Annalee Newitz
Autonomous Cover



The author is a science journalist and this (her first novel) builds an interesting world of biotech. Sentient robots also make up part of the picture. The plot is muddled, her characters are flat and unlikable, and the resolution unsatisfying. I would pass on this one.

The setting is the best part. 150 years in the future, the author has set corporate patents against freedom, bringing indentured people into that mix also. Most of the action takes place in Canada, with hints that New York is only around because of massive dikes and sea barriers. Sentient robots are not explained, but part of the setting - I can accept that.

The plot pits corporate biotech vs pirates and free labs, which makes sense. What law there is in this setting seems to be focused on corporate lawsuits - apparently individual rights have evaporated. The novel pits two characters (pirate and law enforcement) against each other, but law enforcement seems to have no limitations, no threat of oversight. It is that much harder to stay ahead of the law when they can torture and kill everybody you know.

You can read other reviews for details on robot sex and homophobia, neither of which was needed for the story. 3 stars for the setting but 1 star (or less) for everything else, ending up at 1½ stars.