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Machinehood, by S. B. Divya

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is a classic science fiction form I’m not seeing enough of: near-future SF written from an intimate voice. The main points of view in the book are two sisters-in-law, Welga and Nithya, who are also close friends, and whose perspective gives triangulation on the future Divya has created. Most humans are constantly accompanied and assisted by their WAIs (weak AIs), machine intelligences that don’t quite make the full equal personhood grade by humanity’s current estimation. But they’re darn good at what they can do, and as a result humanity has chosen to enter an arms race of source with machines, taking a variety of designer drugs to enhance intellectual focus, speed, healing ability, stamina, and more.

Enter the Machinehood. The Machinehood is a combined human-AI group that is not the least bit satisfied with the status of AIs in the world–and not thrilled with the way human bodies are treated, either. They’ve gotten to the point where they are willing to engage in violent revolution.

Welga has been aligned with the status quo for most of her life–previously as a Marine, now in her work as a shield. But her mother died of bad reactions to drugs, and she’s starting to have some of those herself. Her sister-in-law Nithya has the biotech skills to help her if anyone can–if anyone human can. And they’re both ready to oppose the Machinehood for the safety of their loved ones–for humanity as a whole. They think. They hope.

This book has a few weaknesses. The exposition is often clunky, and the secondary characters (especially Luis, the man who ties the two protagonists together) are sometimes sketched-in ciphers. But if you like near-future hard SF that centers the lives of individuals and gives you close views of their thoughts, Machinehood is exactly what you’re looking for.

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