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Machinehood  By  cover art

Machinehood

By: S.B. Divya
Narrated by: Inés del Castillo,Deepti Gupta
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Publisher's summary

Zero Dark Thirty meets The Social Network in this “clever…gritty” (Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings) science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence, sentience, and labor rights in a near future dominated by the gig economy - from Hugo Award nominee S.B. Divya.

Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It’s, 2095 and people don’t usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances focus, zips and buffs enhance physical strength and speed, and juvers speed the healing process.

All that changes when Welga’s client is killed by The Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group that has simultaneously attacked several major pill funders. The Machinehood operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week.

Global panic ensues as pill production slows and many become ill. Thousands destroy their bots in fear of a strong AI takeover. But the US government believes the Machinehood is a cover for an old enemy. One that Welga is uniquely qualified to fight.

Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood, and what do they really want?

A “fantastic, big-idea thriller” (Malka Older, Hugo Award finalist for The Centenal Cycle series) that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?

©2021 Divya Srinivasan Breed. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Lu
  • 07-06-21

Great

Machinehood. Sounds good. But what does it mean? In S.B. Divya’s sci-fi thriller, the term describes a shadowy organization fighting against the abuse of robots.

Set in the near future (2095), the story looks at a labor conflict between humans and robots that take over some jobs. It also asks a question at what point does an AI become a person? And at what point do we start to treat robots as persons rather than tools or slaves? As much as I love Terminator movies, I don’t think we’re heading toward a Robocalypse. In Machinehood, robots serve as highly skilled and competent tools, and nothing more. Except, things get complicated when the first sentient AI tries to change it.

Welga Ramirez, an ex-soldier turned bodyguard to the wealthy business executives, gets drawn into a deadly fight with Machinehood. Initially, she’s trying to stop them, but things get less black-and-white as the story progresses.

Welga’s arc is fast-paced and exciting. She's a badass and a skilled fighter who knows all the moves. And she uses them to get tips from people watching her through ubiquitous microdrones. Divya balances things by adding the second point of view character, Welga’s biogeneticist sister-in-law, Nithya. Nithya is a family person trying to keep her household together despite financial problems and personal issues. While her arc lacked edge-of-your-seat moments, it offered a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of regular people dealing with the future reality. Besides this, Nithya’s medical investigation into seizures experienced by Welga provides an interesting look at the science of enhancements and development of the pharmaceutical industry.

The competitive labor market forces people to consume pills enhancing their performance. Otherwise, they couldn't compete with the artificial workforce. Such pharmaceuticals are often printed at home, designed by both giant corporations and hobbyists. Daily doses of drugs protect people against designer diseases, and “upgrade” them. Flow, for example, enhances focus. Zips increase physical strength and speed, and juvers speed up healing.

Both sides of the conflict have their reasons to act the way they do. That makes both protagonist and the antagonist compelling. Of course, no one sane would accept Mahinehood's extreme acts but they have their reasons. Sounds ones.

Machinehood is executed in a clean, concise style, with a narrative as logical as it is unpredictable. It's brainy, it asks a lot of questions and doesn't deliver all the answers. It presents a disquieting power struggle and provides a fully imagined idea of where humanity is headed. Well worth a read.

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45 people found this helpful

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Simply didn't like it

It put me to sleep both times I tried to listen to it. could not get into it

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23 people found this helpful

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I like the premise but deliver fell short for me.

I like the premise but deliver fell short for me. For some reason I had a hard time staying with this book. The premise is good but for me it was a bit hard to follow. If your in the tech thrillers you might like to spend a credit on this. Its not bad I just struggled with it for some reason.

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21 people found this helpful

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excellent!

good flow with quality social dynamics and true to form technology. very enjoyable read for near future (100yrs) scenarios.

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11 people found this helpful

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Excellent sci-fi

There is so much I loved about this book, but probably the way the author imagined our near future with variations on existing social problems still impacting our daily lives made it so very realistic. I loved the strong female roles, diverse supporting characters, and plot twists. I'm going to have to get this book in hard copy to share with some of my students.

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11 people found this helpful

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Anti-American Rhetoric Right off the Bat

Let the Anti-American Rhetoric slide, to see if it got better. For me, it didn't. Didn't enjoy the narration enough to finish.

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9 people found this helpful

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A refreshingly different sci-fi story

I loved this book. Truly loved it. Thanks in no small part to the narrators who brought the characters to life. The story itself builds out an incredibly rich, interesting world with a complex history and culture. It explores themes of purpose, humanity, life, compassion, and most interestingly power. Who has it, why, and what they do with it. I would recommend this to anyone interested in avi-fi who wants an immersive experience in a world that keeps you wanting more stories about the people, the governments, the technology, and even how maybe some thoughts about we can get to a world where the kitchen makes your food for you! Great work and can’t wait for whatever comes next!

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6 people found this helpful

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Believable and throughly provoking.

Great story, writing and an interesting reflection of a very plausible future. I love how in this future, gender inclusivity is a given.

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6 people found this helpful

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AI personhood

S B Divya's Machinehood is a future (very later 21st century) scenario where intelligent machines and software are ubiquitous. An unknown group is waging a terrorist campaign in support of 'machinehood' status arguing that lack of rights for intelligent machines and other AI-type system is akin to slavery. A woman with a military background who now works as a bodyguard for a firm that provides security for the 'funders', the wealthy that design all the fancy hi-tech gear. The tale is related from her perspective as well as her sister-in-law who works in the industry focused on implantable devices for humans to augment their abilities.

The basic premise is a bit weak as the main driver for implantable devices to augment humans is to allow humans to successfully compete with their machine counterparts. But it makes no sense to develop a device to replace a human and then develop another device to allow the human to compete. The extrapolation of the gig economy also is carried to illogical extremes. Of course, there's the routine corrupt corporations hiding their dirty secrets as well. In the end the group responsible for all the mayhem is moving towards a human - machine hybrid existence, but their setup is wildly unrealistic. Overall, while conceptually intriguing, the plot doesn't hold up as there is little demonstration of the 'personhood' status for the machines.

The selection for two narrators to provide the two perspectives was a good choice. Each provided a decent narration with reasonable character distinction.

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Interesting concept - marred by performance

I greatly enjoyed the story - I will read other books by this author. One of the performers (Gupta) was EXCELLENT - I would give her 5 stars. However, the other one (del Castillo) greatly detracted from the experience. Del Castillo's narration featured mushy enunciation (twenty is always pronounced "twenny," for one example), a flat, nasal voice, and very odd pacing. It didn't ruin the book, but I would not care to listen to anything else with this narrator. Gupta was excellent - clear and distinct voices for each character, and a very expressive performance.

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  • KndIrl
  • 04-28-22

Textbook for PhD course?

The accents of del Castillo and Gupta are perfect, in my view. They take you places, but also allow you to change gears from scene to scene. The story is fast-moving and has enough turns and layers to be both fun and thoughtful.
Not really a textbook, but the opening chapter is a great introduction to entrepreneurship, on how tech and values are negotiated. I'll use it as course material in one of the courses I teach at uni.
I hope the author writes much more and that they are made into audio books soon.

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  • R. Maines
  • 05-01-21

Techno thriller

Good world building and an interesting plot make this a winner. Perhaps the ending wraps up things too neatly but will be on the look out for future works from the author.

Multiple narrators are almost always a joy with audio books and this one is no exception.

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  • Dave M.
  • 04-15-21

here lthanks to the EP podcast,

I would never have discovered this gem otherwise.

here thanks to the EP podcast.

d

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  • kerry
  • 08-18-23

Difficult to follow

Nothing to do with AI.
A lot of jumping around not making any sense.
Story is boring and where the hell it’s going idk.
A war with robots. But the humans fights the war for them…or something like that?
Good narration.
Poor concept overall. I mean who cares about a childs birthday party??? It’s a war with the machines. Geeeees show me a terminator!!!

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  • Kaya
  • 09-27-21

Worth a listen

An interesting story and a fantastic narrator. Beautiful complicated characters and relationships. I Definitely recommend.

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