Review of Machinehood by S.B. Divya
Space! Robots! Artificial intelligence! Divya has crafted strong female main protagonists who navigate the sometimes dark, always complicated pressures of life in 2095--as they try to save the world.
In her debut novel, Divya sets the scene in the world of 2095. Humanity around the world is reliant on homemade and commercially manufactured pills--for health, for work focus, for managing bots, for healing, for sleep, and for transitioning between all of the above.
The economy runs on robots, partially augmented humans, and humans desperately trying to compete with artificial intelligence and survive in the gig economy.
Welga Ramirez is an elite bodyguard who is former special forces, and she's on the verge of retirement. Like almost everyone, Welga allows constant live feeds of her activity for anyone who's interested in seeing what she's doing. She manages to keep her virtual tip jar full, and her biggest challenge lately has been shifting her angle or slightly manipulating a situation during her bodyguard jobs in order to maximize tips. Then the unthinkable happens: her team's client is murdered. Violent crimes really don't happen anymore, and society is thrown into a tailspin.
A new terrorist group, The Machinehood, takes responsibility. They're attacking and killing major pill funders, and they threaten more widespread destruction if society doesn't immediately stop using pills as the basis for everyday tasks and as the foundation for the worldwide economy and offer greater rights for humans enhanced with artificial intelligence. In the midst of a global panic, Welga is drawn back into intelligence work in order to identify and fight this new enemy--an enemy that may turn out to be a new incarnation of an old nemesis.
Space! Robots! Artificial intelligence! I wished for more page time spent on everyday tasks and activities (cooking, shifting household modules, travel, and communicating), which were all carried out in Jetsons-level, fascinating, futuristic ways. But Divya is too busy crafting strong female main protagonists (complete with working mother guilt, which exists in the future too) as they: navigate ethical considerations such as pressures on workers and workload expectations; consider modifications to the body to enable faster or more strenuous work; manage the implications of a backlash against artificial enhancements; and face society's inability to extricate itself and the worldwide economy from a reliance on pills.
There are mysterious elements at play. Going off world is presented as a possible solution (for those with means) and a potential escape from the Earth's complications. The management of many large-scale issues and their side effects are shown in shades of gray rather than black-and-white, including the meaning and value of personhood; the definitions of health, autonomy, and freedom; sometimes-necessary compromises; and the promise for the future of the world.
Toward the end of the book there's significant summary, and as events move along during the late phase of the story, we see abrupt changes and shifts in thinking and plans. This works for the plot and resolutions—and none of it happens without realistic complications—but it also felt a little jarring.
Any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Machinehood is out tomorrow! Are you going to read this one? Have you read it?
I received a prepublication copy of this book courtesy of Gallery Books and NetGalley.
I mentioned this book (along with We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker and The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister) in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 2/24/21 Edition.