Autonomy by Jude Houghton
Balmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They are two strangers, who never should have met, and now they will rip apart the world.
What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite? What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world? What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making? What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed? Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.
“Name badge? That tab on his shirt? I didn’t even notice.”
“iNet teaches you not to notice.”
The story is compelling, twisting around three people from completely opposite ends of life. The twins, Pasco and Tristram, are born and brought up in the richest elite where their mother spends all of her time in a sim-world and their father is a politician, gambling the futures of millions. Balmoral is born in the slums to a mother who couldn’t stop working even for Balmoral’s birth, too afraid she would lose her job. They live in a world destroyed by famine and controlled by economics, where humans are a commodity and the overriding need is to produce goods as cheaply as possible. And the lives of everyone are ruled by iNet, accessible and consuming, providing information and temptation – the offered salvation of Faith, the distractions of the Pleasure Houses, the excitement of the Steel Ball.
But there is rebellion. There is revolt. When Balmoral, Pasco and Tristam get sucked into the fight, it tests their beliefs and their morals – and when iNet threatens to take over, to get inside your head and never leave…what does humanity really believe in?
Freaky, unsettling, fast-paced, and a dystopian fiction that’s just a bit too close to the bone to be comforting.
NB. This is a Grimbold book, but I say what I think – and Autonomy is one of the best books I’ve read this year!