Tor Books editor Liz Gorinsky has acquired two novels from Annalee Newitz, cofounder of io9, former editor at Gizmodo, and current Tech Culture editor at Ars Technica. The first, Autonomous, is a sci-fi dystopian thriller set in 2144; described by her agent Laurie Fox as “a novel of ideas—about the future of property law,” it explores a future in which robots are granted autonomy after 10 years of service, and humans can own other humans.
Newitz is the author of three books: Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction; She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Geeky Stuff; and Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture. Autonomous will be her first novel.
Here’s how Fox describes the book:
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 Joe 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.
All the characters in Autonomous are dealing with a fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?