What it means to be human—and a mother—is put to the test in Carole Stivers’s debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.
The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order: an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.
Kai is born in America’s desert Southwest, his only companion his robotic Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too—in ways that were never predicted. And when government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai is faced with a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?
Set in a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human—and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.
Biochemist Stivers's sweeping, cinematic debut raises probing questions about the nature of family and human connection. In 2049, a DNA-based biological weapon unleashes a lethal worldwide pandemic that threatens to end humanity. The only viable cure appears to lie in fetal genetic manipulation, leading the U.S. government to secretly create incubators in the form of flying robots programmed with a "mother code" that gives each a unique personality intended to allow each bot to successfully raise a baby until it's safe to reintegrate the child into human society. Stivers splits focus between the scientists creating the program, in thrilling passages replete with government secrets and impossibly high stakes, and the uncanny bond between mother robot Rho-Z and her genetically engineered human child, Kai, as they navigate their isolated life in the desert in 2060. Each story line is emotionally resonant, leading to a devastating gut punch when they eventually collide. Stivers's mythic vision and sound science will strike a chord with readers who fear for humanity's future. This dystopia is painful, provocative, and ultimately infused with hope.