture meeting.” “She could taste a nuanced ethical understanding of the patent system all over his body.” I’ve read tentacle porn with more heat.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    This is a book that you are either going to love or just not get. Newitz has painted a pretty grim picture of the future, similar to that portrayed in Company Town by Madeline Ashby and in After Atlas by Emma Newman. What all three of these books have in common is a future where people are basically commodities, like everything else, and the division between the haves and have-nots has grown as much as we can imagine. Newitz provides a wonderful story for exploring the nature of autonomy, or free This is a book that you are either going to love or just not get. Newitz has painted a pretty grim picture of the future, similar to that portrayed in Company Town by Madeline Ashby and in After Atlas by Emma Newman. What all three of these books have in common is a future where people are basically commodities, like everything else, and the division between the haves and have-nots has grown as much as we can imagine. Newitz provides a wonderful story for exploring the nature of autonomy, or freedom. Freedom not only for the AIs, or sentient bots, in the story but also for the humans, who are equally subject to laws of indenture. I loved following Jack's tale, her evolution from idealist scientist, to attempted reformist within the law, moving ultimately to pharmaceutical piracy. It is such a timely question really - when faced with injustice, is it better to work within the bounds of the law, or to take matters into your own hands and do what is required to help people regardless of the consequences? Jack's story is one of a kind of vigilante justice, recognizing that even vigilantes have to make a living and pay the bills somehow. The parallel story of the property police after her, a militant officer named Eliasz and his military grade bot Paladin, is equally compelling. Eliasz is clearly damaged, and filled with fervour for his cause, but the reason for this is initially unclear. Paladin is a newly created bot, filled with questions about his/her identity, feelings, role, future, and past. Following the two of them, watching their relationship deepen and develop, seeing their relentless pursuit of Jack, is strange and at times terrifying, but also ultimately hopeful. I suppose I can see why some people would not like this book. It does pose some disturbing questions and paints a very grim picture of a future even more defined by property rights and corporate might than we have today. Despite some brutal and violent scenes, it also shows some people and sentient machines working together for a better and more hopeful future. If you liked the other two books I mentioned above, or are curious about them, then I would put this one on your reading list as well. For me, Autonomous is going on my favourites shelf for 2017.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    3.5ish stars. An interesting, well-written, near-ish-future SF novel with some compelling ideas. It reminds me a little bit of Malka Older's idea heavy Infomocracy, although I liked Older's book a little bit more. I didn't find this extremely engaging and never felt strongly pressed to continue reading, but I did enjoy it consistently. The ideas outshine the characters, and I didn't connect with any of them except for Paladin, an indentured robot working toward "autonomy," and, to a lesser extent 3.5ish stars. An interesting, well-written, near-ish-future SF novel with some compelling ideas. It reminds me a little bit of Malka Older's idea heavy Infomocracy, although I liked Older's book a little bit more. I didn't find this extremely engaging and never felt strongly pressed to continue reading, but I did enjoy it consistently. The ideas outshine the characters, and I didn't connect with any of them except for Paladin, an indentured robot working toward "autonomy," and, to a lesser extent, Threezed, an indentured human experiencing autonomy for the first time. Newitz also explores sexuality/gender identity in some different ways, while not making them a direct focus of the narrative - for example, Paladin is a genderless robot whose human partner, Eliasz, projects his own expectations, desires, and ultimately his suppressed homophobia, onto Paladin. Paladin takes it, and even allows Eliasz to change the pronoun he uses for Paladin from “he” to “she” just to appease him (Paladin, being genderless, doesn’t care, but wants Eliasz, who is sexually attracted to Paladin but doesn’t want to be a “faggot,” to be comfortable). Obviously an icky situation, and Newitz obviously does not try to present it as a healthy representation of gender identity because that's obviously not the point she's making, and not all characters in literature are saints. Newitz shows that Paladin has the right to choose how to handle, and ultimately learn from, the relationships presented, which I appreciate, even if it's not resolved like a Becky Chambers novel. Others have expressed discomfort with the inclusion of this particular aspect of the novel, and though I can't speak to it from the perspective of an LGBT+ individual, Newitz herself is a member of the community (her partner is Charlie Jane Anders, a trans woman, and talented author of All the Birds in the Sky), meaning, if nothing else, that she has a distinct frame of reference that I respect. Just a reminder that having a homophobic character in a book does not mean the book or its author are homophobic any more than a book involving a murderer means the book or its author is condoning of murder (this book has its fair share of that as well). Some of the focal subject matters of the book are property rights, economics, and Big Pharma, which are not really of huge interest to me, but I respect it as well-written and worthy of the praise it's received. Posted in Mr. Philip's Library

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Pirates and bounty hunters on the high chemical and electronic frontier! Add a bit of transgendered robot issues, a bit of do-gooder pharmaceutical mayhem, and time split between labs, parties, sexual repression, and a few really big questions explored deftly and interestingly, and we've got ourselves a very interesting SF. Let's look at the top layer a little. Slavery issues. The novel takes them on for both robots and humans equally. I'd expected that from both the blurb and the cover, of cours Pirates and bounty hunters on the high chemical and electronic frontier! Add a bit of transgendered robot issues, a bit of do-gooder pharmaceutical mayhem, and time split between labs, parties, sexual repression, and a few really big questions explored deftly and interestingly, and we've got ourselves a very interesting SF. Let's look at the top layer a little. Slavery issues. The novel takes them on for both robots and humans equally. I'd expected that from both the blurb and the cover, of course, but I don't think I expected the writing to have such good world-building thrown in. The whole chemical and big pharm complications were neither simple or dismissable, and that was only on the human side. What would a world be like with open patents and sharing of chems and development, all of which is still being slowly strangled by capitalism? Take it a bit farther. Now let's start programming or deprogramming ourselves since we're so reliant on our own biologies. Seriously, this is some pretty neat stuff and while we've had a bit of a discussion in this field for decades already, Newitz makes a cool tale and makes some very deft comparisons and mirroring here. The tale itself if good if not spectacular. I had a good time. Still, I obviously appreciate the explorations of the messages more than anything else. :) Thanks, Netgalley, for the ARC!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)

    DNF @ 38% This is marketed as a robin hood esque tale, featuring Jack sneaking pharmaceuticals to the poor and dodging the authorities. Two of those said authorities are Paladin and Elias, a military robot with a human processor and their handler, who chase Jack and develop feelings for each other. While all that's technically true, there's no emotional impact with any of this. We are thrust into a story without any feel for the character's or the world. Jack hardly has a noble quest to deliver m DNF @ 38% This is marketed as a robin hood esque tale, featuring Jack sneaking pharmaceuticals to the poor and dodging the authorities. Two of those said authorities are Paladin and Elias, a military robot with a human processor and their handler, who chase Jack and develop feelings for each other. While all that's technically true, there's no emotional impact with any of this. We are thrust into a story without any feel for the character's or the world. Jack hardly has a noble quest to deliver medicine to poor people, but outside of selling drugs for money....I don't know what else she wants? I have no feel for her personality or aspirations or anything. This is largely the same for Paladin and Elias, who are defined primarily through their relationship. In fact, there seems to be some issues with this relationship and the supposed LGBT+ rep. This is spoiler-filled and I didn't get to the majority of it, but my lovely Buddy-Reading partner did. Check out Mary's review for more info on that! There's some interesting science at play, told through a straight-forward prose, and the plot is well-developed, but it still feels random. It's like things are just happening. Characters do things and I don't understand their motivation. Plot moves forward and no one reacts. There's no emotional attachment to anyone or anything and I just don't care. (Also the blurb says something abut someone named Joe and I don't know who that is, I don't think they exist)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/10/19/... I’m not having much luck with books this month. Autonomous was another highly anticipated sci-fi title that sounded very good from its premise, but ended up fizzling when the story fell short on the follow-through. Featuring a bold and daring female pharmaceutical pirate who makes a living bootlegging high-priced upmarket drugs in order to help the poor, I thought for sure this would be a winner, but ultimately neither t 2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/10/19/... I’m not having much luck with books this month. Autonomous was another highly anticipated sci-fi title that sounded very good from its premise, but ended up fizzling when the story fell short on the follow-through. Featuring a bold and daring female pharmaceutical pirate who makes a living bootlegging high-priced upmarket drugs in order to help the poor, I thought for sure this would be a winner, but ultimately neither the characters nor the plot turned out to be what I expected. Meet Jack Chen, an anti-patent scientist who travels around the world in her submarine. Through reverse engineering, she is able to reproduce the most expensive drugs and make them widely available to those who can’t afford them, though her latest project appears to have hit a snag. The drug in question is Zacuity, which is supposed to increase productivity levels by making the subject feel good about work, making it a must-have for anyone hoping to remain competitive in the job market. However, a string of recent reports about people addicted to their jobs—to the point of insanity or even death—has gotten Jack a little worried. Horrified at the idea that her bootlegged drugs could have led to these lethal overdoses, she decides to do some investigating of her own. Before she can get far though, she is alerted to an intrusion on her submarine, leading her to meet a young indentured slave named Threezed who had stowed away along with his master in an attempt to steal Jack’s merchandise. Meanwhile, the makers of Zacuity are also aware that the drug might be behind these tragic incidents, and they have plenty of reasons to keep the public from finding out that they are complicit. Since Jack’s pirating activities and efforts to find an antidote have been threatening to bring all of this crumbling down, they’ve hired a couple of agents from the International Property Coalition to take care of her and all the evidence. The two IPC operatives tasked to do this—a human named Eliasz partnered with a recently activated indentured military bot named Paladin—waste no time combing through Jack’s shadowy history for any clues that would help them track her down, and in time their work together gradually develops into a deeper emotional and physical closeness. Autonomous gets us off to a good start, introducing a dystopian-like world in which nation states have all but disappeared, replaced by economic zones dominated by mega-corporations. As a Robin Hood-esque protagonist who targets drug companies to help the downtrodden, Jack Chen was someone I took an immediate liking to, and the fact that she smuggles her pirated pharmaceuticals in a badass submarine certainly didn’t hurt. Furthermore, when the addictive side effects of Zacuity came to light, they were at once so horrifying but so fascinating that I just couldn’t help but be drawn deeper into the story’s premise. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm didn’t last. After a promising intro, the plot begins to fray around its narrative edges, abandoning the intrigue and suspense in favor of Jack’s relationship engagements and bedroom dalliances, both in her past and present. Granted, the author also attempts to weave in important societal messages and themes amidst all the drama, exploring everything from the exploitative practices of big pharmaceutical companies and their drug patents to the issues surrounding a commercial society that considers both sentient robots and humans as nothing more than chattel. Indeed, there are a variety of relevant and topical discussions to chew on here, ranging from autonomy and free will to individual identity and gender roles. It’s all very interesting too, despite this story turning out completely different from what I’d expected based on the publisher description. Had the ideas been better executed, I might even have enjoyed it more, but in the end I get the sense this book is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. Any points it was trying to make were either garbled or lost in the sea of noise, and no other aspect of this story illustrates this better than the relationships between Eliasz and Paladin/Jack and Threezed. There are obviously parallels between the two, but if there’s supposed to be a takeaway here about the complicated power dynamics and the role of gender construct in matters of sex and romance, I’m not sure it got through very well, coming across as rather awkward and insufficient compared to other books that have tackled these topics. I really wanted to like Autonomous—especially following a recent string of disappointing reads, I was really hoping for a good one—but what began with a great premise bolstered by some clever and interesting ideas ultimately became a dull and lifeless affair. That said, my patience is not the best these days and it’s possible my mood was a factor in my experience. Hopefully others picking this up will have a better time than I did. Audiobook Comments: Jennifer Ikeda is familiar narrator to me, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of her performances in the past. It’s a shame I didn’t like Autonomous better, but I could find no fault in terms of her narration or quality of the audiobook production itself. I definitely would not overlook the audiobook edition if you prefer this format.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Autonomous is the excellent debut novel from lauded science journalist Annalee Newitz. Set in the year 2144, Jack makes her living pirating pharmaceuticals to help people who can’t afford life-saving medication. To pay the bills, she also pirates drugs like Zacuity, a kind of legal speed that is supposed to help people focus at work. She discovers too late that Zaxy, the makers of Zacuity, failed to disclose evidence of potentially deadly side effects that are magnified in people using her pirat Autonomous is the excellent debut novel from lauded science journalist Annalee Newitz. Set in the year 2144, Jack makes her living pirating pharmaceuticals to help people who can’t afford life-saving medication. To pay the bills, she also pirates drugs like Zacuity, a kind of legal speed that is supposed to help people focus at work. She discovers too late that Zaxy, the makers of Zacuity, failed to disclose evidence of potentially deadly side effects that are magnified in people using her pirated version of the drug. Knowing that big pharma will send the authorities to hunt her down, she has precious little time to both find a fix for Zacuity and reveal the truth about Zaxy’s malfeasance. Meanwhile, the cops assigned to find her, Eliasz and his new robot partner Paladin, find themselves succumbing to the normally repressed sexual tension that ripples through the usual buddy-cop flick, as they mow down everyone who stands in their path to Jack. The world-building alone elevates Autonomous to near-classic status, right down to the details of how semi-autonomous AI interact. The relationship between Eliasz and Paladin is certainly the most entertaining of the two main plot threads; their assumptions (or lack therof, in Paladin’s case) about their sexuality are fertile ground for both satire and pathos, which Newitz mines to great effect, even if the action scenes are a little over the top. Jack’s story sags a bit after a terrific start – the midpoint of the novel is wrought with an excess of melancholy flashbacks and moral hand-wringing. Newitz does stick the landing though, as the convergence of their stories makes for a satisfying conclusion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    unknown

    It would be hard for any book to live up to superlative cover blurbs from William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, but Annalee Newitz comes damn close with her debut, which is as much about the future of medical ethics and big pharma as it is the awakening of a fascinating artificial consciousness. (It's also a stealth romance novel—maybe the strangest, most oddly affecting I've ever encountered.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Avery Delany

    As a trans reader, I am really angry and upset with this book due to its homophobia and transphobia. *This book was received through NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review* Autonomous was one of my most anticipated reads of Autumn 2017 and I was ecstatic when I received a copy on NetGalley to read for free in exchange for a review. To some extent, Autonomous did not disappoint and yet, to another extent, Autonomous is downright homophobic and transphobic. Let’s start off with what’ As a trans reader, I am really angry and upset with this book due to its homophobia and transphobia. *This book was received through NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review* Autonomous was one of my most anticipated reads of Autumn 2017 and I was ecstatic when I received a copy on NetGalley to read for free in exchange for a review. To some extent, Autonomous did not disappoint and yet, to another extent, Autonomous is downright homophobic and transphobic. Let’s start off with what’s good about Autonomous For those who don’t know anything about the book, Autonomous flips between two-three main narratives. The first being our bisexual Asian female pharmaceutical pirate, Jack, who is cast as a medicinal Robin Hood type figure. She’s hardcore anti-patent and spends her time reverse engineering drugs to bring them to poor people who will otherwise die without medicine, but something goes drastically wrong when she reverse engineers a new work-stimulant for some extra money which ends up making people become addicted to their work to a dangerous degree. The second and third narratives follow military pair Eliasz and Paladin. Eliasz is a Polish military agent with a haunting secret, and Paladin is his military grade robot whom he falls hopelessly in love with while on the hunt for Jack. So, we have a hardcore rock’n’roll bisexual, Asian female pirate protag, and a gay human-robot couple. Sounds pretty fucking cool right? And it is… to begin with. There are certain elements of Autonomous that I loved. I have recently (accidentally) been on a bit of a robotic reading spree… A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, and now this. I felt that Newitz somewhat contributed some interesting discussions about robot sentience, human nature, love, emotions, autonomy, etc and I also really enjoyed a lot of the scientific worldbuilding. We get to know a lot of detail about Jack’s work, how she achieves it, and explore the ever-expanding grey areas of science, health and ethics. There were some characters that I loved, namely Paladin and Eliasz, and that’s what made it hurt all the more when Newitz throws in a twist in the narrative seemingly out of nowhere. What’s wrong with Autonomous? Discussions of homophobia, transphobia and slavery Warning: there will be spoilers in the discussion below mainly because it’s hard to discuss exactly what is wrong with the book without being able to go into detail, and also because I think all readers should be warned of what’s lurking in the depths of Autonomous. (view spoiler)[ As I previously mentioned, Autonomous is set up in such a way which interests us in the blooming romance/sexual desire which sparks early on between Eliasz and Paladin. Human-robot relationships are something I’m very interested in so I was super excited about that, and also that we were presumably getting a human male-robot male romance which I was very pleased about. Everything goes really well, to begin with. I began to get really invested in the characters, in their relationship, in Eliasz’s struggles with his internalized homophobia. But then Newitz does something really odd. Instead of having Eliasz confront his homophobia and come to a resolution about his feelings towards Paladin, she has Eliasz CHANGE PALADIN’S PRONOUNS TO MAKE HIMSELF MORE COMFORTABLE ABOUT HIS ATTRACTION. Robots don’t have gender and this is discussed at some length in the book, especially by Paladin who really doesn’t get what the big gender deal is about. It is mentioned multiple times that Paladin doesn’t care about gender because it is irrelevant to them. This would’ve been a GREAT TIME to make some really great points about gender and to actually have a gender-neutral character. But nope… instead we have Paladin become a vessel for Eliasz’s homophobia… he changes Paladin’s gender to female, uses female pronouns to refer to them, and ONLY HAS SEX WITH PALADIN once this has occurred. Towards the end of the book, Paladin even does some research about “transgender humans” and comes to the conclusion that Eliasz anthropomorphizes Paladin as a trans woman. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU WRITE A TRANS CHARACTER I found the imposed female gender on Paladin hugely offensive. As a trans person, I have had this done constantly to me by cis people (predominately cis men) who either didn’t want to acknowledge my masculinity, and so pretended they were having sex with a woman to avoid their homoerotic desires, or have had cis gay guys tell me they can’t identify with being gay anymore because having sex with me is like having sex with a woman. Rather than Newitz using Paladin to make a fantastic point about gender, Paladin’s gender only serves to make a CIS MAN feel COMFORTABLE with his desires. In fact, he forces a trans identity onto Paladin in order to achieve this. This is so offensive I cannot even… Writing this and remembering what happened is actually making me so angry. I felt extremely hurt, I felt stabbed in the back, violated, degraded, and exploited. (hide spoiler)] The last issue I had with the book was the parallels that were drawn between indentured robots and indentured humans. On NetGalley, the page for Autonomous asks “Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?” As a white person, I don’t think I can comment too much on the issue of slavery and I would be really interested to hear from POC who have read Autonomous and what they thought about these comparisons. My impression is that this is not a comparison that Newitz should be drawing, especially when the book focuses on the indenture of robots and marginalizes the experiences of human slaves. Overall, I am quite… upset by Autonomous. I went into the book with absolutely no idea that there was a trans narrative embedded within and to be quite frank, reading the treatment of Paladin actually made me physically sick. Please feel free to comment below on any thoughts you had if you’ve also read Autonomous, and also please do pass a warning along to any queer people, especially trans people, you know who are thinking of reading the book so that they also don’t have the shock I had when reading this. Additionally, if you’re looking for a positive human-robot relationship with kickass queer representation I would highly, highly recommend Becky Chambers Wayfarers series, especially A Closed and Common Orbit in which the female robot is the protag.

  12. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    This was odd. Raises a lot of questions about autonomy, freedom, moral responsibility, and especially gender, but doesn't really address them once raised. eg this is a society based on bots when AI is sufficient to give them individual consciousness, and the question of autonomy is explored quite a lot there, but it's also based on indenture, where by people can sell themselves *or other people* into slavery, which is barely tackled at all. The narrative's assumption is that human slavery is alw This was odd. Raises a lot of questions about autonomy, freedom, moral responsibility, and especially gender, but doesn't really address them once raised. eg this is a society based on bots when AI is sufficient to give them individual consciousness, and the question of autonomy is explored quite a lot there, but it's also based on indenture, where by people can sell themselves *or other people* into slavery, which is barely tackled at all. The narrative's assumption is that human slavery is always wrong, but the social decision to reintroduce a legal human slavery system when bots are well established is glossed over in two lines, and made no sense to me. (The cast is mostly POC including the enslaved character; race is not addressed.) Equally, there is a major plot strand about a soldier and his military bot. Bot is ungendered because, er, robot; soldier sees bot as male because military; soldier is sexually attracted to bot but has massive homophobia; bot IDs as female to please him; soldier is then happy to embark on a love affair with her; bot remains ungendered in own consciousness. I'm pretty sure this is meant to be a consideration of the absurdity of how people deal with gender, in that the soldier is happy to be having sex with a walking metal weapon as long as he can apply the pronoun "she". (And I don't think this is intended to say anything about transness although you might well feel it does anyway.) But it's hard to tell because the soldier's homophobia is never addressed, nor is his attitude to gender examined, nor does the bot reach any conclusions, nor do we address the question of someone adopting a specific gender identity to satisfy someone else's desire, which is...quite large. Plus the soldier and bot are brutal torturers and murderers in the service of an evil corporation and utterly amoral, yet we're presented their love story as the main emotional heart of the book and the soldier is shown to be passionate about autonomy and morals when it comes to enslaved children, and that contrast isn't addressed either. Basically, the author seems to have made a conscious decision to present a whole lot of chewy ideas and then not to chew on them. We don't dig into/engage with it, morally or emotionally. Maybe that's so the reader can draw their own conclusions, maybe the author doesn't feel there are conclusions to be reached, but in the end the lack of engagement left me unsatisfied. Though I obviously had a lot to think and say about it, so there you are.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Well…ummm…just uh…hmmm. At first blush this one almost had me convinced that it had poignancy. Chalked full of meaning and depth. The longer I thought about it, the harder it was to find importance. Just a smidgen. OMG, who am I kidding? I tried, goodness I tried to find the substance in this superficial sci fi fluffy candy with hard, sharp edges. Frankly, it is beyond my ability. Pharmaceutical companies have found dominance in this near future landscape and Jack is a pirate who reverse enginee Well…ummm…just uh…hmmm. At first blush this one almost had me convinced that it had poignancy. Chalked full of meaning and depth. The longer I thought about it, the harder it was to find importance. Just a smidgen. OMG, who am I kidding? I tried, goodness I tried to find the substance in this superficial sci fi fluffy candy with hard, sharp edges. Frankly, it is beyond my ability. Pharmaceutical companies have found dominance in this near future landscape and Jack is a pirate who reverse engineers drugs so that they can be produced at a lower cost and sold to the poor and free clinics. Problem is that a very expensive drug that she reverse engineered basically kills people by working too well. Government and authority structures of course blame the pirate and thus is the plot. The novel becomes a chase with some flashbacks about why Jack became a pirate. Intersperse the personal dynamics in this world where a variety of characters are robots and super intelligent AIs, partially organic machines, and humans who are indentured adding a separate layer of oppression. When they have done their time in servitude they become Autonomous hence the title. Humans are born Autonomous, robots, machines and AIs must use an Autonomous key to become completely self-aware and self-reliant. Interesting concepts. The reach far far far exceeded the grasp. Triple far!! Miss #1: Unsympathetic characters both human and non-human. Did not like or feel for a single character. Not one. Miss #2: There was just a terrible attempt to describe an awakening of emotion/sentience in AI's. She tries to do it by making a robot fall in love and to do it in such a way that it notices and is trying to detail every moment of the awakening. Here Newitz is trying trying trying to be poignant and meaningful and deep and it ssssttrrrrrreeeettttcccchhhheeeessss credulity. The ending was just… Nope. Miss #3 The sex. My goodness the sex. Honestly for me it was not organic, didn't add to the story and for the most part was almost completely gratuitous and salacious. The attempt at sexual intimacy culminated with multiple encounters between a homophobic human male and his non-gendered AI whom he has dubbed a female and declared undying love. Jack the pirate is sexually fluid sleeping with a variety of genders et al. I guess the next century is full of trisexuals. Try anything. It found it disappointing and uninspired. The treatment of sex in the novel came across to me as juvenile. Again, just…no. I think there are concepts in the novel that were fascinating. The sociological aspects and how Newitz extrapolated corporations, the government (complicit), AIs, a civilization where indentured servitude is the currency, how sexuality in the future was more accepting (except the stereotypical homophobe who was a cliched authoritarian). Also there is some really interesting science and technology. But on the whole, for me this just wasn't very good. It's been a few years since I've disliked a book. I guess I was due... 2.75 Stars Listened to the audio book. The narration by Jennifer Ikeda was very good but it could not overcome the material.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    A breathtakingly well-imagined tour of Earth in the mid-twenty-second century where climate change has progressed to the point that the arctic is the new frontier for development and robotics, nanotech and biotech have reshaped our societies. Governments now come a distant second to powerful corporations and the International Property Coalition (IPC) acts with unchallenged lethal force to protect property rights. and both humans and robots can be indentured as slaves. Pharmaceutical patent pirate A breathtakingly well-imagined tour of Earth in the mid-twenty-second century where climate change has progressed to the point that the arctic is the new frontier for development and robotics, nanotech and biotech have reshaped our societies. Governments now come a distant second to powerful corporations and the International Property Coalition (IPC) acts with unchallenged lethal force to protect property rights. and both humans and robots can be indentured as slaves. Pharmaceutical patent pirate Jack runs afoul of the IPC when a drug that she has reverse-engineered from one of the major corporates is linked to a string of deaths. As she struggles to survive against the forces hunting her, she needs to come up with a solution for the problem that she has caused while showing that the corporation that she pirated the drug from is responsible for the element that makes it deadly. As we get Jack's story and back story, we also follow two IPC agents, the human Elias and his new partner military robot Paladin and their extremely odd relationship. This story was amazing and one of the best futurist pieces I've read, neatly extrapolating political, technological and social trends to a future that in places seems like a dystopian hell and in others as a form of utopia where nearly everything can be cured and long youthful life is a reality. It all comes across feeling very ordinary to the people living in it though. Jack's point of view is an interesting one as an outsider explicitly opposed to some of the worst elements of this society, but Paladin's point of view is the most fascinating. AI characters are usually quite interesting and are something of a fashion in SF at the moment. I would put this portrayal up among the best of them at the moment including All Systems Red and Illuminae. The characters are great, the science fiction is great and the density of ideas and ruthlessly thought-out world building is incredible. A fantastic debut and among the best novels of the year for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Great, geeky hard-SF exploration of tech-aided transhumanity, and how it brought slavery back into fashion. A timely cautionary tale on the fragility of civil liberties. There are a few first-novel rough spots, and a slightly creepy ending. Overall, 4.5+ stars, rounded up One of my mental tests of any hard-sf novel is, has the writer done her homework? Nobody can write intelligently about a topic like this without reading the prior art, and without some basic grasp of what's going on in the rele Great, geeky hard-SF exploration of tech-aided transhumanity, and how it brought slavery back into fashion. A timely cautionary tale on the fragility of civil liberties. There are a few first-novel rough spots, and a slightly creepy ending. Overall, 4.5+ stars, rounded up One of my mental tests of any hard-sf novel is, has the writer done her homework? Nobody can write intelligently about a topic like this without reading the prior art, and without some basic grasp of what's going on in the relevant sci-tech world. Happily, Newitz has done both. Some of the research, she even got paid for! She has the further advantage of a Science Journalism Fellowship from MIT, and is young and sporty: She also writes characters I care about, with believable (if sometimes depressing) lives, plenty of ACTION, a little heavy on the DR EEVILL! Corp_rat villain. Hey, it is a first novel. Gary K. Wolfe strongly recommends AUTONOMOUS, http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Her novel "tackles two issues that are much in the news: the life-and-death power of big pharmaceutical companies and the possibilities of artificial intelligence. ... her provocative ideas make this one of the strongest first novels of the year."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Hmm, let's see if I can write a coherent review to figure out some of my issues with this book! This pairs very well with Madeline Ashby's Company Town, in terms of being a speculative futuristic cyberpunky novel starring a female Asian lead, largely set in Canada, and interested in issues of slavery, bodily autonomy, body mods, and sustainability. I love that we're getting these fresh new takes on what the future might look like; they're extensions of what we're seeing today, especially with th Hmm, let's see if I can write a coherent review to figure out some of my issues with this book! This pairs very well with Madeline Ashby's Company Town, in terms of being a speculative futuristic cyberpunky novel starring a female Asian lead, largely set in Canada, and interested in issues of slavery, bodily autonomy, body mods, and sustainability. I love that we're getting these fresh new takes on what the future might look like; they're extensions of what we're seeing today, especially with things like smart devices and wholly integrated networks that have seeped their way into our lives and our bodies. For the first half, Autonomous was on track to possibly be a five-star read from me. It was suspenseful and intriguing! But whereas there was a lot of emotional resonance in Company Town (I love that book), unfortunately all of the characters eventually fell flat for me here. 'Artificial intelligences learning how to human' is literally one of my top favourite storylines, so the character of Paladin should have been my everything, and yet... I think the main problem is that, at only 304 pages, there wasn't enough time whatsoever to flesh out all four main characters and sell them to the reader. I also hated, hated both of the main romantic plotlines, which severely plummeted my appreciation the further in I got. The climax is super abrupt and dissatisfying, too; a single confrontation suddenly fizzles out and leads to all problems being solved forever, and a saccharine denouement. BUT THE GOOD: It's a cool world, I love the worldbuilding, I love its non-Euro-centric focus, and Judith "Jack" Chen herself as a badass middle-aged bisexual patent pirate of Chinese descent. I enjoyed the reading experience, since it's a short, streamlined actiony cyberpunk novel. It's doing some interesting things in terms of unlikeable characters, and having you sympathising both with the Robin Hood-esque pirate and the antagonists hot on their trail, and I would love it if more books delved into the pursuer like this. I liked the core conflict of the manufactured productivity drug gone wrong -- big pharma and cutting corners, also relevant today. My very favourite thing was anything from the bots' POV, and how Newitz was careful to have it reflect in the prose and how Paladin interacts with & senses the world (and this changes several times, as she gets modded or loses functionality), the communication between the bots, their signals and verifications. It's just unfortunate that I hated half of the characters (Eliasz and Threezed are on my shitlist, whereas I like Jack and Paladin), and the plot loses its momentum and fizzles out. Since this is Newitz's first novel, though, I'm willing to forgive the characterisation/plotting issues and still read more from her in future, because her ideas are goshdarn cool. I'll discuss my problems in more spoilerific detail below the jump! ======== HERE BE RAMBLING SPOILERS (view spoiler)[Goddamnit, I actively hate Eliasz/Paladin as a relationship. (Which is a real bummer, considering I am generally really down with "human falls in love with robot", as in Mass Effect, Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series, I even ship some of the androids in the Alien series, etc.) And I dislike it for several reasons: for one, Eliasz is barely introduced at the start, so we have no idea of who he is or what he looks like or what he's like, apart from the fact that he growls and calls Paladin "buddy" a lot. I feel like we're supposed to like Eliasz & Threezed and root for them, but I found them both so flimsy and poorly-constructed, just a thin veneer of characterisation (Eliasz is homophobic and damaged! Threezed is sardonic and damaged! woooo). Eliasz's sexual overtures are unbelievably pushy -- the sex scene with Paladin skeeved me out because of how he shoved her into the bedroom and just grabbed her -- and I hate his utter inability to even attempt to understand bot gender, and I'm skeeved out by Paladin's loyalty protocols to him (it! is literally! named! "good doggie"!!!), and felt like it perverted the entire romantic arc. I wanted an ending where she realised how gross he was, deactivated those protocols, ripped out his spine, and escaped to the wider world to be a fully autonomous bot by herself. (I mean, I love Ex Machina and Westworld, soooo...) For similar reasons, I also hate Threezed's immediate sexual relationship with Jack, because of the exploitative nature of it; he's a traumatised indentured slave, offering her sex because it's the only thing he knows, and she says yes. There was an utter lack of connection between them and suddenly the narrative started bandying about the word 'love'. It just boils down to this: I cannot support any romantic connection between these characters because it was born on such unequal ground, with such unequal power dynamics. Threezed and Paladin are liberated by the end, but I can't shake the skeeviness of how it began. (The whole Threezed thing also got on my nerves because Jack trusted him far too quickly. And then he recklessly broadcasted details that led the authorities straight to their doorstep, and somehow Jack didn't pick up on it along the way; she was supposed to be a paranoid loner, and yet wasn't monitoring or checking his network usage? Excuse me????) Paladin's pronoun-switching also seems like a stand-in for a trans storyline, but the narrative is very, very clear about the fact that Paladin doesn't give a damn about her pronoun; it is, in fact, utterly inconsequential to a robot. It's framed as consent, but dressed around the grossness of her choosing a pronoun switch purely so she can have sex with Eliasz and he won't think of it as "gay". The story doesn't even begin to address or resolve Eliasz's homophobia. Which could have been fine -- not every character needs to have their issues tied up with a neat bow! -- but since the narrative is investing in a romantic relationship and a happy ending together for them, I am just so aggravated that the couple doesn't even begin to address their issues. I never bought an emotional connection between them either. Even Jack's background has a Tragic Gay Backstory, except her love interest just comes across as an obnoxious manic pixie dream girl -- and the backstory was probably supposed to deepen Jack herself, but instead comes off as a perfect example of the Bury Your Gays trope. I thought the plentiful backstory flashbacks also bogged down the novel, robbing it of some momentum. (hide spoiler)] All of which sounds very very harsh! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this novel fine, I just had a looooot of problems with where it chose to go -- while I was reading, I could feel myself going "welp, down it goes to 4 stars", then 3, then 2.5. Anyway, them's the breaks. A loooooot of people have five-starred this book so I got my hopes up too high too, which might have been part of the problem. :( brb running off to find other books about A.I. learning romance that I might like more

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is a dark, grim future. It is also an outstanding book that deals with complicated issues like autonomy, freedom and gender constructs. One of my favorites this year.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zachy

    Newlitz is clearly relying on the networking goodwill she and partner Charlie Jane Anders have built during their time on io9.com to drum up hype and the usual uncritical, breathless praise from undemanding readers and those who form a part of a community that feels the need to support an author beyond the quality of the work in question. After experiencing extreme disappointment over the marketing blitz for Ander's All the Birds in the Sky and the complete failure of the book itself to live up Newlitz is clearly relying on the networking goodwill she and partner Charlie Jane Anders have built during their time on io9.com to drum up hype and the usual uncritical, breathless praise from undemanding readers and those who form a part of a community that feels the need to support an author beyond the quality of the work in question. After experiencing extreme disappointment over the marketing blitz for Ander's All the Birds in the Sky and the complete failure of the book itself to live up to the hype, I made a decision not to read Autonomous. My resolve was partially broken after reading a blurb from Neal Stephenson on the front cover: "Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the Internet." Neal Stephenson, author of Snowcrash, the seminal cyberpunk novel of the 90s, is comparing Autonomous to Neuromancer, THE cyberpunk novel that birthed an entire genre? Ok, now you have my attention. That intrigued me, so I decided to give Autonomous a chance. Three chapters in, it was obvious that Neal had engaged in some serious hyperbole and my disappointment and frustration reached a point where I did what I rarely do...I put the book to the side and decided not to continue reading. Boring dialogue, generic descriptions, yawn-inducing action, unbelievable sequences of events—a robot has its arm shot off by its trainer and shortly thereafter the trainer refabricates the arm in some sort of 3d printer that apparently is programmed to output the myriad of complex mechanical and electronic elements one would expect to find part of a robotic arm and hand, and does so in a matter of a few minutes—most of the boxes you expect to see checked in the "don't do this" chapter of a writing guide seemed to show up within the first 20-30 pages. Is it fair to give this book one star? Maybe not, since I haven't finished it. But the marketing hype suffers from some serious truth-in-advertisingitis, and I am tired of seeing authors or other creators get attention based on their connections and publishing deals.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    This review contains spoilers. I have quite the contradicting thoughts on this book. The premise is very interesting and innovative. The main theme of freedom versus ownership is comprehensibly written into the world with its patents and ownership (of medicine) as well as into the characters who are in different stages of freedom and ownership themselves. However, even as an autonomous person freedom is not a given. The questions the author raises in her book are important and thoroughly depicted. This review contains spoilers. I have quite the contradicting thoughts on this book. The premise is very interesting and innovative. The main theme of freedom versus ownership is comprehensibly written into the world with its patents and ownership (of medicine) as well as into the characters who are in different stages of freedom and ownership themselves. However, even as an autonomous person freedom is not a given. The questions the author raises in her book are important and thoroughly depicted. Consent is highly doubted and is actually more often lacking or dubious. The problem is that this life has become normal, thus leaving people unaware of the concept of consent in a way. What about free will if a human slave doesn’t even want to say no? Can a robot with the programming to please their owners make decisions in their own interest or even develop genuine feelings, even if they think they are? While for the contemporary reader these are usually easily answered questions, the book shows a not so far away future in which the people living in it can’t. What makes this setting even more horrible is the matter of fact description of it. The author does not shock with future horrors and maliciousness but with the normalcy of it. You have to pay attention and keep steadfast in your no, your conviction that this is wrong. I have to say that I am not convinced of the supposed freedom and autonomy that the protagonists find in this book. Moreover, I wonder whether writing this kind of happy ending is doing more harm than good, to be honest. The story would have been better as an even bleaker dystopia that shows the full extent of the problem and not trying to sell us some half-arsed solution. I have also pressing concerns regarding the queer representation. Firstly, not all of it feels natural but more like an addition, a feature that is supposed and wanted to be there but not really integrated, which makes it a bit weird and educating and, honestly, not very appealing. The relationship between Eliasz and Paladin is deeply problematic. Paladin is an AI and has no gender, but humans do not understand that and assign them a gender that fits into their stereotypes of gender roles. However, when Eliasz, for some to me totally unexplainable reasons, develops feelings for Paladin, he will not follow up on his attraction because Paladin was assigned a male identity and Eliasz does not want to be “a faggot”. Now. To make it short, Paladin finds out that their human brain once belonged to a woman, which makes Eliasz incredibly happy, and since Paladin as a robot doesn’t care about gender, he just matter of factly becomes a woman to please Eliasz, all the while letting him believe that gender matters to them as well. See, not only is this homophobic and transphobic (sure, let’s just adapt our gender to satisfy our lover) in my book, it doesn’t even make sense to me because if I imagine a world a hundred years from now, the future bigots would not (primarily) care about gender and same-sex issues. This would definitely come after the concerns about a relationship between a human and a robot, which would, of course, be unnatural and what have you. Funnily, that is no problem here. Add to this Paladin’s lack of consent and autonomy, their relationship is completely dysfunctional, and I don’t buy the half-hearted attempts to convince me of the truth of Paladin’s feeling because Paladin clearly is not a reliable source and I just can’t take their word for it. Actually, I can’t believe I am saying that, but the book would have been better without any queer representation at all. It’s not like the premise didn’t have enough going for it. Then, and these following points are actually the main reason for my low rating, the plot development is way too slow and there are too many details bogging down the reading flow. I could have done without Jack’s chapters from the past, for example. But they are only one element of what this book’s problem is because the plot and the characters and their reactions and… Everything is entirely spelled out for the reader. We get every point of view of every time, so there is nothing left for us to figure out and engage in. There is no suspense because throughout the whole book we accompany both the pursuers and their quarry. Even the message of the book is explained to us several times. My dear reader, if you still didn’t get it, here, I have this article that person X once wrote. *sigh* I love the premise and the scientific part of this book is awesome and really profound and… Man, the execution is just so boring and belittling and problematic. ____________________________________ Genre: Science Fiction Tags: Queer Characters, Robots/AI, Slavery, Pharmacy, Patents Content Warning for: Slavery, Dubious Consent, Rape, Child Abuse, Abuse of Power, Drug Abuse, Addiction, Forced Drug Injection, Violence, Murder, Torture, Homophobia Rating: 2 stars Bog: Review for Just Love Disclosure: ARC for Review

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    Video version of this review: https://youtu.be/5sDMuuc-9t0 Autonomous begins when Jack, a pharmaceutical pirate, discovers a stowaway on her submarine. Said stowaway is trying to steal her pirated drugs, so she kills him... and then is saddled with his very poorly treated indentured slave, Threezed. Then she finds out about a drug epidemic... caused by a work productivity drug she pirated and spread, which is now causing people to work themselves to death. So, Jack wants to fix this problem. And s Video version of this review: https://youtu.be/5sDMuuc-9t0 Autonomous begins when Jack, a pharmaceutical pirate, discovers a stowaway on her submarine. Said stowaway is trying to steal her pirated drugs, so she kills him... and then is saddled with his very poorly treated indentured slave, Threezed. Then she finds out about a drug epidemic... caused by a work productivity drug she pirated and spread, which is now causing people to work themselves to death. So, Jack wants to fix this problem. And she'd like do it, and disappear, before the military agent Eliasz and his indentured robot partner Paladin catch up with her. This novel is mostly told from Jack and Paladin's points of view. Jack is trying to contact her old connections, from before she went to prison and became a pirate, to create and disseminate an antidote to this drug Zacuity. She'd also like to take down Zacuity's creator, the corporation Zaxy, while she's at it - since that does fit with her history of fighting against pharmaceutical giants that patent the crap out of drugs so that sick people can't afford them. Paladin's side of the story is about a naive, indentured military robot going on its first real mission... and dealing with its human partner's sexual interest in it. Paladin is not autonomous. Its slowly discovering the extent of what it has control over, and questions whether it feels a certain way because that feeling is its own, or if it was programmed or ordered to feel that way. And that's it - this book is about autonomy. Autonomy is independence or self-governance - or freedom of will and action. One of the things that surprised me the most in this story was the rather awkward and uncomfortable situation between Paladin and Eliasz. Wherever you have sufficiently humanoid robots, or any robots at all, you will invariably encounter the humans that want to have sex with them. Newitz doesn't just explore that, but also how the legal status of robots has led to the same treatment of humans, including indenturing children who are body modified or sold into the sex industry. So, with Paladin and Eliasz, there are so many things going on here. Unequal power dynamics: indentured robot with autonomous human. Unequal life experience: baby robot with older human. Robot issues of gender, sexuality, and self-identity, paired with a clueless human who's trying to force the robot into perhaps inappropriate human categories of gender and sexuality so that the human is more comfortable and able to avoid homophobic self-hatred. Yeaaaah. This really made me think beyond my initial assumption that this would be a kind cute human robot love story. It's not! And therefore this is one of the best parts of the book to discuss, along with those drug patent ethics. (And given how problematic this is, I do have thoughts about the ending: (view spoiler)[I could not get over the sense that Eliasz really didn't see Paladin as a person, but more as a fetish object that he's shaping into what he expects. So Paladin goes off with him into the sunset, and it was disturbing. Did Paladin choose this? Or did Eliasz choose and Paladin still has little autonomy because of Eliasz's expectations? (hide spoiler)] ) I enjoyed so much about this novel actually. I was fascinated by Jack's history, and what science has achieved in this future - good and bad. It was also really cool to read a science fiction novel that focuses on the pharmaceutical industry, and specifically addresses issues that our world is currently having with drug patents and large drug corporations. The story also moved very briskly. Characters are literally moving fast - the hunted and the hunters - and there's a real ticking clock in the background making the action urgent. And perhaps its the fast pace and the relative shortness of the novel that make it skimp a little on... something. A lot is thrown at the reader fast, and there's barely any time to slow down and chew on the information and the issue of autonomy during the story. I would love to read more science fiction novels like this. I enjoy space opera or hard science fiction set in deep space, on alien planets, and on space ships, but it's also nice to pull back and focus deeply on a specific issue in the near future on Earth.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    Update: Just met Annalee in Swedish Con and got her autograph. She was super smart and sweet! Original review: Thank you, Coode Street Podcast, for this amazing recommendation. I first noticed Autonomous from Gary and Jonathan's convo, where they basically gushed about this book. Then one day, they interviewed Newitz. I was sold. It seemed to be a promising cyberpunk, which is a genre that I try to provide a second chance to, following my first bad experience with Neuromancer (which I did finally Update: Just met Annalee in Swedish Con and got her autograph. She was super smart and sweet! Original review: Thank you, Coode Street Podcast, for this amazing recommendation. I first noticed Autonomous from Gary and Jonathan's convo, where they basically gushed about this book. Then one day, they interviewed Newitz. I was sold. It seemed to be a promising cyberpunk, which is a genre that I try to provide a second chance to, following my first bad experience with Neuromancer (which I did finally finished in the second attempt!) I liked it more than I expected. In just 300 pages (give or take), Newitz managed to include 1) evil patent-grabbing corporate, and 2) the problem of robot/human autonomy/indenture. I am enjoying the angle of corporate takeover is coming from the super powerful pharma companies (they are already very powerful nowadays), in which advanced pharma products can bring longer life and nearly permanent youth, but harshly enforced patents just made class division even worse since only the wealthy could afford those products. Scary products those were. Annalee revealed that she herself had an awful experience with performance enhancing drug recommended to her, during a WorldCon nonetheless. She said she spent an interview with Joss Whedon shaking like hell due to the side effect. In this novel, the world-building was believable with the eroding nation-states and the established special economic zones where countries got merged into one regional union. Well, if ASEAN could not be a supranational entity like the EU, maybe it will someday. Anyway, there are also a lot of unsettling details, like when they use dead people's data (including faces) from Facebook to construct androids. This book, I warn you, can make the readers very uncomfortable. No, I'm not talking about rape, but there were some scenes that forced you to expand your understanding and expectation on gender, power, and sexual relations. Let's just leave it at that. What I love about this book, though, is that the author did explain the whys. The book is pretty straightforward and nicely packed. Really, among all the SFF doorstoppers nowadays, you almost have to always rely on novellas if you want to enjoy a shorter work. Thanks Annalee, and all other 300-page stand alone novel authors!

  22. 5 out of 5

    RG

    Alot happening in this novel. I normally love character driven stories, but I felt the relationship between Eliasz and Paladin was a little forced. I enjoyed Jacks character but wasnt overly involved. Pace was slow at times and a little random, at stages I felt the author was confused as to where to take the story. Solid world buidling if a little hazy at times. Strange way to end but I guess thats the direction she was going for. Still enjoyed the scifi elements.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    You have to watch out for those robots. Never know when they might develop thoughts of their own. Or sexual orientations, kinks, and an understanding of the way humans misunderstand them. Autonomous plumbs the depths of humanity through split narration. Annalee Newitz follows a very human, and very flawed, anti-patent crusader and a pair of patent-enforcement agents, one of whom is a self-aware robot just starting out. As the two stories unfold, so too does Newitz’s vision of a 22nd-century Earth You have to watch out for those robots. Never know when they might develop thoughts of their own. Or sexual orientations, kinks, and an understanding of the way humans misunderstand them. Autonomous plumbs the depths of humanity through split narration. Annalee Newitz follows a very human, and very flawed, anti-patent crusader and a pair of patent-enforcement agents, one of whom is a self-aware robot just starting out. As the two stories unfold, so too does Newitz’s vision of a 22nd-century Earth altered by economic upheavals, global warming and climate change, and AI evolutions. The powerhouse blurb from Neal Stephenson on the front of my edition—“Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the internet”—is as intriguing as it is exciting (not to mention the vague but squee-worthy blurb from Gibson himself on the back!). More on that later. I picked this book up in the hopes it would get me out of a two-book slump, and I wasn’t disappointed. Newitz’s narration is crisp and clear. I love how she paints the picture of a very different society without descending too far into extraneous exposition. The nature of her ideas has a strong Doctorowish quality to them, but she eschews Doctorow’s tendency towards overly-didactic hypothetical conversations (this is not a criticism of Doctorow, mind you, but there is a time and place, Cory). Autonomous is a short book, but it feels like a lot happens and it covers a lot of ground. I love that. Our initial protagonist is Jack (Judith) Chen. Once an ambitious grad student, she realized in her younger days that her path lay outside academia. After a protest leads to a stint of jail time, Jack disappears, resurfacing as an anti-patent pirate who reverse-engineers drugs so she can sell them to people who can get them in the hands of those who can’t afford the pharma versions. Jack is a high-tech biohacking Robin Hood, in essence, though she is no saint. I quite enjoy how Newitz unfolds Jack’s backstory through flashback throughout the novel, revealing enough to interest us and provide insight into her character without distracting us from the main thrust of Jack’s plot. Soon we meet the flip side of the coin. Eliasz and Paladin are enforcement agents who have jurisdiction to go after people infringing upon patents (among other things). One is an experienced Polish man and the other is a military-grade robot with a dead person’s brain in her carapace that is basically just for facial recognition processing. As they begin working together, they also develop a close personal relationship. Eliasz expresses an attraction towards Paladin that is mixed up with his misinterpretations of Paladin’s gender. (Paladin nominally uses he for the first part of the book, then switches to she mid-way through, for reasons I’m not going to get into here, which is why I’m using she/her throughout my review.) This allows Newitz to comment on some interesting ideas around sexuality, gender, and embodiment. Although she never goes as deep, perhaps, as I’d enjoy, there are some nuggets in there worth exploring. These two plots take a long time to dovetail, but the parallelism is entertaining in and of itself. Newitz is exploring issues of identity and autonomy (surprising, I know) from different sides. Jack nominally has so much autonomy, being essentially a free spirit and a free agent, yet she is constrained by resources, by having to keep out of reach of law enforcement, and by the ghosts of her past. Paladin, in her capacity as an IPC agent, has more resources and, essentially, a license to kill, yet she lacks true autonomy—her very memories are accessible to IPC botadmins, stored as they are in the cloud. On a wider level, mostly in the background and occasionally intersecting with the main plot, we glimpse a society that allows human indenture, sells enfranchisement and citizenship packages, and has basically rethought what it means to be a participatory member of our society. As a result, Autonomous ponders what power we will have and the form our social capital will take if we enter a world where governments are fading-to-nonexistent and corporations vie with economic coalitions for control over the fabric of our society. This is the type of science fiction I love, and I appreciate how Newitz tries to walk the fine line between gushing and speculating and extrapolating like the sci-fi–loving nerd she is and dangling just enough tantalizing ideas in front of the reader to get us gushing and speculating and extrapolating about it. This is the novel’s strength: it offloads much of the cognitive load onto the reader but does so in a way that is neither demanding nor disappointing. I want to return to that Stephenson blurb. Taken at face-value—which is, I’m sure, how the marketing department would like you to take it—this is quite a coup, this comparison between Autonomous and Neuromancer , arguably one of the touchstones of cyberpunk. Yet let’s step back for a moment and consider another interpretation: Stephenson says this book is “to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the internet”. If you’ve read Neuromancer, you know that its depiction of cyberspace is nothing like what we ended up with online. Gibson’s novel was prophetic in some ways, certainly, but it was highly limited to a very 1980s vision of what a networked society could be. The elapsed decades have since demonstrated marked divergence with Gibsonian cyberspace. And so, Stephenson is doubly correct here. Autonomous, like Neuromancer, presents a breathtaking look at how the relatively new fields of biohacking and autonomous AI might work in the future. At the same time, it is a prophetic look constrained by the current situation of our early twenty-first century. I have no doubt that we’ll look back at Autonomous 30 years from now and see that our society has already diverged a great deal from what Newitz shows us here. This is not a criticism—it would be odd to ding an author for not being able to predict the future, unless, of course, they are claiming some kind of psychic ability. Rather, it’s a reflection upon and reminder of how our perceptions of science fiction change over time. The people who read Neuromancer when it came out had a very different reaction to me reading it as a 19-year-old in 2009 who pretty much matured on our own version of cyberspace. Similarly, I’d be very interested in what future readers think of Autonomous as technology like 3D-printing, self-driving cars, and organically-grown limb replacements becomes more ubiquitous. Newitz’s debut novel provides me with a great mixture of story, food for thought, and characters. There are times when I think she could have done more. And I’m ambivalent about Eliasz and Paladin’s ending—part of me thinks it is corny and trite, and the other part thinks it’s kind of sweet, and an innovative twist on an old trope. I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts on this. On the whole, though, Autonomous is definitely worth picking up if this is the kind of fiction you’re into.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carlex

    Three and half stars A very good cyber/biopunk story, which also deals with transhumanism. Awesome worldbuilding and sense of wonder, and a plot development more than correct. I enjoyed it!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    ...well. I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed. I was somewhat enjoying this for a time. While I found this book slow-moving and everything up to the climax a little boring, I was hoping for some more plot development and enjoying Jack's character. But I'm put off by one relationship I felt was unhealthy and heavily disliked. Be warned there are spoilers ahead. At one point, a character (Paladin) who has up to this point identified with male pronouns changes pronouns partially to appease a rom ...well. I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed. I was somewhat enjoying this for a time. While I found this book slow-moving and everything up to the climax a little boring, I was hoping for some more plot development and enjoying Jack's character. But I'm put off by one relationship I felt was unhealthy and heavily disliked. Be warned there are spoilers ahead. At one point, a character (Paladin) who has up to this point identified with male pronouns changes pronouns partially to appease a romantic partner's homophobia (Elias). This left a sincerely bad taste in my mouth. The other character's use of the word "faggot" and fear of being perceived as gay is, effectively, the catalyst for his romantic interest changing gender pronouns. Especially considering the bots do not have gender identities, having a major character decide their genderless bot crush is female just so he doesn't have to worry about being a "faggot" is really, really uncomfortable. I initially found out this event from a friend's status, and honestly, I think it somewhat ruined my enjoyment of the book from the beginning. While I liked some parts of the early book, I could never get fully invested in Elias due to my knowledge of what was going to happen. I hoped that my reviewer friend had overexaggerated this issue, but honestly, I think she was completely right in her interpretation (as usual). If not for that one issue, I think I could've enjoyed this book more. But honestly, who knows. It somewhat corrupted all my feelings, positive and negative.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dawn C

    This is one of those 3 star ratings that require an explanation. There were many interesting things and situations in this book that grabbed me. The relationship between humans and robots has always fascinated me, and I liked the very straight forward plot mingled with personal development and self discovery (I’m being purposely vague). But there were just as many solutions and conclusions to the issues presented in the book that rubbed me the wrong way. I *get* what the author was trying to do ( This is one of those 3 star ratings that require an explanation. There were many interesting things and situations in this book that grabbed me. The relationship between humans and robots has always fascinated me, and I liked the very straight forward plot mingled with personal development and self discovery (I’m being purposely vague). But there were just as many solutions and conclusions to the issues presented in the book that rubbed me the wrong way. I *get* what the author was trying to do (if there was a plan), but I felt the solution was a cop-out and did the characters a disservice. I couldn’t figure out if I liked any of the characters by the end, certainly not the main characters, which feels so odd. Lots of issues were left unmentioned and unresolved, too. People volunteering to be slaves, okay yes, that’s an idea, but why? What are the moral implications? What does the author want us to reflect on? I have no idea. I will say though that it was one of those books I just couldn’t put down, I wasn’t bored a single moment and I was so curious about how it would all end. So yeah. It *was* good, but I’m also not sure what to think of it, I guess.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Yoon

    It's an exploration of big pharma, corporate rule, love, ownership of people, robots and even ideas. Jack Chen is a pharmaceutical pirate that reverse engineers drugs to make them available to people in need. She does this by selling hacked in demand pills to fund her more altruistic efforts. Imagine selling off market Viagra to fund malaria relief efforts. Now imagine Pfizer sending out armed goons with a license to kill to "protect" their intellectual property. In this case it's a military gra It's an exploration of big pharma, corporate rule, love, ownership of people, robots and even ideas. Jack Chen is a pharmaceutical pirate that reverse engineers drugs to make them available to people in need. She does this by selling hacked in demand pills to fund her more altruistic efforts. Imagine selling off market Viagra to fund malaria relief efforts. Now imagine Pfizer sending out armed goons with a license to kill to "protect" their intellectual property. In this case it's a military grade robot and his/her human handler that burn a bloody swath across the globe looking for Jack. The pill in question is Zacuity. It's marketed as a productivity enhancer but in some cases leads to death as work becomes as addictive as heroin compelling users to do nothing else at the expense of food, sleep and drink. There's a horrifyingly funny throwaway when a thinly veiled version of a Tim Hortons worker (this is set in Canada after all) is so compelled to make donut holes that he begins feeding it other things including a stray cat, other customers and his own leg as he screams "We're just making donuts!... Timmo's bots make the best donuts!" Despite all the future world-building going on here it moves at a brisk, race against the clock pace.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Robson

    I expected this book to be good. I expected it to be exciting. I didn't expect it to be FUN! A lot of hard Science Fiction is terminally self serious. Autonomous is a blast from start to finish. I'm seriously in love with several of the characters, but especially Paladin.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is getting a lot of buzz this fall and I wanted to check it out so I ordered a copy through my library system. I've recently listened to 3 different podcasts interviewing Newitz before reading this, so I was excited to start. My first impression of Autonomous, about 30 pages in, was that I felt that Newitz's writing was a little dry. I'll be honest, I had a hard time paying attention to the story at first. I realized that this is a book that I'm going to have to sit Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is getting a lot of buzz this fall and I wanted to check it out so I ordered a copy through my library system. I've recently listened to 3 different podcasts interviewing Newitz before reading this, so I was excited to start. My first impression of Autonomous, about 30 pages in, was that I felt that Newitz's writing was a little dry. I'll be honest, I had a hard time paying attention to the story at first. I realized that this is a book that I'm going to have to sit down outside my home and read. When I struggle to get into a book or I just want to read a ton during one day I'll go to a library and just read for hours. That is what I did with Autonomous and it really helped me become more engaged with the story. The story follows a female pirate named Jack that sells knock-off drugs to people that can't afford the real deal. In this future, the world is controlled by corporations, and slavery has returned in the form of indentured robots and humans. Basically, robots got their rights to be treated like humans, and if robots could be slaves, then they made the logic leap that the poor humans can become indentured workers too. Anyway, Jack steals a new drug that heightens productivity to sell to the masses but finds out that the drug is so addictive that people are dying from it. In order to stop this drug from killing more people a military agent called Eliasz, and his new robot partner, Paladin, must find and stop Jack. Newitz weaves this incredible backdrop of social and economic change in the United States/Canada that is highly imaginative. What she is proposing is super scary to think about actually happening but you can see the logic leaps she has taken to get to her world-building. At times I had to turn my hopefulness off because I was getting a bit upset that indentured servitude would become a thing again. That is the thing about Autonomous, it is close enough to our present day, the actions we are currently taking, to scare the reader into wondering if this world that Newitz describes can actually happen. I would have to say, that dystopian books don't really bother me, but this book's grim future was too close to a possible truth, that it really made me think. I loved Jack, I loved her backstory most of all. Showing her ordeals with past lovers, business partners, and friends, gave her such a great well-rounded character. The slave she rescues, Threezed, was such a complex character with trust issues that was fascinating to read about. Med was a fantastic bot that showed true compassion in times of need and the loyalty of Jack's old friends were impressive. Her storyline was easily my favorite part of the story. The part in the story I struggled with was the Paladin and Eliasz storyline. Even though I really liked the gender ideas when it came to Paladin's non-gendered self, I was never sold on Eliasz as a character. I just didn't get Eliasz falling in love with a military bot. It isn't like Paladin looked like a person, it was basically a mech walking around. I can be open-minded a lot of the times when it comes to science fiction but I didn't get Eliasz's physical attraction to Paladin. It would have made more sense if there was more of an emotional connection before the physical one but there wasn't. Also, how can Paladin constantly be taking blood from Eliasz when Paladin touches him? I don't know, this relationship just didn't work for me much because there wasn't enough deep conversation between the two until after they talk about their attraction to each other. I liked Autonomous, I think I was smart to read it in large chunks because I would have struggled if I didn't. This is a good book and I wouldn't be surprised if it won some awards next year. I just never felt like I was actually enjoying my reading thoroughly. At times I felt I was reading just to learn more about the world and not about the characters. It can definitely be noticed that Newitz is mostly a nonfiction writer in my opinion because the concrete things were really solid in this story but the intangible things were lacking. 3/5 13/25 Possible Score 2/5 - Plot 2/5 - Characters 4/5 - World Building 3/5 - Writing Style 2/5 - Heart & Mind Aspect

  30. 4 out of 5

    Crini

    Meh. Second highly anticipated scifi release that disappointed me this month. Autonomous started off so damn good, and while I didn't immediately love all the characters, I thought I'll still end up loving it for the plot. That wasn't the case though. Autonomous is a story about pharmaceuticals, people not having access to the drugs they need as well as interesting futuristic drugs on the one side, and autonomy, not just for AIs but also humans, on the other. There is definitely a really interesti Meh. Second highly anticipated scifi release that disappointed me this month. Autonomous started off so damn good, and while I didn't immediately love all the characters, I thought I'll still end up loving it for the plot. That wasn't the case though. Autonomous is a story about pharmaceuticals, people not having access to the drugs they need as well as interesting futuristic drugs on the one side, and autonomy, not just for AIs but also humans, on the other. There is definitely a really interesting idea behind it all and I was both interested in the topic of autonomy for AIs as well as all the science (there is quite a lot) behind the drugs. Overall the story felt awfully dry though (there wasn't even a real climax) and the characters lacked any depth. The characters are clearly what I'm most disappointed in. I usually love the shady type of character but this time, I didn't like any of the human ones. And even Paladin, who I loved at first, stopped to be interesting after a while. Autonomous didn't have a single character I thought I could root for. I didn't care at all about what happened to any of them. For the most part, this was caused by their interactions and the characters' pasts which all felt forced and couldn't add anything to make me care about them. I was so damn excited to see how the love story between a human and AI would play out and was actually shocked by what I got to read. Eliasz only admits to being attracted to an AI after it starts identifying as a she instead of a he, because "he's not a faggot", even though we get to see him clearly aroused when there hasn't been any talk of gender yet. And then we get some lame story about where his (internalized) homophobia comes from which I thought only made things worse. Going into this, I thought I would get a "love whoever the hell you want" kind of story, but I really couldn't get behind Eliasz' and Paladin's relationship. While the topic of autonomy and the parallels between humans and AIs could have been quite interesting, it also means you come across stories of people being made into properties for work and sex quite often, including underage kids. One of the main characters is such a kid and I didn't like how is story is handled at all. We're supposed to believe he is finally free of all that, but it didn't feel like that to me, considering the kind of relationship he has with Jack. Autonomous comes with great ideas but in the end, it failed to impress me. Neither the writing nor the characters felt well done to me, and I thought some parts where rather troubling.

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