“If they get everyone to stop taking pills and give bots equal rights, humanity is screwed.”
It’s 2095 and humans rely on drugs to stay healthy as well as physically and cognitively competitive in a gig economy where they must compete with artificial intelligence for jobs.
Cameras everywhere tend to keep violent urges in check, so life is fairly peaceful for Welga Ramirez, a 35-year-old physically-upgraded bodyguard who’s happy to have steady employment (most people don’t) and is looking forward to being transferred to a desk job soon. She’s also thinking about turning her passion for “slow cooking” into a business in which her hired chefs will use performance-enhancing drugs to speed up their kitchens.
But when the Machinehood strikes, publicly assassinating Welga’s current client and threatening all of the pill producers, the government asks Welga to investigate the terrorist group. This is an extremely dangerous job which is complicated by Welga’s recent seizures which might be tied to the pills she’s been taking. After an internal struggle, she decides to accept the job because it will give her a sense of closure for her current position, and she sees it as a way to help society.
Welga must discover what the Machinehood is, where they’ve been hiding, and what their views and goals are. Are they even human? And could it be possible that they’re actually right about how they see the world? Even if they’re right, is it okay for them to force their will on the rest of the planet, killing some people in the process? Is the Machinehood promising to usher in a new more wonderful future for humans, or is this just the latest form of oppression?
S.B. Divya’s Machinehood (2021) is a near-future science-fiction thriller that feels realistic. I believed in Divya’s speculation about how our society is moving towards an economy that’s divided into two tiers — those who create, and those who serve and must constantly hustle for gigs. People in both of these groups are exploited, stressed, and addicted to the pills they use so they can compete with each other and keep up with machines.
It was this speculative vision of our future, and the thoughts about how humans might change and evolve to confront it, and the ethical dilemmas we’ll face along the way, that I found most compelling about Machinehood. I also enjoyed the exciting plot (explosions!) and Divya’s characters. Welga is a likable and interesting hero, but my favorite character was her sister-in-law, an Indian biochemist whose productivity, and therefore income, is threatened by an unplanned pregnancy. With her background, and some unexpected free time, she wants to help Welga figure out what’s causing her seizures.
Machinehood is a thoughtful exploration of a possible human future. It’s a book that I’ll recommend to my students who study neuroscience. It was interesting to read this during the COVID pandemic. In Divya’s possible future, pandemics are common. Hackers create them, but scientists can generate an antidote within hours which people can cook up in their own kitchens at home. Wouldn’t that be nice? Other recent real-world events that Divya alludes to include a refugee crisis and political activism morphing into extremism.
The audio version of Machinehood, produced by Simon & Schuster Audio, is 11.5 hours long and brilliantly narrated by Inés del Castillo and Deepti Gupti. I recommend this version!
Another one goes on the list!
Yep. My list is taller than I am now thanks to you guys. =)
Your books on the list too Marion.
Zina, thank you!
I just ordered MACHINEHOOD about an hour ago at my indie bookstore.
Let me know how you guys like Machinehood. And give the audiobook a try!
Okay Kat, I never tried audiobooks, but I’ll do it. Once. LOL. I’m more visual.
Oh no! No audiobooks!