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Summary

Winner of the 2018 LAMBDA Award for SFF.

Shortlisted for The Nebula Award 2018.

Shortlisted for The Locus Award for Best Debut 2018.

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap medicines for those who can't otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.

Hot on her trail is an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his indentured robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack's drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understands.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

©2017 Annalee Newitz (P)2018 Little, Brown Book Group

Critic reviews

"Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the internet." (Neal Stephenson)

"Something genuinely and thrillingly new." (William Gibson)

"Holy hell. Autonomous is remarkable." (Lauren Beukes)

What listeners say about Autonomous

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Just Plain Awkward

There was so much that I should have liked about this one, a Sci-fi Robin Hood, a dystopian future, gadgets, big corporation bashing, and all kinds of robots. And actually there were all those things and more. Jack, the lead, our Robin Hood and her piratical submariner's existence promised much. The grim forbidding world that Newitz creates has a very cogent air about it and the unfairness of modern day society is cleverly extrapolated along pharmaceutical lines. It buys into a lot of on trend tech like the Internet of Things and the narration by Jennifer Ikeda is consistent without being overly demonstrative.

So, there is a lot to like here but I just couldn't get on with it as a whole story. As I have described there are a lot of threads within this one but the thing that put me off was an awkward weaving of sexuality throughout which just kept jarring into the story. Woman fancies boy, man fancies woman and most combinations. What kind of brought it all down for me was a newly commissioned combat robot trying to come to terms with human sexuality after shall we say a relatively mild encounter with the man it is indentured to. There was nothing hugely offensive or explicit but it just felt awkward and odd to me. That and the fact that I wasn't finding the story as exciting as I hoped meant I called a halt a little over halfway through.

This of course means that the book really didn't suit me, as I said though there are redeeming features so if they sound good to you by all means go for it. I shall certainly be interested to see what other reviewers make of the whole thing. There probably are more open minds than mine better able to wrap themselves around this story.

13 people found this helpful

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Could have been so much better

At times I really engaged with this book and was excited to see how it developed then the author repeated what they had done previously and tried to contextualise the burgeoning sexual desire of Elias and Paladin, this was extremely jarring and took me out of the story again and again and more importantly unnecessary to the plot, the narration was excellent and I would listen to her again but I doubt I would give this author a second try in the future

2 people found this helpful

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A solid sci-fi story!

Well this was an interesting read. Full of all sorts of scientific elements, but mostly focusing on pharmaceuticals and robots. I'm not sure which storyline was supposed to be the main one because Autonomous is like two stories in one.

Jack is a pirate. She trades in stolen pharmaceutical patents, making and selling medicines at low costs to the poor who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford them. Until one day she unknowingly recreates and distributes a drug with a seriously dodgy side effect the pharmaceutical company has hidden from the public. From there the story is about Jack attempting to right the wrong she's committed whilst also avoiding being assassinated by the other perspective in the book: a shiny new bot, Paladin. I had genuine anxiety about when Paladin and Elias eventually caught up with Jack because those two are low-key psychopathic, but because of some endearing characterisations I actually liked them both??? The author focused so much on the partnership (or relationship?) between the "baddies" that the main pharmaceutical plotline with Jack and her associates was left somewhat flat by the end. Not bad, just not what I was expecting and the reason it didn't quite get a five star rating from me.

This book reminded me of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. Has similar themes. It addresses how AIs fit into society and how they are perceived by humanity. Many are promised autonomy (freewill), but rarely "earn" it. This story focuses heavily on Paladin as she learns about autonomy. If that's your jam then you should definitely read this book.

4.5 stars, rounding up to 5.

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Great performance pity about the plot

The ham-fisted plot and plenty of trite lines undermine a good performance. Hard work overall

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Really good!

This was really entertaining. The book contains some really interesting ideas and is performed well.

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Transtechology Romantic Adventure

Great ideas.
good plot arc
narration gets better as the novel progresses.
a queer sci go novella
worth reading

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outstanding vocal performance

The story was great too, but I loved how the narrator brought each character to life.

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Profile Image for eran liberty
  • eran liberty
  • 25-12-18

possible not good match of storyteller

I believe that in this case the storyteller reduced experience compared to reading it myself.