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'Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the internet' NEAL STEPHENSON
'Something genuinely and thrillingly new' WILLIAM GIBSON
'Holy hell. Autonomous is remarkable' LAUREN BEUKES
WINNER OF THE 2018 LAMBDA AWARD FOR SFF
SHORTLISTED FOR THE NEBULA AWARD 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE LOCUS AWARD FOR BEST DEBUT 2018
Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap medicines for those 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 is an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his indentured 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 understands.
And underlying it all is one fundamental question: is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?
In a phenomenal debut that's sure to garner significant awards attention, Newitz, cofounder of io9, sends three fascinating characters on an action-packed race against time through a strange yet familiar futuristic landscape. After pharmaceutical pirate Jack Chen's latest batch of reverse-engineered performance drugs proves dangerous and sometimes even fatal for the users, she sets out to rectify the damage by finding a cure and exposing the corrupt manufacturer who first developed the drug. As she dodges the authorities and agents of the International Property Coalition, she reconnects with figures from her checkered past and comes to terms with her role as an antipatent scientist-crusader. Meanwhile, the IPC agents on her tail have their own issues: human Eliasz and indentured robot Paladin are developing unexpected feelings for each other, with Paladin prompted to reconsider his gender identity, which may complicate their relentless search for Jack and her allies. Newitz laces her narrative with sincere explorations of free will, social accountability, corporate morality, and scientific responsibility. Jack's liaisons with lovers of various genders and Paladin's own gradual evolution contribute to a skillful inspection of attraction and identity that feels right at home in Newitz's fragmented, frenetic society.