Autonomous takes a keen look at an all too possible future, examining ideas of intellectual and personal freedom, gender identity, whether corporate morality is an oxymoron, and more – all while presenting an entertaining race-against-the-clock scenario with characters the reader will care about (even though some of the point-of-view characters have conflicting agendas). My favorite new pirate, Captain Judith “Jack” Chen, makes a living crafting street versions of pharmaceuticals – she discovers the latest drug, marketed as a performance enhancer, has an unintended side effect of being super-effective to the detriment of the user, and anyone in their manic work path. The parent company isn’t admitting any wrong-doing, and indeed has suggested Jack’s faux version is at fault. Jack endeavors to create an effective counteragent before she’s captured by the zealous agents of the International Property Coalition. This is a delicious balance of story and thought-provoking ideas.— From Nifty Novels and More from Maryelizabeth
“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?