cover image Activation Degradation

Activation Degradation

Marina J. Lostetter. Harper Voyager, $16.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-289574-5

Lostetter (the Noumenon series) sweeps readers up into a thrilling sci-fi adventure that raises challenging questions about artificial intelligence, sentient responsibility, and freedom. In a far future in which Earth society hangs on by a thread, Autonomous Maintenance System Unit Four is programmed to defend the valuable helium-3 mine orbiting Jupiter under the command of its Earth-based handler. An alien ship attacks and Unit Four risks everything to defend its workplace and home, but when it’s captured by the enemy and discovers they look just like it does—bipedal “soft” robots—Unit Four questions everything it thought it knew. Presented with an alternate worldview, Unit Four must decide whom and how much to believe, and then what to do about it. This decision makes for a riveting story that weaves mystery and philosophical questions together with brisk action. Unit Four is a fascinating character, and Lostetter’s vivid descriptions create a marvelously textured setting for this story of human error and hidden history, where nothing is really what it seems and the truth may be the strangest thing of all. The twisty plot and masterful storytelling set this apart. Agent: DongWon Song, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Oct.)