The best part of owning a lot of unread books is that when I’m in the mood to read science fiction, I have plenty to choose from without leaving the house. This time around, I went with Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. And it was a good choice.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work.
On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.
Autonomous is so much more than a science fiction novel. Yes, the sci-fi is good if that’s what you’re here for. Honestly, I didn’t think it was the most well-explained, but still solid. However, the reason I enjoyed this so much is not because of the science fiction elements. What I loved about this book was it’s commentary on other issues. Personally, I really liked the commentary on the pharmaceutical industry (which, here in America is absolutely insane).
But my favorite part of the book was how Annalee Newitz, who is nonbinary themselves, explained sexual orientation in such a clear and indisputable way. Using a cyborg. I consider myself an LGBT ally, but as a straight, cisgender person, I know there are limits to my ability to understand others sometimes. I absolutely loved Paladin’s journey throughout this book, and I honestly think that enhanced my understanding and empathy. Which I wasn’t expecting from Autonomous, but is a massive plus in my book. I’ve talked before about how books have made me into the empathetic person I am today (as opposed to the close-minded person I was raised to be), and I absolutely love that there are books like this out there to help others do the same.
You don’t always expect a science fiction or fantasy book to increase your understanding of the world around you, but this one did. I thought this book was a brilliant way to give some insight into the trans experience in a way that’s both easy to understand and fun to read. I’m really glad I ended up finally reading this one.
★★★★☆ – I really enjoyed Autonomous. It’s a fun sci-fi novel with a really great message. If you’re looking for some great LGBT+ fiction that isn’t contemporary, I highly recommend this one. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Annalee Newitz.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible. I listened to the audiobook of this one and really liked it!
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