by Newitz, Annalee

A science-fiction debut by the founder of the website io9 features a rakish pharmaceutical pirate who travels the world in a sub to bring cheap medicine to the poor and a jaded military agent and robot who fall in love while attempting to stop the spread of a dangerous addictive drug.

Annalee Newitz is an American journalist, editor, and author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship from MIT, and has written for Popular Science, Wired, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She also founded the science fiction website io9 and served as Editor-in-Chief from 2008-2015, and subsequently edited Gizmodo. As of 2016, she is Tech Culture Editor at the technology site Ars Technica. Autonomous is Annalee's first novel.

The first novel by Newitz (founder of the popular science-fiction website io9)develops a world in front of the reader's eyes that fully embraces the possibilities of biotechnology in society, both good and bad. From the commonality of designer drugs to humans anthropomorphizing their companion robots, biotech is both an underlying thread holding the story together and an integral part of the plot. Jack Chen is a pharmaceutical patent pirate, reverse-engineering designer drugs to fund her efforts to create lifesaving medicines that she freely distributes to the poor and needy. But something appears to have gone horribly wrong with her latest batch of the new productivity drug, Zacuity. Jack initially fears that the horrible side effects hitting the news are because of her copycat, but testing points her in another possible direction. She works to evade the military agent, Eliasz, while his robotic partner, Paladin, struggles with deeper questions of her own identity and the real meaning of autonomy. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

This debut work by the co-founder of sci-fi website io9 explores issues of free will and property in a corporate-run future.In 2144, genetics engineer-turned-drug pirate Judith "Jack" Chen has reverse-engineered and distributed her own version of Zacuity, the latest drug from the Zaxy corporation. Zacuity is supposed to get people feeling good about working; unfortunately, what it actually does is addict people to their jobs to the point of insanity. With agents from the International Property Coalition on her tail, Jack does her best to manufacture an antidote and find a way to alert the public about Zacuity's effects. She also tries to find a future for Threezed, a young man previously indentured to an addict she killed. Meanwhile, those IPC agents, the human Eliasz and his new partner, the indentured military bot Paladin, grow physically and emotionally closer together as they ruthlessly track down Jack. Paladin's feelings for Eliasz, partially programmed, partially person ally generated, seem believable, because the bot is new, naïve, and hasn't experienced a great deal of kind human contact, but Eliasz's feelings for Paladin, which begin so quickly, seem more like sexual kink than true love; one almost gets the sense that any bot of Paladin's type would've sparked his interest. And Eliasz's insistence that the obviously genderless Paladin is female seems deluded. Newitz does an excellent job of drawing out the disturbing aspects of this power-imbalanced relationship. There's also something very real about the shaky foundation of this unorthodox union and the uncertain future facing all the characters. In life, sometimes all we get is an ending we can accept, in which not all loose ends are tied up and villains never get their comeuppance. Ultimately, the novel is a vehicle for some very interesting questions: is there a difference between owning a human being or a mechanical being if both possess sentience and feelings and both desire a g ency? What are our rights in a world where the guiding principle is protection for the owner? A strong and cerebral start if perhaps a little too open-ended. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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