A science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence, sentience, and labor rights in a near future dominated by the gig economy.
Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It’s 2095 and people don’t usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive, but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances focus, zips and buffs enhance physical strength and speed, and juvers speed the healing process.
All that changes when Welga’s client is killed by The Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group that has simultaneously attacked several major pill funders. The Machinehood operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week.
Global panic ensues as pill production slows and many become ill. Thousands destroy their bots in fear of a strong AI takeover. But the US government believes the Machinehood is a cover for an old enemy. One that Welga is uniquely qualified to fight.
Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood and what do they really want?
A thought-provoking novel that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?
S.B. Divya (she/any) is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She is the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of Meru (2023), Machinehood, Runtime, and Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations. Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and she was the co-editor of Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast, from 2017-2022. Divya holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author. Born in Pondicherry, India, Divya now resides in Southern California. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can.
In her first full-length novel, Divya tries to tackle everything from the relationship between Neo-Buddhism and artificial intelligence, to the virtues and evils of economic systems, to abortion and the rights one has to one’s own body, to the marvels of modern medicine and technology and the corruptions of the companies facilitating it. It’s a lot.
Some concepts are handled better than others but none of them has room to breathe.
Both of the POV characters (sisters-in-law) are mythology-level talented and courageous to the level of detriment. Case in point: Also they're not that interesting in and of themselves.
It's logical, intelligent, and well-written but it also doesn't live up to the promise of "Zero Dark Thirty meets The Social Network." Got zero vibes of either of those. It has none of the nail-biting tension of the former and none of the snarky back-stabbing of the latter.
Still, it's a thinker. And for being so concept-heavy, the quality writing makes it plausible and prevents it from being gimmicky. It takes a talented writer to pull that off.
Do you enjoy reading books that challenge you to think?
It is the year 2095- and so many things have changed in the 75 years from now to then. Seriously such a good book- absolutely stunned with how loaded this book is with plot, characters, action, themes and character development. The writing is sharp- alternating views between two sisters-in-law who are also close friends- I would say best friends. Their worlds are different but their journeys parallel each other’s lives in many ways. These two women are women I would enjoy having as best friends. They have strengths and weaknesses and both of them go through some major changes during this novel- I felt like I was on the journey with them.
The future consists of robots and androids who do pretty much everything and the humans that have to compete with them for work. Competition for jobs is so fierce that people all over the world are taking pills to supplement and boost their health; their performance; their endurance and their focus. Inside these pills are not just the medicinal testament but nanobots that go to work inside the body to help the effects of the pills. Weird eh? Fascinating to think of the technology but also very interesting to think of what that tech would mean to our health and to our lives should we embrace it.
When I read Sci-Fi, particularly the good stuff that captures my attention like Machinehood, I’m always intrigued in how people live: eating, bathing, work, transportation all of these areas have changed so much because of technological advances.
The part that really stands out in Machinehood is how much social media is literally involved in every facet of life for people. People have “tip jars” they play a huge role in economic survival but are mostly geared to how much the public likes you- your performance with your job, any drama going on in your life, and how much they enjoy looking into your household:/life. Very interesting theme to explore. (How much access do we really want to give others into our lives?)
Another theme in Machinehood is the rebellion of a group of militants who are protesting all the pills that people are taking and advocating for the rights of machines. It’s these protests and acts of terrorism that the book’s plot is centered around- and I have to admit it’s given me plenty to think about. I finished the books days ago yet I still am thinking through the questions that the book’s characters deal with. That’s one way I know the book I’ve read is outstanding; it sticks with you long after you’ve turned the last page and has you asking questions and thinking.
Looking forward to reading more books by author S.D. Divya. A temporary, digital advance review copy was given to me by NetGalley to read and enjoy. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
Interesting spin on science fiction and AI. This setting is less than 80 years in the future and society relies on machines for practically every task - cooking, cleaning, and manufacturing daily medicines in your home.
I found the medicines in particular extremely scary... Robots had taken over so many jobs, the only way for humans to compete, was by taking pills. They were taking "flow" for work in a job requiring focus and analysis, "zips" were used to enhance strength and durability, "juvers" were taken like antibiotics to heal or reduce pain. Most of the story is focused around the downside of the practically unregulated drugs.
The story could have been condensed a bit with less emphasis on the political aspect. Overall this was a great science fiction tale! Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the free copy!
While I was pretty enthusiastic about the SF concepts in this book, hitting the intersections between normal humans, drug enhancements, human-machine hybrids, and artificial intelligence, I was unfortunately not as enthusiastic about the characters or the dark political landscape.
Mind you, I don't mind futuristic dystopias at all. I just happen to prefer them to wrapped up in slightly more interesting plots and characters and the fight for machine rights is obviously subtext. If I am to be at all honest about it, I prefer such things to be a bit more subtle and layered. The core of it was fine, but in the end, it was a bit too plain and on the nose.
I saw a lot of similarities between this and Ramez Naam's trilogy. A focus on Buddhism and getting along, class warfare, and obviously, the tech, but in the end, I much preferred Naam's trilogy.
Apr 21, 645pm ~~ I keep saying that I rarely buy brand new books, and yet here is another one that I could not resist ordering after I saw a review of it at the NPR website. I am so glad I did, and do not let the long reading time fool you, there was a very good reason for that.
This was the type of book I would normally stay up late a few nights to devour. It was fast-paced and very hard to put down. But I had ordered it specifically to share with my husband, even though at over 400 pages, I thought it might take forever to read during the three days a week our Zapata Reading Club meets. We have daily phone calls with plenty to talk about every day, but late last year we decided to resurrect a pastime from our first years together: reading aloud.
The book arrived a day or two before we finished what was our in-progress title, and it was Marco's turn to pick the next title from the pile I had selected months ago. I was not surprised when he chose this one, and the next reading day we dove into Welga's world.
Imagine: it is 2095. Technology is a much greater part of life than even in our day. There are enhancements to allow you constant visual and audio feeds of everything from news to the daily activities of your friends and family. For some people, like our main character Olga (Welga) Ramirez, these enhancements are permanent, but many people simply remove their 'jewelry' when they want to be offline. Welga has other enhancements as well, embedded in her body because of her service in the military. She had been a Raider, part of an elite unit of the US Marines. But when we meet her, Welga is working as a shield for a private security company, with only three months left on her contract. She has plans for her future, of course, but what plans does the future have for her?
Besides technical enhancements. Welga's world is filled with pills. Government-issued daily pills to protect the population from disease, zips to give energy boosts when needed, juvers to repair injuries. It was as if the concept of the Magic Pill exploded until every person calmly accepted that they needed to take pills all the time. Scary stuff right there. But then there are also sometimes side effects. Welga has muscle tremors that have been increasing in frequency and strength and she needs more pills to control them. Will her sister-in-law NIthya be able to help her figure out why this is happening to her?
Artificial Intelligence naturally plays a huge role in Welga's world. Houses rearrange themselves according to spoken orders, creating furniture where there was nothing, cooking meals, doing all the chores we complain about today and people in Welga's time probably don't even know how to perform. People everywhere rely on embedded programs known as personal agents, on their care-bots and their WAIs.
So what happens when the power goes off? Who is the Machinehood and what do they want? They talk about equality for both humans and machines. They say that humans have treated machines badly for years. That it is time for a change. And the Machinehood will create that change no matter what.
Welga feels it is her duty to stop the Machinehood. She wants to protect her family, her friends, all the people of the world. She must find a solution while she is still able to function. Can she do it? Can she save the people she cares about....and the world....while she still has control over her own body?
This was such a good story. I liked Welga the best, but all the characters felt real. I cared about what was happening to them. There was enough science here to satisfy, and yet not so much that I got mired in technical details that I could not understand. I was glad I had Marco on the other end of the phone line in case I needed a consultation with an engineer, but I understood pretty much everything that was going on.
And it is easy to see how quickly society could slip into the world of 2095. We are already addicted to living on camera, posting videos on the various platforms available to us. How long will it be before we all have mini drone cams following us around broadcasting our every move while we down our happy pills and order the machines to do our work? Will there be a Welga in our version of this world? Or will we have to save ourselves when the power grid fails and the machines demand changes?
I'm only writing about the book to warn people who read for entertainment--this is not the book for you. I had to DNF and I'm torn about whether to give it 1* or 2*.
It is rambling and overdetailed. But the real problem is, it's mostly about dreary future politics. I don't even want to have to pay attention to dreary current politics, so I certainly don't want to read about dreary future politics.
Also, though the worldbuilding is well done, it is SO depressing. Yes, go ahead, argue that it is a possible, even likely, future. I don't care, that just makes it more depressing.
I would say it is well written, but I don't think it is. The story does not move along at an adequate pace. It seems repetitive. And the characters are too much in their heads, some of which is infodumps. Skipping paragraphs like mad.
I will not be looking for other books by this author unless someone tells me I should.
I loved this book, absolutely loved it. The merging of human with machine and possible sentient machines is one of my favorite things. This did it well in my opinion. It was hard to put down.
One of my favorite aspects of it was the way social media had changed by the time the story starts. Microdrones, small flying camera bots, infest the air. Everyone's actions are live streamed. If people like what they see, there's a tip jar.
The drones are for more than that but I really liked that.
The way health is managed, with pills every day to stave off this illness or that health condition, people with implants that handle certain aspects of their health, it's all there.
It's premise sounds simple: a group wants the same rights afforded humans to be afforded to machines--it's something that's popped up in time throughout humanity.
Bots handled protests, bots handle caring for the ill and so much more.
As someone with a piece if machinery implanted to handle part of my health, the idea of it becoming sentient and having control is a terrifying thing to think about.
Welga has loads more, and a job that requires to use pills--filled with small machines--so when things go south, it's a nightmare for her. Watching how her body betrayed her wishes was upsetting as a reader whose gone through something similar.
The writing made it impossible not to be affected and I imagine anyone else would be as well.
I'll definitely be recommending this book.
Spoiler Note:there is an abortion in the book. It's not described in any great detail but if that's not your thing, now you know. And it's something that gets brought up often.
I powered through this because I thought the story would go in a exciting direction, I was wrong. The book has a lot of cool imagined future tech, but gets bogged down at times in the technical babble. Despite the sci-fi aspects this was a character driven story, it read more like a contemporary then anything else. The musings about humanity's relationship and dependency on technology was interesting, but this book failed at making me care deeply about the concepts or characters.
The cover is magnificent, and I hoped that meant more.
S.B. Divya gives us a grim future of massively connected live data, precarious gig work, home pill production based on biotech designs created by a select few, weak artificial intelligence, a lack of investigation and enforcement of questionable or potentially dangerous pill designs, robots doing many kinds of jobs previously done by humans. And into this throw an organization calling all this into question and threatening to destroy pill reliance and constant data feeds. (Pills are not simply recreational drugs, but are for basic health, as well as increased strength, healing, learning and other uses, and are so integral to everyone’s daily life that anything threatening production and access is terrifying to everyone.) There are violent reprisals against pill designers, and destruction of infrastructure, with predictably bad results. The main character, an American, and her government, go for the easy, lazy and offensive answer and assume that it MUST be the ruler of an Islamic country who’s trying to destroy civilization! Divya poses numerous interesting questions about our reliance on tech, the value of workers, the role of robots and AI, and the ethics of bio and other tech development and its applications. So there was a lot to think about; the ending was a little too pat and easily resolved, but this was a tense and interesting story.
“The machines who labor for us and alongside us are enslaved and exploited in their own fashion. Gone are the days of dumb engines and processors. Today, nearly every machine contains some type of adaptive intelligence. What gives human beings the right to arbitrate when an intelligence becomes equivalent to a person? The Machinehood Manifesto; March 20, 2095”
It is the year 2095, and technology has become a new level of "relevant" in people's lives. Humans and technology have become even more inseparable than they currently are, with a large number of people having their own computer assistants who act as their secretaries, advisors, and even confidants that they have even begun growing emotionally attached to. Robots have become a crucial part of the workforce, being present in all sectors, and they have begun outsourcing jobs humans used to do. To counter the threat of most jobs becoming obsolete, pharmaceutical companies developed certain pills that give cognitive boosts to those taking them, and many people have become dependent on these pills, with the much valid excuse of being able to keep their livelihood going. However, these pills can have dire consequences when consumed in the long run. In parallel, the increase of the relevance of Artificial Intelligence in society has sparked social movements advocating for equal rights for all types of intelligence, and AI is no exception to this. We are thus introduced to a new philosophical thought, relating to what we actually consider to be intelligence that is worthy of equal rights as humans.
In this book, a militant group advocating for AI rights, the Machinehood, has triggered a form of revolution where they demand that machines be given equal rights to humans, and they advocate for the cessation of all production of pills meant to cognitively enhance human capabilities, placing an unfair advantage on them against machines. For them, there is no difference between human and machine intelligence, and in fact, merging both inside one body is the ideal solution to capitalize on the advantages of both. To drive their point across, the Machinehood gives humanity an ultimatum: either comply with their demands, or suffer the consequences of the Machinehood disabling all technology and using force to guide humanity towards the right direction.
“some magic of biogenetic manipulation—not permanent, of course, lest humanity pollute the intentions of its Creator—everyone would become super capable. Or enter the leisure class. Or ascend to some digital faux godhood.”
The world building here is nicely done. The environment was immersive, and the little details, including the repercussions of climate-change and the global warming crisis, were handled very well. The author's attempt at merging the concepts of Buddhism with late 21st century social issues involving AI rights was smoothly executed and felt very natural. The philosophical musings found throughout the book were very intriguing to read and quite thought provoking. S.B. Divya does a great job changing the narrative of the value of human life from "All living things deserve equal rights and respect" to "All forms of intelligence deserve equal rights and respect". What constitutes an individual living entity worthy of compassionate treatment is no longer dependent on whether it is biologically alive, but on its capacity for intelligence. In that sense, how are advanced AIs different than humans? The progression of collective human thought from our current century to the time period in this book is a very realistic one, and I could very easily envision it happening. The world S.B. Divya built seems to be a very real potential one, and she did an excellent job in describing potential problems we will have as a society, with AI outsourcing human labour and humans attempting to compete by enhancing their cognitive abilities through toxic means. The sociological component of this world was a great touch, and was equally relevant in the world-building as the more technical aspects of the components of Divya's futuristic universe.
As for the characters, we follow two point of views in this story, each meant to show us the different aspects of the world the author crafted. Welga, a former agent of the US government who has left those days behind after a certain tragedy and is working in a different field, is our classic "hero" who is determined to stop the Machinehood and save humanity. Through her eyes, we see an action-packed aspect of the world, with battles and political intrigue dominating her sphere. Our second point of view is that of her sister-in-law Nithya, who gives us a more home-centered point of view, which complements the action-packed chapters of Welga with calmer and more contemplative chapters where we see the day to day life during this period of time. Nithya helps Welga deal with the implications of the symptoms she has been having due to her pill intake, while navigating a disagreement she is going through with her husband. The characters were decent, albeit a bit less developed than the other aspects of the story. Despite this being a more character driven story, what really pushed me to read this book and enjoy it were the ideas and the world itself, more so than the individual characters. The love interests of our two leads were very similar, acting as gentle and supportive partners, and they were "cute" read about but felt a bit indistinguishable. If I were to sum the characterization up, I would say it was a bit simplistic and the weight of the book went more into the world building and the ideas discussed, despite the story being character driven, which led me to not be completely satisfied while reading this work despite really loving the world and story in general.
Overall though, this was a decent book, and I am definitely willing to read more by this author. It's a nice sci-fi work that gets you thinking, and it is both intellectually satisfying while being smooth to read. I definitely recommend and wold want to go back to re-reading it at some point. I will be giving this a 3.75 and will round it up to 4 stars for the sake of the GR rating system that still refuses to add a half-star rating, since I do believe this is a decent book despite needing a few tweaks in characterization to enhance the quality of the narrative. Looking forward to reading more by S.B. Divya!
“The western way of thinking embraces duality. Good and evil. Man and woman. Mind and body. Human and machine. We reject these false dichotomies. Science has shown that our universe works across a range of possibilities. It embraces the infinite.”
3.0 Stars This is the case of a science fiction story with fantastic ideas that unfortunately failed in the execution of those ideas. I loved the conversation surrounding weak artificial intelligence, pharma drugs and social media influence. However, the narrative itself was very fragmented and disjointed.
There's a fair bit of SciFi around about what will happen later this century as AIs begin to put knowledge workers out of jobs and robots do the same to skilled and unskilled workers in more physical ones. There are all sorts of envisioned results including things like UBI, mass unemployment and even things like machine uprisings or mass suicides/uploading consciousness.
Government and various political and economic systems seem to devalue human rights as a trend, and this book extrapolates that to a logical extreme. The majority of humanity are underemployed and living in a gig economy where your tip jar is as important as your bank account. People that want to work are forced to take physical and medical enhancements to keep up with increasingly more advanced machines, and with such labor being cheap, those enhancements are of dubious safety.
Into this situation comes the actions of a new terrorist group, Machinehood, that demands that machines have the same rights as humans ... and humans have the same rights as machines.
This is very much a book of ideas and questions about our future direction set in a believable 2095 in terms of technology and a sociopolitical environment. I think it's plot takes a few too-convenient steps on its way to resolution, but ultimately it's more about the questions it asks then the way the problems are solved here.
I enjoy a varied reading diet and was due a science fiction book. This was available on Netgalley and had an intriguing premise and good reviews, so, despite initial reservations, it was mission go. And turns out the reservations were well founded. There was something about the description of the book that didn’t quite excite me and neither did the book. Oh it tried, it really did. It had perfectly decent writing, a lot of grand ideas, tons of action, morals, etc. It had all the right qualities for a good sci fi book, in fact it had a lot of ingredients I specifically enjoy in a sci fi book…social relevance/commentary being one of the prerequisites. But in the end int just didn’t work for me and while I endeavor to put into words why not, I’ll just talk about the plot. So in the year 2095 the world’s technology has come pretty far, the development of AI specifically has done so much (too much?) to change the social structure, now people are reduced to working gig economies observing and supervising AI and now people are being aggressively chemically assisted to be their best most competitive selves (it isn’t all negative, of course, in fact a lot of it dramatically enhances people’s lives, but it is a crippling dependency). Essentially AI is thriving and people are junkies, desperately trying to stay on the level. That’s reductive, but practical…and so into this world Machinehood emerges. Manifesto and all. An idea that all intelligence ought to be equal and cooperative, a notion for a purer and more integrative sort of existence. Originating either in a caliphate of Maghreb or a Buddhist space colony, this is a very dangerous idea, it threatens to upset the entire apple cart of current status quo and so it must be investigated. Which ends up down to a single special forces operative named Welga Ramirez. So yeah, that all sounds exciting, doesn’t it. And to be fair, the author does try to make it exciting, but somehow it never really did it for me, the excitement was muted at best, in fact there was too much action for my liking and, frankly, too much tech also. I mean, the tech was fascinating, but once established, it was still all too prevalent, overwhelming the story at times. The characters were interesting enough and properly heroic when needed to be, but can’t say I cared about any of them. That’s kind of the main thing with this novel, it was all interesting, but not especially engaging. The sort of book to appreciate, not to love. The author to her credit did some very interesting things with world building, AI development and integration, futuristic logistics, etc. The 2095 of her creation is culturally and ethnically diverse with a wide variety of multiethnic gender nonspecific characters, who still use the tragically unimaginative and grammatically iffy They to describe themselves. The tech has made chores nearly obsolete, fabrics and furniture reconstitute themselves, food get delivered and prepares itself in a futuristic kitchen, it’s an almost magically convenient world…so long as it functions properly. And the obverse evil side of that coin is that social media developments have turned lives into reality shows with too much information too easily available and observed. Brave new world indeed, one it seems only Welga’s heroic efforts can help save. I really did wish I liked this more, such gamut of ideas, but just too many things smushed together and seasoned too heavily with action scenes and action movie like characters. It read fairly quickly for being over 400 pages, so that was nice. But much like some AI, no matter how lifelike, it lacked that certain something to properly bring it to life. The cover has the same (muted) effect, actually, oddly enough. Almost there. Thanks Netgalley.
the first one of Olga Ramírez, who is more known as Welga. She formerly was in the army, but after they were first sent on a suicide mission and then disavowed by the US president, she left and now works as a shield – part bodyguard part entertainment gladiator, about which more later. She, as everyone these days actively used enhancing drugs (not chemical but nanobots called zips), but it seems they started affecting her body, giving her tremors.
The second one is Welga’s sister-in-law Nithya, who works as a designer/tester and who find out that despite her pills she got pregnant and this will stop her work, for to work people use drug ‘flow’ to stay competitive and it is banned for pregnant. Her husband is a fervent Catholic, so she decides to (chemical) abort but not tell him.
Now to the setting, which is quite fascinating. It is 2095 and majority of people in the и US don’t have a permanent job, but work gigs – short-term contracts. There are ubiquitous cameras (mostly drones), which destroyed privacy (even if as the author suggests ‘few people had time to sit around watching others have sex’), videoblogging is huge these days. As to Welga’s current job: in the 2060s almost everyone was able to do drugs in their kitchen, this deregulation led to some deaths/problems and now drug development in hands of a few wealthy investors. Protesters attack such investors (and other celebrities) usually making a show out of it. Shields take part is this show by stopping protesters and their tricks but with an extreme finesse – the abovementioned cameras make each attack a show and moreover, both attackers and defenders have tip jars, to where people who like their performance make donations, which constitutes a large share of income. Also everyone has a virtual assistant or WAI and bots do a lot of ordinary work. This ought to be a paradise but in reality a lot of US citizens live “hand-to-mouth”, without personal saving and having to work every day.
The plot begins with attack on an investor, whom Welga has to protect but fails. A new entity – Machinehood – announces its manifesto calling for equal treatment of AIs and threating a global lockdown of machines.
The story is quite interesting even if the setting is a bit heavy for some readers while characters are not too likable.
Liked the Sentient Artifical Intelligences being called SAIs (sighs), but this story was too human focused. I spent a lot of time wanting to have the perspective of a different (nonhuman) character. Wasn't helped by the inclusion of USian politics for a story set elsewhere.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review.
This is the most concept-heavy SF book that I've read in some time. It's set almost 100 years into the future, at the end of the twenty-first century. The main character, Welga Ramirez, is ex-military and now works as a Shield. Shields protect Funders from Protesters. All of these titles are essentially job/careers. Funders... fund new technological developments and provide employment, and protesters attack them when they go out in public. These protesters must register as groups and also give notification as to when they are likely to strike. Shields are both bodyguards and reality-show characters. They make the conflicts look exciting and a little sexy. This means that Welga makes sure that she's appropriately fashion-forward when she's working, doesn't take out opponents too quickly, and makes it look good when she fights. Welga has a virtual tip jar and a cloud of microdrones that follow her to catch her activity. Most people in this world either have the good fortune to work directly for a funder or they're gigsters, finding any way they can to make a living. Everyone has tip jars and everyone is accustomed to the total lack of privacy that performative life makes necessary.
And this is just the beginning. There's a conflict about whether artificial beings should have rights. There's tension over humans supervising robots doing much of the actual work because humans otherwise would have no way to make a living- this society has not evolved beyond capitalism even though there's a great surplus of labor and the strain is showing. Climate change is taken as a given, everyone takes drugs every day from their kitchen pharmaceutical dispensers because new diseases (both engineered and natural) are constantly being created. Welga herself is constantly on "zips" (drugs that speed up reflexes) because of her work as a shield, and she also takes buffs (for strength) and 'juvers (for healing) almost daily. Everyone is part of this pill-popping culture in order to keep up with AIs and also with each other. Everyone is racing faster and faster just to stay in place.
The concepts in this book were the most interesting part to me. The author has imagine a rather grim yet rather plausible future. Characters, on the other hand, tended to be a bit more basic. I was interested in them, but not very emotionally invested. The book ramps up a plot early in the book, but the conflict kind of peters out at the end instead of exploding. That loses the book a star, but I'm really impressed by this author. She's looking at our present and writing about about our future (but it's really about our present after all, like most science fiction). It's an imaginative book with plenty of action. I'd love to see more books like this, by this author or others.
Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of this book.
This book came at the perfect time for me. I was feeling a bit slumpy and this action packed sci-fi was exactly what I needed. I really loved exploring the world through the eyes of Welga and her sister in law and the world is my favorite part of this book. What S.B. Divya envisions for 2090 is so interesting and not something I have personally seen. Although I loved the world I had some issues with the world building execution but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment. I am constantly going back and forth with how I feel about the ending but think I have landed on largely liking it. This was just the perfect paced novel for me and exactly the type of compelling sci-fi I wanted when I picked it up.
I LOVED this book. It hit me in my sci-fi sweet spot and didn't let go. A credit to Ms. Divya's writing. Her characters were all so different yet relatable and compelling and REAL. The world as she envisions it here? Yeah, I could ABSOLUTELY see it. I really enjoyed this story - give it a try! I got my copy as an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway ☺
I enjoyed this but it was kind of generic. There wasn't enough drama to be a thriller, the social commentary was a bit one note (essentially the gig economy being bad) and although the future tech was sort of interesting it wasn't exactly mind blowing.
I did like the characters and the story but it is a book that did lots of things well, just nothing great.
A chilling tale of the consequences of escalating need for technology. All are aware that technology is as addictive as every escapist, feel-good drug. People were originally horrified with the thought of tiny nanomachines tinkering with their bodies. In this near future world we have drugs and pills (actually nanomachines) that can aid us in every endeavor. There exists a huge and expanding market for these "enhancement" pills. "Juvers" for muscle recovery and repair. "Flow" to enhance focus and intelligence. "Zips" to enhance performance and speed. "Buffs" to make us stronger. All with the goal to allow humans to remain competitive with the ever improving Artificial Intelligence machines (WAI) and bots. One day an organization, shrouded in mystery and intent, and known as "Machinehood" beams across communication channels an ultimatum. "Cease all pill and drug production by March 19 or we will make it happen. A New Era awaits humankind" Later as their Manifesto goes public .;. their goal becomes more easily defined. "All of us are intelligent machines. All of us deserve the right of personhood". ( They obviously are making the case that AI's have now reached the stage of Sentience and demand equality) Our intrepid hero is Welga Ramirez, former soldier,and present-day bodyguard, who is flawed and partially surgically enhanced. Experiencing increasing seizures and tremors on the basis of decades usage of "Zips". But, yet she is uniquely qualified to investigate and confront this threat. The Machinehood threatens to start killing the "funders" who are responsible for the ever expanding market of designer drugs and pills. Will Welga and the government agencies who draw her back into the fray, uncover the forces behind this movement? S B Divya unwinds a chilling , and twisted tale of the ramifications of technology. Her tale is compelling and propulsive and excels in worldbuilding. Successfully woven into her narrative is the dilemma of the working class and continued presence of bigotry. Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. Anticipated publication will be March 2. 2021.
Machinehood. Sounds good. But what does it mean? In S.B. Divya’s sci-fi thriller, the term describes a shadowy organization fighting against the abuse of robots.
Set in the near future (2095), the story looks at a labor conflict between humans and robots that take over some jobs. It also asks a question at what point does an AI become a person? And at what point do we start to treat robots as persons rather than tools or slaves? As much as I love Terminator movies, I don’t think we’re heading toward a Robocalypse. In Machinehood, robots serve as highly skilled and competent tools, and nothing more. Except, things get complicated when the first sentient AI tries to change it.
Welga Ramirez, an ex-soldier turned bodyguard to the wealthy business executives, gets drawn into a deadly fight with Machinehood. Initially, she’s trying to stop them, but things get less black-and-white as the story progresses.
Welga’s arc is fast-paced and exciting. She's a badass and a skilled fighter who knows all the moves. And she uses them to get tips from people watching her through ubiquitous microdrones. Divya balances things by adding the second point of view character, Welga’s biogeneticist sister-in-law, Nithya. Nithya is a family person trying to keep her household together despite financial problems and personal issues. While her arc lacked edge-of-your-seat moments, it offered a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of regular people dealing with the future reality. Besides this, Nithya’s medical investigation into seizures experienced by Welga provides an interesting look at the science of enhancements and development of the pharmaceutical industry.
The competitive labor market forces people to consume pills enhancing their performance. Otherwise, they couldn't compete with the artificial workforce. Such pharmaceuticals are often printed at home, designed by both giant corporations and hobbyists. Daily doses of drugs protect people against designer diseases, and “upgrade” them. Flow, for example, enhances focus. Zips increase physical strength and speed, and juvers speed up healing.
Both sides of the conflict have their reasons to act the way they do. That makes both protagonist and the antagonist compelling. Of course, no one sane would accept Mahinehood's extreme acts but they have their reasons. Sounds ones.
Machinehood is executed in a clean, concise style, with a narrative as logical as it is unpredictable. It's brainy, it asks a lot of questions and doesn't deliver all the answers. It presents a disquieting power struggle and provides a fully imagined idea of where humanity is headed. Well worth a read.
I'm surprised by how ambivalent I am with regard to this story. It should have been just right for me with the emphasis placed on artificial intelligence but this didn't strike me as a futuristic adventure of humans and AIs but a moral dilemma of how the AIs should be treated by humans. This world sounded like it would be interesting to read about because, essentially, all humans are addicted to pills of all types as augmentation for improving themselves. They even formulate their own drugs of choice which help them compete with AIs. Machinehood is a terrorist organization which announces that all pill production must stop within a week and when that doesn't happen they begin to kill the largest pill funders. The main character is working as a Shield (read that as bodyguard) for one of the pill funders.
There seemed to be so many opportunities lost when I would have liked to get closer to the main character and gotten to see how this world really worked. As one example Welga Ramirez almost dies while working as a shield but instead of showing readers what scientific advances repair her body there is just the destruction and then a day passes and Welga is all better.
Social media is hyped up to an incredible extent in the story with masses of robotic cameras swarming everywhere recording anything and everything that happens throughout both personal and business situations. People watch the videos and vote their thumbs up or down by placing virtual coins in a tip jar resulting in income for the people featured in the videos. Jobs are performed with the knowledge that you can get higher tips if you put on a better or different performance; the performances even enter into what is usually the most private of interactions.
My attachment to Welga was absolutely nil and the mission of the Machinehood group wasn't anything I cared about either.
Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Saga Press for an e-galley of this novel.
“Modern society has found itself at the mercy of an oligarchy whose primary objective is to accrue power. They have done this by dividing human labor into two classes: designers and gigsters. The former are exploited for their cognitive power, while the latter rely on low-skilled, transient forms of work for hire.” —Machinehood, S.B. Divya 🦾 Happy pub day to MACHINEHOOD, an action-packed and delightfully non-Eurocentric novel that challenges the goals & unintended consequences of technological progress under capitalism.
After leaving Marine Corps special ops, Welga Ramírez repurposed her skills as a Shield bodyguard—one of the few steady jobs available in an economy that universally runs on gigging.
At 35, retirement is on the horizon. But when an attack on a client during a milk run job ends up linked to the demands of an emergent machines’ rights group (that may or may not be helmed by sentient AI), she’s drawn into a SpecOps investigation that has ramifications for the future of humankind & social order on Earth. 🦾 Y’all I cannot remember the last time I read scifi/spec fic that was SO on-point re: potential manifestations of our current sociopolitical & technological trajectory. Divya is not imagining a world much further into the future, which makes her considerations of things like biogenetics, surveillance, connectivity, artificial intelligences, and the dueling forces of cooperation and exploitation all the more resonant.
As many fascinating & creative details as are seeded into the story, its pace is quick, and the elaborately woven web of mystery and intrigue—ranging from a blacked out caliphate to a refugee camp to a Neo-Buddhist space station—reminded me of watching a season of Homeland. • Snag this one if you’re in the mood for a propulsive and thought-provoking novel! Thanks to @sagasff for the dARC 🙌🏼✨
Sentient A.I., Venture Capitalists, pills needed to compete with weak A.I.'s, a gig economy that enslaves the masses along with designer pandemics. Lots of big ideas pulled right from today's news. I really enjoyed this fast paced book. I particularly like that a good part of the book follows Nithya who lives in India, I hate SF that just centers itself on the US.
The only criticism would be only 1 1/2 characters are really fleshed out. The main character Welga is the one we get to know the most and also the most action packed chapters. Nithya the other characters who we follow in handful of chapters is more scientist and we see more of family life through her eyes.
I'm truly sorry that I could not make it past 25% of this book. The synopsis pulled me in but the execution just wasn't for me. This is a dense complicated novel that gives us a flimsy back story, shallow characters, and a glimpse at what could be.
I understand that the biggest issue is should/could artificial intelligence be considered human (I think that's what it was!) Should AI not be treated as slaves, pets, or unpaid labor. I think the story goes deeper than that but I just don't have the intelligence or patience to dig deeper; read more.
What I will say is that if this is what the coming decades have in store for us (and somehow I don't doubt it) I'm glad I won't be around for it. For example, everything you do is a live feed and I do mean EVERYTHING! You make your own drugs and you use them for everything...well think of a meth lab in your kitchen only making things that keep you healthy or moving when you want to crash etc.
Acronyms abound so keep a pad a pencil handy!
*ARC supplied by the publisher, the author, and ATTL.