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Pirates and Robots Square Off Over Drugs in Annalee Newitz’s Debut Novel

Warning: Spoiler Alert!
Image: Annalee Newitz

It's the middle of the 22nd century, and drugs have gotten really awesome. But access to drugs, recreational and medical, is stymied by ironclad patent laws that have pushed prices well beyond what most patients can afford.

That's what motivates Jack, one protagonist of Annalee Newitz's debut novel Autonomous, to become a Robin Hood, but with drugs instead of money. Operating from a range of colorful hiding spots, Jack illegally reverse-engineers designer drugs and distributes them for wider public consumption. But something goes seriously wrong, and a weaponized robot named Paladin is paired with a human agent to hunt Jack down in a globe-trotting chase.


Radio Motherboard spoke to Newitz about Autonomous, out on Tuesday.

Newitz, who is the tech culture editor at Ars Technica, the founding editor of io9, and the author of many previous books, including Scatter, Adapt, and Remember : How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, shared the experience of creating this disconcertingly believable vision of the future, and its undercurrent of timeless tropes like forbidden love, vigilantism, and survivalist grit.

Enjoy, and be warned the interview contains spoilers for the book.

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