Here’s a perfect example of a pretty cover hiding a book that absolutely did not deserve it.
There were some good things about Autonomous. Let’s see…
- The bisexual representation was nice to see.
- The futuristic world was fun and dystopian at the same time: they have fuzzy foam furniture and plants can grow out of people’s’ heads. But also… slaves. I enjoyed the dichotomy. Not everything is perfect or amazing.
- The friendship between Med and Threezed. They were, beyond a doubt, my favorite characters in the book. I loved the way their upbringings flipped the societal expectations for robot and human “childhood” experiences.
- Some of the politics of ownership and open-license was interesting and felt like a very plausible extension of current the copyright/open-source situation.
While I liked those things and enjoyed much of this book, I actually ended up kind of resenting it because of one very significant plot thread:
Paladin and Eliasz. Other reviewers have touched on this and done a very good job of tackling why this is a disturbing plot. I’ve read some defenses of the book say something along the lines of “having a homophobic character doesn’t reflect the author’s views”. That’s true, of course, but it’s also perfectly valid to say that I didn’t like this book because it contained homophobia that wasn’t condemned in any way, and was actually rewarded in the end. Eliasz gets to have exactly what he wants: a view of Paladin as female and a robot that he can be sexually attracted to without confronting his homophobic bigotry at all. Reading this, it felt like it was supposed to be a happy, ride-off-into-the-sunset type of ending. It seemed like the author wanted us to cheer on Paladin and Eliasz and root for them as a couple. Not every book has to have a happy ending or advance a progressive agenda, but I also don’t have to like books that show homophobia and bigotry and act like those are ok opinions that nice people have.