Book Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

 

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Note the cream bedsheets; yes, I read it with class. Not pictured: infuser with sexy lavender oil.

I haven’t sat down and read an entire novel, in one sitting, in a really, really long time. I’m thinking since Peter Watts’s Starfish, back in 2005.

Autonomous took that prize.

I’ll give a non-spoiler version, and then after the read more tag, I’ll go quite a bit more in-depth with what I loved about this book. Also a few spoilers. BECAUSE HOLY SHIT. #professional

Quick overview: Autonomous takes place roughly 150 years from now, and centers on two groups of people: a drug pirate named Jack and her associates Threezed, Krish, Med, and those at Free Lab, and the IPC (Intellectual Property Commission? I think) duo of Eliasz and Paladin–an indentured robot–along with their support infrastructure.

A Big Pharma company creates a work efficiency drug that is intended to be marketed only to the wealthy. Jack reverse engineers it to be sold to the less fortunate, finds out it is highly addictive and damaging, and the pharma company wants to keep it under wraps. In turn, it sends its personal police to hunt down the terrorist (Jack) and keep the information secret/safe/profitable.

Overclocked with tech evolution, smart characters and smarter digital communications, and relationships that melded into the complexity of the story with clarity and power, Autonomous was just as interesting to read for the story as it was for the insight and depth of understanding for tech.

It covers themes of humanity, personhood, gender relations, technology relations, the complex nature of AI, patent law, Big Pharma, lawful vs. moral vs. ethical, security, and community (along with, I’m certain, lots I overlooked in the meantime).

I could be wrong, but I know of nobody else writing like this. And it is beautiful. If I had to give number score out of ten, I’d give it 9/10. It’s really, really, really that good. If you’re a tech nerd, if you’re a gamer, if you’re a digital humanities person, if you love science fiction, if you want a great read, get this book. It is a harmony of stories.

I’m getting a second copy just to share with a friend.  Continue reading

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Quick Book Review: The Rim of Morning by William Sloane

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I took a break from research on Corpus (Aerial views of Herculaneum, MO anyone?) to finish one of two novels contained in The Rim of Morning by William Sloane: To Walk the Night.

I almost passed this up. I purchased on a whim (And King’s recommendation), and I am not let down by it.

Stephen King introduces this reprint of a 1937 novel with a disclaimer, and so will I: writing in the late 30’s was not very PC, and there were repeated references to people as “idiots” and “not people” when referencing a person with mental illness. For the sake of this story, I’ll also state the “snappy dialogue” also included personal opinions of one of the two white MCs that non “American” names were cockeyed and women should have a “mysterious composure” to them so they don’t get too headstrong.

This novel bends genre; it’s a story covering early football, university studies, detective whodunnit, science quandaries concerning infinity, questions concerning humanity and insight, all framed through a Lovecraftian lens of “strange science” and otherworldly “madness.” The story itself is so very low key, so very rhythmic in its flow and discourse, I found reading it almost calming in effect, despite the topics being covered.

I agree with Mr. King, though: this is horror. A slow, building, jump-scare free, chauvinistic pursuit of information that ultimately climaxes not with a scream and a fade to black, but with a baleful understanding.

That being said, this story, to me, was about the “Antagonist,” Selena. Without spoiling too much of the short, amiable read, Mr. Sloane did not agree with his protagonists’ opinions of womanly composure, or otherwise sought to create a powerful character with whom I was thoroughly impressed. While Mr. Lister the son was interesting and all the characters rounded and plausible, all were ultimately forgettable save Selena. I believe that was the intent in the novel: to serenade an air of power around one character so sublime and deep-reaching and hardly discernible that one was apt to overlook it entirely.

I loved this read for her. If she wasn’t a part of this story, I’d’ve forgotten the book in entirety. If you’re in the mind to read something simple, straightforward, and not lacking in subtle build, read this.

Chris

Funk: a Memoir on my Progress

I told myself August was the month where I finished the rough draft of this beautiful, haunting, busted-up novel of mine. And here I am, ten days in, with nary 1k words written on it since the first. With roughly 1/3 of the book remaining, I’m worried.

Internet stresses aside, and real life stresses aside (can you really put that aside? I say no. If this is a career, if this is a lifestyle, if this is my job. No.), I’m in a funk that I have brought on myself. Continue reading

#amwriting Do You Even Worldbuild, Bro?

My style of book prep seems like an ever-changing thing. While everyone has their own ideas and ways to make writing a book manageable, there are a lot of differences between genres, and people writing within those genres. I’m excited to talk about what I’ve been doing to write my latest few projects, and how this differs from my earlier, young’un projects that were barely a departure from fanfic.

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#amwriting Oddity: Dream Character Development

This’ll be short. It’s now Monday (happy 4th of July everyone. Go Americaaaaa), and I wrote this on Friday, but since I had a post scheduled for Friday, I scheduled this for Monday. While the thoughts are fresh.

Yesterday I wrote 4k words on my book, starting around 9pm, after a day of lamenting the death of my motivation for this book. I was mostly joking about the “death of motivation,” because for some reason I randomly get a rush of adrenaline-esque motivation to write, and I just write. Not that I wait around for it; I spent a lot of time researching, writing on needed work (homework), etc., with intent to write.

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Personal Update: Books

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This is the most flattering pic of my ugly mug I can find from the past month. Me, throwing back a few beers at the family reunion. Note the eyes have that faraway look one might get after, say, imbibing a brewski or two.

Good afternoon/evening to those intrepid voyagers who find interest in my words. I’ve been writing in this for a while, and I like to periodically update on what I’m actually doing IRL, instead of positing opinions or rambling on about whatever topic I find important.

I’m ABSOLUTELY STOKED about all most of the happenings in my life and I’m running into a lot of great moments I want to share with whoever wants to listen. (Spoken like a true extrovert, I guess?)

So, here it is.

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