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Autonomous

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  8,587 ratings  ·  1,395 reviews
Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addi ...more
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Tor Books
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Diana I mean, who still falls for anything anymore? May as well ask who wants to read about robots, or big corporations, or underdogs, or superheroes, or…moreI mean, who still falls for anything anymore? May as well ask who wants to read about robots, or big corporations, or underdogs, or superheroes, or spaceships. More importantly, what functional use could a question like this serve? Who asks questions that rely entirely on subjective answers just to hear themselves ask them? Where is Bob? Who is Bob? Why is Bob?

It cost him everything.(less)
Katherine ** CAUTION - SPOILERS **

I think it is more anti-monopolist than anti-capitalist, although certainly monopoly is the most pernicious and extreme form…more
** CAUTION - SPOILERS **

I think it is more anti-monopolist than anti-capitalist, although certainly monopoly is the most pernicious and extreme form of capitalism.

I read this book because I work in patent law, and the blurb said that the protagonist is anti-patent. However, the patent system described in the book is very different from what exists today. The patent system today rewards inventors by giving them a short-term monopoly on making and selling (or licensing) the invention, BUT it also rewards the public by making detailed information about the invention public knowledge. That way, other inventors can build on and improve the patented invention. In the author's world, the inventors get their patent monopolies, apparently forever, but keep the details secret from the rest of the world. This means, for instance, that the drug companies continue to make their patented drugs and charge exorbitant prices for years and years, but anyone who figures out how to make a generic version of the drug is breaking the law. This legalized secrecy, though, means that a drug manufacturer can - illegally! - create a drug that makes folk addicted to their jobs.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.59  · 
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 ·  8,587 ratings  ·  1,395 reviews


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Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Jack has a history of aligning herself with rebel causes. She is pirate in the sense that she reverse engineers drugs and distributes them to the public for reasonable prices. When a stimulant begins to manifest deadly addiction, Jack sets out to try and bring down the manufacturer responsible for overlooking the side effects.

Having distributed a knockoff version of this drug, Jack finds an agent/bot duo, Eliasz & Paladin, hot on her tail.

So really, I must say the only area in which this bo
...more
Wil Wheaton
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, hackers
I loved this. It did for AI and Patents and Biotech what Neuromancer and Snowcrash did for the Internet. The stuff I loved the most is all spoiler-y, so I'll just say that there are two competing narrative characters, who are at clear odds with each other, and each is the villain in the other's story. The thing that Annalee Newitz does so well (and she does everything well in this book) is to make each of these characters not only the hero of their own story, but to allow us to identify with the ...more
Philip
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5ish stars.

An interesting, well-written, near-ish-future SF novel with some compelling ideas. It reminds me a little bit of Malka Older's idea heavy Infomocracy, although I liked Older's book a little bit more.

I didn't find this extremely engaging and never felt strongly pressed to continue reading, but I did enjoy it consistently. The ideas outshine the characters, and I didn't connect with any of them except for Paladin, an indentured robot working toward "autonomy," and, to a lesser extent
...more
Justine
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that you are either going to love or just not get. Newitz has painted a pretty grim picture of the future, similar to that portrayed in Company Town by Madeline Ashby and in After Atlas by Emma Newman. What all three of these books have in common is a future where people are basically commodities, like everything else, and the division between the haves and have-nots has grown as much as we can imagine.

Newitz provides a wonderful story for exploring the nature of autonomy, or free
...more
Lena
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Man: Hey Blue Bot, you’re looking good.

Blue Bot notices Man’s erection.
Blue Bot: Did you want to have sex?

Man: No! I’m not gay!

Blue Bot researches humans on the internet. Blue Bot replaces its blue carapace with a pink one.

Man: You’re pink?!?! Why are you pink?

Pink Bot: I decided this was me. Do you want to have sex?

Man: Yes!

After sex.
Man: Did you enjoy that?

Pink Bot: I enjoyed that you enjoyed it.

Man: I knew you were a woman.

The best I can say about this book is that it reminded me of Malka Old
...more
Bradley
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pirates and bounty hunters on the high chemical and electronic frontier! Add a bit of transgendered robot issues, a bit of do-gooder pharmaceutical mayhem, and time split between labs, parties, sexual repression, and a few really big questions explored deftly and interestingly, and we've got ourselves a very interesting SF.

Let's look at the top layer a little. Slavery issues. The novel takes them on for both robots and humans equally. I'd expected that from both the blurb and the cover, of cours
...more
Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)
DNF @ 38%

This is marketed as a robin hood esque tale, featuring Jack sneaking pharmaceuticals to the poor and dodging the authorities. Two of those said authorities are Paladin and Elias, a military robot with a human processor and their handler, who chase Jack and develop feelings for each other.

While all that's technically true, there's no emotional impact with any of this. We are thrust into a story without any feel for the character's or the world. Jack hardly has a noble quest to deliver m
...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/10/19/...

I’m not having much luck with books this month. Autonomous was another highly anticipated sci-fi title that sounded very good from its premise, but ended up fizzling when the story fell short on the follow-through. Featuring a bold and daring female pharmaceutical pirate who makes a living bootlegging high-priced upmarket drugs in order to help the poor, I thought for sure this would be a winner, but ultimately neither t
...more
Gary
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Autonomous is the excellent debut novel from lauded science journalist Annalee Newitz. Set in the year 2144, Jack makes her living pirating pharmaceuticals to help people who can’t afford life-saving medication. To pay the bills, she also pirates drugs like Zacuity, a kind of legal speed that is supposed to help people focus at work. She discovers too late that Zaxy, the makers of Zacuity, failed to disclose evidence of potentially deadly side effects that are magnified in people using her pirat ...more
Elizabeth
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.
A dark, clever, and thought-provoking book about the meaning of freedom. Set in worryingly believable future world filled with medically enhanced humans and sentient AI bots, genetic engineering and biotechnology patents have become the ruling force in the economy. Through the twinned storylines of a med-hacker and the soldiers sent to stop her we explore what it is to be free and autonomous in a world where indenture and control is the norm.

The characters and relationships are wonde
...more
Avery Delany
As a trans reader, I am really angry and upset with this book due to its homophobia and transphobia. *This book was received through NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review*

Autonomous was one of my most anticipated reads of Autumn 2017 and I was ecstatic when I received a copy on NetGalley to read for free in exchange for a review. To some extent, Autonomous did not disappoint and yet, to another extent, Autonomous is downright homophobic and transphobic.

Let’s start off with what’s
...more
unknown
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
It would be hard for any book to live up to superlative cover blurbs from William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, but Annalee Newitz comes damn close with her debut, which is as much about the future of medical ethics and big pharma as it is the awakening of a fascinating artificial consciousness. (It's also a stealth romance novel—maybe the strangest, most oddly affecting I've ever encountered.)
K.J. Charles
Apr 24, 2019 added it
Shelves: sci-fi
This was odd. Raises a lot of questions about autonomy, freedom, moral responsibility, and especially gender, but doesn't really address them once raised. eg this is a society based on bots when AI is sufficient to give them individual consciousness, and the question of autonomy is explored quite a lot there, but it's also based on indenture, where by people can sell themselves *or other people* into slavery, which is barely tackled at all. The narrative's assumption is that human slavery is alw ...more
Lindsay
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A breathtakingly well-imagined tour of Earth in the mid-twenty-second century where climate change has progressed to the point that the arctic is the new frontier for development and robotics, nanotech and biotech have reshaped our societies. Governments now come a distant second to powerful corporations and the International Property Coalition (IPC) acts with unchallenged lethal force to protect property rights. and both humans and robots can be indentured as slaves.

Pharmaceutical patent pirate
...more
Peter Tillman
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great, geeky hard-SF exploration of tech-aided transhumanity, and how it brought slavery back into fashion. A timely cautionary tale on the fragility of civil liberties. There are a few first-novel rough spots, and a slightly creepy ending. Overall, 4.5+ stars, rounded up

One of my mental tests of any hard-sf novel is, has the writer done her homework? Nobody can write intelligently about a topic like this without reading the prior art, and without some basic grasp of what's going on in the rele
...more
Amanda
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a dark, grim future. It is also an outstanding book that deals with complicated issues like autonomy, freedom and gender constructs. One of my favorites this year.
Julie
Hmm, let's see if I can write a coherent review to figure out some of my issues with this book! This pairs very well with Madeline Ashby's Company Town, in terms of being a speculative futuristic cyberpunky novel starring a female Asian lead, largely set in Canada, and interested in issues of slavery, bodily autonomy, body mods, and sustainability. I love that we're getting these fresh new takes on what the future might look like; they're extensions of what we're seeing today, especially with th ...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Video version of this review: https://youtu.be/5sDMuuc-9t0

Autonomous begins when Jack, a pharmaceutical pirate, discovers a stowaway on her submarine. Said stowaway is trying to steal her pirated drugs, so she kills him... and then is saddled with his very poorly treated indentured slave, Threezed. Then she finds out about a drug epidemic... caused by a work productivity drug she pirated and spread, which is now causing people to work themselves to death.

So, Jack wants to fix this problem. And s
...more
Zachy
Sep 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Newlitz is clearly relying on the networking goodwill she and partner Charlie Jane Anders have built during their time on io9.com to drum up hype and the usual uncritical, breathless praise from undemanding readers and those who form a part of a community that feels the need to support an author beyond the quality of the work in question.

After experiencing extreme disappointment over the marketing blitz for Ander's All the Birds in the Sky and the complete failure of the book itself to live up
...more
Silvana
Update:
Just met Annalee in Swedish Con and got her autograph. She was super smart and sweet!

Original review:
Thank you, Coode Street Podcast, for this amazing recommendation. I first noticed Autonomous from Gary and Jonathan's convo, where they basically gushed about this book. Then one day, they interviewed Newitz. I was sold. It seemed to be a promising cyberpunk, which is a genre that I try to provide a second chance to, following my first bad experience with Neuromancer (which I did finally
...more
Roy
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Alot happening in this novel. I normally love character driven stories, but I felt the relationship between Eliasz and Paladin was a little forced. I enjoyed Jacks character but wasnt overly involved. Pace was slow at times and a little random, at stages I felt the author was confused as to where to take the story. Solid world buidling if a little hazy at times. Strange way to end but I guess thats the direction she was going for. Still enjoyed the scifi elements.
Mel
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review contains spoilers.

I have quite the contradicting thoughts on this book.

The premise is very interesting and innovative. The main theme of freedom versus ownership is comprehensibly written into the world with its patents and ownership (of medicine) as well as into the characters who are in different stages of freedom and ownership themselves. However, even as an autonomous person freedom is not a given. The questions the author raises in her book are important and thoroughly depicted.
...more
Ben Babcock
You have to watch out for those robots. Never know when they might develop thoughts of their own. Or sexual orientations, kinks, and an understanding of the way humans misunderstand them.

Autonomous plumbs the depths of humanity through split narration. Annalee Newitz follows a very human, and very flawed, anti-patent crusader and a pair of patent-enforcement agents, one of whom is a self-aware robot just starting out. As the two stories unfold, so too does Newitz’s vision of a 22nd-century Earth
...more
Elise (TheBookishActress)
Oct 15, 2017 marked it as zzzzz-coverporn-etc
...well. I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed. I was somewhat enjoying this for a time. While I found this book slow-moving and everything up to the climax a little boring, I was hoping for some more plot development and enjoying Jack's character. But I'm put off by one relationship I felt was unhealthy and heavily disliked. Be warned there are spoilers ahead.

At one point, a character (Paladin) who has up to this point identified with male pronouns changes pronouns partially to appease a rom
...more
Carlex
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three and half stars

A very good cyber/biopunk story, which also deals with transhumanism. Awesome worldbuilding and sense of wonder, and a plot development more than correct. I enjoyed it!
Crini
Meh. Second highly anticipated scifi release that disappointed me this month.

Autonomous started off so damn good, and while I didn't immediately love all the characters, I thought I'll still end up loving it for the plot. That wasn't the case though.

Autonomous is a story about pharmaceuticals, people not having access to the drugs they need as well as interesting futuristic drugs on the one side, and autonomy, not just for AIs but also humans, on the other. There is definitely a really interesti
...more
David Yoon
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
It's an exploration of big pharma, corporate rule, love, ownership of people, robots and even ideas.

Jack Chen is a pharmaceutical pirate that reverse engineers drugs to make them available to people in need. She does this by selling hacked in demand pills to fund her more altruistic efforts. Imagine selling off market Viagra to fund malaria relief efforts.

Now imagine Pfizer sending out armed goons with a license to kill to "protect" their intellectual property. In this case it's a military gra
...more
Kelly Robson
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I expected this book to be good. I expected it to be exciting. I didn't expect it to be FUN!

A lot of hard Science Fiction is terminally self serious. Autonomous is a blast from start to finish. I'm seriously in love with several of the characters, but especially Paladin.
Sana
FUCK, I WANT TO READ THIS VERY MUCH SO.
Paul
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is getting a lot of buzz this fall and I wanted to check it out so I ordered a copy through my library system. I've recently listened to 3 different podcasts interviewing Newitz before reading this, so I was excited to start. My first impression of Autonomous, about 30 pages in, was that I felt that Newitz's writing was a little dry. I'll be honest, I had a hard time paying attention to the story at first. I realized that this is a book that I'm going to have to sit ...more
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Annalee Newitz is an American journalist who covers the cultural impact of science and technology. They received a PhD in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley, and in 1997 published the widely cited book, White Trash: Race and Class in America. From 2004–2005 they were a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They write for many periodicals from 'Popular Science' to 'Wired ...more
“But now we know there has been no one great disaster—only the slow-motion disaster of capitalism converting every living thing and idea into property.” 14 likes
For all the robots who question their programming. 7 likes
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