Machinehood (2021, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers) 4 stars

Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client …

Review of 'Machinehood' on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

2.5 stars.

It's 2095, and technology has of course advanced rapidly, with the population reliant on designer pills and AI assistants as they primarily toil away at gig work. Posthumanism is in full effect, with some embracing transhumanism. In such a tech dependent society, a threat emerges that forces the populace to confront and fear its dependence on machines. Our hero springs into action to stop this "Machinehood" but first must determine if it is a smart AI, a group of neo-Buddhists, or a technophobic caliphate.

If you can push politics, some forced character construction and plot points, and some all-too-convenient and none-too-believable story twists aside and read this book for its entertainment value alone, then it might be worth picking up. But clearly the author meant for this to be a novel that inspires reflection on our relationship with technology. Unfortunately, the book falls short there.

This is in part because the author refuses to go all-in in her socio-political analysis. So we have horrific neoliberal capitalism that is sometimes bad, but not too bad. Venture capitalists as mournable victims but also cheats. A nauseatingly patriotic protagonist who has issues with the government. A strident defense of private property and law and order even when those things don't work out. There's so much waffling, I need some syrup. To top it all off, there's that elephant in the book called Orientalism (with a dab of Islamophobia), in that throughout, we constantly hear that "dark" North Africa and its ever-expanding caliphate might be humanity's existential threat. That's a tiresome trope.

I wish I could have liked this book more, but not with all those flaws. And one pet peeve: the caliphate is called al-Muwahhidun. The book always refers to it as "the al-Muwahhidun." But "al" in Arabic means "the." So literally hundreds of times we read about "the the Muwahhidun." The lack of knowledge to catch that error in many ways encapsulates the quality of this book on the whole.