A Year in Reading: Robin Sloan

December 11, 2017 | 1 book mentioned 2 min read

I read more than one book in 2017, but the one is all I’m going to tell you about, because come on: there are a lot of other Years in Reading to get through here.

I received an advance copy of Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous in the summer and it hasn’t left my mind since. It’s an important book that adds significantly to science fiction’s storehouse of futures, and I tend to think we need those very badly: not easy dystopias, and not naive world’s fairs, but REAL futures: textured, grounded, exciting, unsettling.

Among other things, Autonomous:

* imagines a disturbingly plausible scenario for the stealthy reintroduction of slavery;

* draws a new map for the future, where all the really interesting stuff is happening not in Palo Alto and Shanghai but Moose Jaw and Casablanca; and

* sets a new benchmark for the depiction of robot-human relationships in fiction.

I read so many books, and forget so much of what I’ve read, that I consider any indelible image a sign of great success. Much of Autonomous has already faded in my memory, but that romance, between robot Paladin and soldier Eliasz—the slow awakening, the uncertainty and distress, the caressing of gun ports—it’s with me now forever.

Thus ends the era that began with “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.” Starting in 2017, and thanks to Autonomous, there is a new standard.

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is the author of two novels, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. Penumbra was a New York Times bestseller translated into more than 20 languages and Sourdough just came out, so give it a minute. Robin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where he tinkers with technology. You can learn more at his website.

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