mini-review · Reading Diversely · stuff I read

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

28209634Summary from Goodreads:
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.

I had a galley, then it expired, and then I had to get in the holds line for the library’s Libby copy (this is the lyfe, I tell you). But I finally finished Autonomous and it is completely bonkers. I did not know that I needed a post-cyberpunk, futurist, anti-Big Pharma, gender-and-desire-exploring sci-fi novel but once I started reading, Autonomous was totally the book I needed. The beginning is a bit slow but once it picked up I just kept turning pages. Newitz has a background as a science journalist (Newitz co-founded i09 with her partner Charlie Jane Anders) and it really showed in how she pushed the science into the future, kept it within the bounds of believability, and also made it easy to understand.

I also really enjoyed the exploration of gender constructs and desire using a bio-bot. Paladin is one of the point-of-view characters and Newitz just cracked the world of Autonomous open using Paladin’s thoughts and opinions. So damn good.

Trigger warning for sexual abuse/slavery and homophobia (because if we haven’t fixed poverty 200 years in the future, we sure as hell haven’t fixed homophobia).

Dear FTC: I started reading a digital galley from Edelweiss, then had to finish with the library copy.  I’ll probably buy a copy.

mini-review · stuff I read

Another Fine Mess: Life on Tomorrow’s Moon by Pope Brock

33508569Summary from Goodreads:
Now that we’ve pretty much ruined planet Earth–no big secret–science tells us the human race could be doomed. Well, not all science, but some of it, enough to have sparked a lively interest in setting up someplace else. But where?

The answer is the moon of course, and that’s what this book explores: the many ways in which today’s scientists, entrepreneurs, architects and, yes, a few loonies are working to get colonies established there ASAP. Filled with research, interviews and expert projections, these pages reveal how a web of fantastic new technologies could give mankind a brand new start off-world.

The only worm in the ointment is human nature. It’s the one thing pioneers in this business almost never discuss. Yet it’s of vital concern: given a second chance on the moon, will we use it to create at last a sane and peaceful society? Or will we make a desperate hash of things all over again?

Here’s your doorway to the moon of tomorrow. Pass through and decide for yourself.

Another Fine Mess is a very readable set of essays ruminating on the possibility of colonizing the Moon once humans have finished ruining the Earth. Brock has done a lot of research, rounding up ideas from the logical (launchpoint for Mars missions) to the ludicrous (Las Vegas on the lunar surface). It’s a bit self-congratulatorily clever in places but really worth reading for the sheer breadth of ideas humans have had about the Moon for centuries.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.