Newitz, Annalee. Autonomous

A smart, rich, immersive cyberpunk thriller, which manages to make some quite fantastical and potentially space operatic worldbuilding feel plausible, grounded, and perhaps not even that far off. The novel is faintly pervaded by economic themes, in particular:

  • Intellectual Property law, especially pharmaceutical patents, and especially as it pertains to corporate power;
  • the blurred and ductile line between state power and the power of large multinationals (a perennial cyberpunk theme);
  • the work ethic, the experience of work, and the ways in which work can shape and degrade the worker's body and soul; and
  • slavery -- a key premise in the novel is that the rise of artificial sapient nonhumans (bots) has, along with other factors, led to a degradation of the legal status of the human, so that both bots and humans are vulnerable to legalised indenture.