• F. D. Lee

TBR Challenge: Autonomous, Annalee Newitz

Disclaimer: Everyone has different tastes and milage may vary within those tastes. My opinions about a book are not a reflection on the book itself but rather my relationship to it

I really love Autonomous, the debut novel by Annalee Newitz - I can't believe I've had it on my shelf for two years and didn't read it sooner!

So, what's it about? Jack is a pirate who reverse-engineers medicinal drugs to distribute them to the poorest in society for free. To support her virtuous work, she also reverse-engineers party drugs which she sells. Unfortunately, her latest reverse engineered party drug is killing people. Jack needs to find out why and, crucially, how it can be stopped.

Hot on her heels are two IPC agents, Eliasz, a human, and Palladin, a military robot. They have been charged with bringing the infamous pirate Jack to justice and will stop at nothing to see their mission successfully completed.

What makes this book so wonderful is the depth of characters and the frankly only-just-not-science-fact element of bioengineering and pharmaceutical control. Jack soon finds out that the drug she reverse-engineered, a concentration enhancer called Zaxy, was faulty to begin with. The Big Pharma company that made it, Zacuity, was exempt from various safety trials due to their status. However, people are becoming addicted to their work to the point of death and – naturally – danger to others. A particularly memorable incident involves a person working for the rail network suddenly going into overdrive (ha ha) and changing all the routes, resulting in a number of deaths due to crashes.