Autonomous is so much more than your average science fiction novel. Ms. Newitz deftly weaves moral questions that puzzle society today into this imagined world of our near future. What is our social responsibility to patients that require astronomically expensive medicine, and should we protect the corporations that create the medicines so that their research isn't stolen? Is gender just a physical set of attributes, or is it a state of mind as well? And can gender apply to non-human life forms? The novel starts off very quickly, and feels like a standard good vs. evil story, but sucks the reader in with thought-provoking situations and lively prose. I wish that I could read this novel again for the first time.
“The best science fiction stretches our ingrained concepts of humanity and civilization into a series of questions that entrance and electrify, both by the nature of the questions and by the contextual reality the author has created. Annalee Newitz shows her mastery of the genre with Autonomous, which poses questions relating to artificial intelligence, consciousness, and ownership against the backdrop of Earth in 2144, where patent property law rules social order and indentured people and bots are the new lower class. Autonomous follows Jack, a drug pirate desperately trying to fix a deadly mistake she made while racing against Eliasz, a temperamental military agent, and Paladin, a newly conscious indentured military bot. Newitz forces you to empathize with every character. A true masterpiece.”
— Charlotte Bruell, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
When anything can be owned, how can we be free
Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can't otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.
Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack's drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.
And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?