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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Machinehood by S.D. Divya review


Official Author Website
Order Machinehood over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of RUNTIME and co-editor of Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. Her short stories have been published at various magazines including Analog, Uncanny, and tor.com. Her collection, Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Situations, is out now from Hachette India, and her debut novel MACHINEHOOD is forthcoming from Saga Press in March, 2021. She holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author. Find out more about her at www.sbdivya.com or on Twitter as @divyastweets.

FORMAT: Published on March 2, 2021 by Gallery/Saga Press. Print length - 415 pages. Cover Design by Richard Yoo, 3D Model Art by Zi Won Wang

OVERVIEW: Machinehood. Sounds good. But what does it mean? In S.B. Divya’s sci-fi thriller, the term describes a shadowy organization fighting against the abuse of robots. 

Set in the near future (2095), the story looks at a labor conflict between humans and robots that take over some jobs. It also asks a question at what point does an AI become a person? And at what point do we start to treat robots as persons rather than tools or slaves? As much as I love Terminator movies, I don’t think we’re heading toward a Robocalypse. In Machinehood, robots serve as highly skilled and competent tools, and nothing more. Except, things get complicated when the first sentient AI tries to change it.

Welga Ramirez, an ex-soldier turned bodyguard to the wealthy business executives, gets drawn into a deadly fight with Machinehood. Initially, she’s trying to stop them, but things get less black-and-white as the story progresses. 

Welga’s arc is fast-paced and exciting. She's a badass and a skilled fighter who knows all the moves. And she uses them to get tips from people watching her through ubiquitous microdrones. Divya balances things by adding the second point of view character, Welga’s biogeneticist sister-in-law, Nithya. Nithya is a family person trying to keep her household together despite financial problems and personal issues. While her arc lacked edge-of-your-seat moments, it offered a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of regular people dealing with the future reality. Besides this, Nithya’s medical investigation into seizures experienced by Welga provides an interesting look at the science of enhancements and development of the pharmaceutical industry.

The competitive labor market forces people to consume pills enhancing their performance. Otherwise, they couldn't compete with the artificial workforce. Such pharmaceuticals are often printed at home, designed by both giant corporations and hobbyists. Daily doses of drugs protect people against designer diseases, and “upgrade” them. Flow, for example, enhances focus. Zips increase physical strength and speed, and juvers speed up healing.

Both sides of the conflict have their reasons to act the way they do. That makes both protagonist and the antagonist compelling. Of course, no one sane would accept Mahinehood's extreme acts but they have their reasons. Sounds ones. 

CONCLUSION: Machinehood is executed in a clean, concise style, with a narrative as logical as it is unpredictable. It's brainy, it asks a lot of questions and doesn't deliver all the answers. It presents a disquieting power struggle and provides a fully imagined idea of where humanity is headed. Well worth a read.


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