Rusty's World

Rusty’s Reading List 2018

February 24, 2018
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Autonomous

 

One effect of my gig with Arc Poetry Magazine is that I am reading a lot of great poetry.
Another effect is that I am not reading much of anything else.
Thankfully I was gifted this interesting novel by Amal El-Mohtar. (That is, Amal gifted it, not that it is a novel by her. We are waiting for that.)

There is a lot to like about this novel. It really delves into some ideas about sentience and ownership, which invariably leads to ideas about free will. The inclusion of human-robot sex, which I will admit I found jarring at first, really came around when you started seeing the differing attitudes towards it from the ‘bots. It made you question what you were reading in the previous scenes. Well done.

Once you accept the idea that these robots have true sentience and free will, you have to start questioning it when you realize that their behaviour is modified at will by programs installed. When a robot falls in love with ‘her’ (gender is one of the many thing that are questioned as preconceived fallacies when it comes to A.I.) master (and yes, that word use is intentional), we have to question whether that is real or indicated by programming.

It isn’t to say that this book is flawless. I found it really fell short in the visual department. I never felt like I knew where they were, visually, despite most of the book being set in Canadian cities. I also never got a good idea of what characters looked like. My mental picture of what a combat robot would look like made the scenes where she had sex more puzzling than anything else. Obviously my notions were incorrect, but if there was anything in the book to give me a better understanding, I missed it.

Also, the main plot involved drug piracy and I am pretty sure we were supposed to see parallels between patent law and indentured slaves (both human and robot), but I found that she didn’t do a great job showing why it was bad for drug patents to exist. (And I would tend to agree with the politics on that, so it wasn’t my mind resisting the idea.) Without that connection, the main plot was not that compelling.

Newitz DID do a good job showing corrupt corporations, but that is like shooting fish in a barrel.

The book rides on the strength of the robot A.I. concepts, but it does that VERY well.

Very much worth reading. I could certainly see reading it again.

 

Books Read in 2018

Autonomous – Annalee Newitz
The Malahat Review #200
Fables Vol. 5 – The Mean Seasons (Willingham / Buckingham / Leialoha / Akina / Palmiotti)
Fables Vol. 4 – March of the Wooden Soldiers (Willingham / Buckingham / Hamilton / Leioloha / Russell)
Fables Vol. 3 – Storybook Love (Willingham / Buckingham / Leialoha)
Fables Vol. 2 – Animal Farm (Willingham / Buckingham / Leialoha)
Fables Vol. 1 – Legends in Exile (Willingham / Medina / Leiaoha / Hamilton)

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