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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Sex (and my) Fantasy (novel)

Intimate relationships catalyze stories in ways other actions do not. I believe that if I could write all the emotions that go into a really satisfying poop, I’d approach a similar feeling. But then, unless the character involved was a part of a really intimate relationship, this character would be alone after the poop as well.

Person-to-person connection is a fundamental part of life. The past few novels I have worked on has seen little of the sexual side. A novel I essentially finished in 2009 has the few sexy scenes of a budding relationship. It’s great. I got hot writing it. I get hot reading it.

I want more of it. Continue reading

Writing to Scare Yourself

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Reading Simmons on the beach.

(Still love this pic. Wish I was still there)

 

I have one finalized and unpublished novel, four finished rough novels, forty eight unfinished projects, seventeen research files, and countless lost projects. My titles are, from my first novel project in 7th grade to now (including fanfic): Dinotopia!, Elementals, Lucky Sevens, Spark, the Mindgames Trilogy, Inhabitability, Infallibility, The Willow and the Sycamore, the seven Reverberant high fantasy novels that followed, the four planned Littrell sequels, Symbiosis, Of Salt and Wine and the six sequels planned, The Acorn King and sequel, David and His Shade and four sequels planned, Pris(m), Alexandrea, Nautilus, and Corpus Paradiso (my NaNo project).

I started my writing life piggybacking off other writers and other worlds, learning my basics by simply parroting. My parents told me my writing work was great. I won second place in 7th grade and first place in 8th for a pair of short stories written across two pages. When I was young and learning to write I was afraid just to put a word down. Words written meant you owned them. They meant you had an idea and you put it out there for others to read.

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Hinting at Character in your Writing

Autumn Oak

            In the space just before dawn, when the sun warms the eyelids, he climbed a vined trellis, slipped through rooms of sleeping maidens, and tiptoed across the threshold to the King’s bedroom. Descending stairs, he found himself in the library, where morning sun reflected off motes of dancing dust and was absorbed by leatherbound books. He sank into a large chair, having found his favorite.

            He would stay here.

I failed NaNoWriMo this year. It was during finals, I had a bunch of life stuff going on, and I didn’t get it finished. But what I did do was start writing again.

I found, with my recent studies in Joyce overflowing my head, that I constantly try to hint at important aspects in my writing soas to not info dump a character’s history, background, opinion when the dialogue didn’t call for it. Sticking to a Joycean/Homeric focus, I’m writing an “epic” story with a play on the dramatic, where the novel is filled with short stories that take no more than a “day” in the life via dreams, old shorts written for advertisement, etc. So my main character is developed, strong, rounded. I use metaphor sparingly, but with an emphasis on church and chastity.

Continue reading

Writing Your Novel Like Sampling Wine

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Brick red wine, on the maturing side. If my novel could last in the top 10 as long as this wine did in the bottle, I’d be a happy man. Or, it may be oxidized, which means “ruined” in somme-talk.

This might be a short post.

I like wine. I’m terrible at finding the expensive or the cheap, but I’ve practiced enough that I can figure out what I like, what I don’t, and why. I had a rudimentary lesson in wine tasting a while back, and I found some parallels to writing a book.

Average Joe wine drinker takes a sip of something and says he either likes it or doesn’t, with an emphasis on perhaps drinkability or smoothness. Developed Joe wine drinker takes his time when selecting a wine, first by observing, smelling, then drinking, collecting data as he goes. Any number of things go into this process, depending on your interest or focus.

The Ideal Book Selector does the same.

This is the same for reading a novel. As a writer, I must decide whether I want to focus on a smooth, drinkable book or a many-faceted, developed book. I can have both. There are many ways for me to do this, but, I prefer to write like I’m making wine (kind of). Come join me in the discussion! Continue reading

Writing to Sell vs Writing to Inspire

…For those of us who don’t do both at the same time.

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Inspiration is often like staring into the sun. I think.

I write to inspire. Possibly to inspire myself. Usually I see my writing as a way to dump out the full bowl in my head, and see what delicious soup it has made. I do not write to sell, mostly because I’m not selling yet (Note: as soon as I do, I’ll change the title of this blog). But even when selling, I’ll write to inspire.

I’ve come across quite a few blogs (most blogs, actually) about writing to sell, why readers don’t like to read the author’s work, why people don’t like to read one series while another is really well received, etc. This doesn’t make sense to me, mostly because you’re the writer, you own your unique product, and your readers don’t control you. I understand the communal aspect that can be inherent in writing, but given the comments and replies to these randomly-checked blogs, it seems more like a compliment-seeking venture.

Note: don’t get me wrong. Studying market trends and following advice of successful writers isn’t a bad thing. I’m not promoting a complete discard of healthy homework. I do promote a deeper look into why you’re writing, and for what purpose you’re writing. (Believe me, I’m guilty of the same. Look at earlier posts of mine!)

I believe this is a continuation of a previous post, in part, where one writes openly or where one writes to an audience with the intent to make money (whether one writes of inspiration, or one writes a lot). Continue reading

Device: The Long Silence

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Use of white noise in coffee. Also, backstory here, the coffee is cold. Because the person is waiting for a letter from her friend that will never come, because her friend has moved on. /sad

The Long Silence probably goes by another name. It might even have several names, is probably broken down into sub-names and sub-uses, and maybe even has a fan club. I’m writing about it because I don’t know anyone who is (which isn’t saying much), and I’m in love with this idea for my own work. I want to share.

Sharing is caring.

So when I think about The Long Silence (TLS for the rest of this post), I generally think about two people (though it doesn’t have to be. Think Gone in 60 Seconds, Nick Cage and the Shelby GT, although note: this is much closer to an Unresolved Goal than TLS), either estranged or separated by an internal or external struggle–war, an event, ideological differences, death–and they no longer speak to each other. The world passes by, they carry their burdens or baggage or righteousness as a shield through their lives, assuming to never interact with the other person again.

Some may even be carrying a candle. A “What if,” if you will.

Continue reading