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An Unnatural Life

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Murderbot meets To Kill a Mockingbird in Erin K. Wagner's An Unnatural Life, an interplanetary tale of identity and responsibility. The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover Murderbot meets To Kill a Mockingbird in Erin K. Wagner's An Unnatural Life, an interplanetary tale of identity and responsibility. The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover the true facts of the case. But with artificial life-forms having only recently been awarded legal rights on Earth, the military complex on Europa is resistant to the implementation of these same rights on the Jovian moon. Aiya must battle against her own prejudices and that of her new paymasters, to secure a fair trial for her charge, while navigating her own interpersonal drama, before it's too late.


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Murderbot meets To Kill a Mockingbird in Erin K. Wagner's An Unnatural Life, an interplanetary tale of identity and responsibility. The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover Murderbot meets To Kill a Mockingbird in Erin K. Wagner's An Unnatural Life, an interplanetary tale of identity and responsibility. The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover the true facts of the case. But with artificial life-forms having only recently been awarded legal rights on Earth, the military complex on Europa is resistant to the implementation of these same rights on the Jovian moon. Aiya must battle against her own prejudices and that of her new paymasters, to secure a fair trial for her charge, while navigating her own interpersonal drama, before it's too late.

30 review for An Unnatural Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    This book was fascinating and I did enjoy it but the ending broke my heart I wanted to read this book as I love science fiction books and the summary sounded good. The book isn’t some big space odyssey. This book is a short story about robotnik, 812-3, and him being wrongly accused of murder. His lawyer, Aiya, works to get him a fair trial through an appeal. Things are not what they seem and it’s truly a sad and unfair story Some things were a bit confusing and the book is just point blank about This book was fascinating and I did enjoy it but the ending broke my heart I wanted to read this book as I love science fiction books and the summary sounded good. The book isn’t some big space odyssey. This book is a short story about robotnik, 812-3, and him being wrongly accused of murder. His lawyer, Aiya, works to get him a fair trial through an appeal. Things are not what they seem and it’s truly a sad and unfair story Some things were a bit confusing and the book is just point blank about the basic storyline. You won’t find any kind of world building etc, but if you’re looking for a real life type story in a sci-fi setting, then this is the novella for you. *I would like to thank Netgalley and Tor for a digital copy of this book. Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    4.0 Stars  This was a fascinating science fiction novella that explored universal themes of personhood and basic human rights through the lens of an AI legal case. In terms of tone and subject matter, this one was very heavy. I can certainly see the comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird because it addressed similar issues and illustrated the challenges that marginalized people face in prejudice justice systems. As someone who loves the topic of artificial intelligence, this story immediately appeal 4.0 Stars  This was a fascinating science fiction novella that explored universal themes of personhood and basic human rights through the lens of an AI legal case. In terms of tone and subject matter, this one was very heavy. I can certainly see the comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird because it addressed similar issues and illustrated the challenges that marginalized people face in prejudice justice systems. As someone who loves the topic of artificial intelligence, this story immediately appealed to me just from the brief synopsis. Furthermore, I hold a deep fascination with criminal law so I was equally interested in those aspects of the story.  I really enjoyed all the legal jargon and details surrounding the case proceedings. I wished more of the novella had involved those aspects, but I understand the logistics of criminal law was not the main focus of the narrative. Even though this story was set on another planet and dealt with artificial intelligence, there was very little focus on the science and technology of this future. Instead, this was really a story about humanity at its core. Therefore, I would widely recommend this one to readers who do not normally venture into the science fiction genre. This novella can (and should) be read by anyone looking for a powerful story that reflects the inhumanities and injustices of modern society. Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    2.5 stars. I was intrigued by a legal crime SFF novel, but unfortunately this doesn't really flesh out its premise or its story in a satisfying way. I had more and more questions and fewer and fewer answers as the book went on. It jumps in time so frequently that it can be hard to get any momentum. And the worldbuilding is more about rules without much sense. (Why must everyone live in pairs? How exactly are the robots sentient but also criminally culpable? Why is this a book about an appeal? Ho 2.5 stars. I was intrigued by a legal crime SFF novel, but unfortunately this doesn't really flesh out its premise or its story in a satisfying way. I had more and more questions and fewer and fewer answers as the book went on. It jumps in time so frequently that it can be hard to get any momentum. And the worldbuilding is more about rules without much sense. (Why must everyone live in pairs? How exactly are the robots sentient but also criminally culpable? Why is this a book about an appeal? How is there no real legal system on Europa? How is there not already a robust set of precedents around robots in the law? Why does this character say she was a public defender but she never seems to act like one?) There is plenty to dive into here that would be worthy of a novel, but to be honest, if it had been a novel I wouldn't have finished it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    3.5 What I loved: The hard questions that Wagner is bringing up about prejudice and the right to fair trials that can be applied to our own world and modern times. What I liked: The treatment of A.I. and the morality involved in the mistreatment of A.I. The sexism towards the lawyer and how similar her treatment was to the treatment of the A.I. that was in prison. What I didn't like: I didn't care for the structure of the story. I didn't really understand the exploration exerts and how it pertained 3.5 What I loved: The hard questions that Wagner is bringing up about prejudice and the right to fair trials that can be applied to our own world and modern times. What I liked: The treatment of A.I. and the morality involved in the mistreatment of A.I. The sexism towards the lawyer and how similar her treatment was to the treatment of the A.I. that was in prison. What I didn't like: I didn't care for the structure of the story. I didn't really understand the exploration exerts and how it pertained to the story but it probably just went over my head. I felt that it could have been much stronger if Wagner really embraced the themes above and made it more political and feminist.

  5. 5 out of 5

    keikii Eats Books

    I really enjoyed this. It is very topical, but in such a way that I could enjoy it a lot. I'll write a longer review shortly. ARC received from Tor.com on Netgalley. This did not affect my review. To read more reviews, check out my blog keikii eats books! I really enjoyed this. It is very topical, but in such a way that I could enjoy it a lot. I'll write a longer review shortly. ARC received from Tor.com on Netgalley. This did not affect my review. To read more reviews, check out my blog keikii eats books!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Cogito, ergo sum - I think, therefore I am - just doesn't cut it any more. When does an AI become so close to human, that it should get the same rights as a human? (Never, because today, there are humans that don't have the same basic rights as humans, and probably never will.) But it's an interesting question to ponder and has been done before many times in fiction. I think my favourite one was the courtroom drama in To Kill a Mockingbird that I think inspired this book (substitute African-Ameri Cogito, ergo sum - I think, therefore I am - just doesn't cut it any more. When does an AI become so close to human, that it should get the same rights as a human? (Never, because today, there are humans that don't have the same basic rights as humans, and probably never will.) But it's an interesting question to ponder and has been done before many times in fiction. I think my favourite one was the courtroom drama in To Kill a Mockingbird that I think inspired this book (substitute African-American for AI). Equal favourite was the brilliant episode of Star Trek called "The Measure of A Man" - Star Trek: The Next Generation, Series 2, Episode 9. Other faves were: Blade Runner (Where I'm still not sure if Deckard was an android or not. What do you think?), Ex Machina, HAL9000 and even The Robot from Lost In Space. When I think of examples like that, I feel that this novella is decidedly average. The characters seemed pretty sterile, but the scenes of Europa gave a pretty good "feel" for the place. I was unable to glean the meaning of the Europan geyser study team's journal entries that started most chapters. Was it the feeling of impending danger from being camped so close to an active geyser? Was that a parallel for taking on a case to prove a convicted AI's innocence in a town full of AI-haters? Something's gonna blow? What really made it average for me was the ending. It was incomplete, underdone and ultimately - disappointing. Only two stars worth of enjoyment in this book for me. One refreshing upside was the graceful prose and the lack of spelling and grammatical errors - but you'd expect that from an associate professor of Literature.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Actual Rating 3.5 I really enjoyed the writing in this novella and how our main character, Aiya, gives us a good look into what it means to be human, especially in this futuristic setting, and how it pertains directly to the incarcerated AI, 812-3. However, as with other novellas I've read, my issues with this book relate to how much content we have, or rather, what seems to be missing. I felt that Erin K. Wagner must have done quite a bit of world-building before writing because I feel it on the Actual Rating 3.5 I really enjoyed the writing in this novella and how our main character, Aiya, gives us a good look into what it means to be human, especially in this futuristic setting, and how it pertains directly to the incarcerated AI, 812-3. However, as with other novellas I've read, my issues with this book relate to how much content we have, or rather, what seems to be missing. I felt that Erin K. Wagner must have done quite a bit of world-building before writing because I feel it on the fringes of the story. However, I wish the book was longer so that we could really delve into it. Same with the characters' personalities. I got the bare bones of who Aiya and 812-3 were, but I was unable to really connect with them. There were also passages in between the chapters that felt like they didn't pertain to the story, and while intriguing, I did not understand why they were included. A great premise, and a quick read, but I just wanted MORE. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Reanne

    Review crossposted from Reanne Reads. I always love a good android story, so I was eager to request this one from NetGalley. (Insert disclaimer about how I got a free copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.) It’s actually a novella, rather than a novel like I initially assumed, so it’s a pretty quick read. To be honest, I didn’t really like this story. For one thing, it didn’t feel much like an android story. The android character really felt like he could have been any kin Review crossposted from Reanne Reads. I always love a good android story, so I was eager to request this one from NetGalley. (Insert disclaimer about how I got a free copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.) It’s actually a novella, rather than a novel like I initially assumed, so it’s a pretty quick read. To be honest, I didn’t really like this story. For one thing, it didn’t feel much like an android story. The android character really felt like he could have been any kind of person at all. I found it very hard to relate to or like the android character, largely because he is not actually the main character, and we don’t see enough of him to even form an opinion for quite a while. And even when we do see him, the author doesn’t make much attempt at all to get us to like him or find him sympathetic for his own sake. If the set up had been exactly the same, but the character of the android was immediately likable and sympathetic, where we as the reader automatically believe him and think it’s terribly unjust for the people to have convicted him in such a biased way, I would have been much more engaged in the story. As it is, I don’t care about the android character enough to want him to get his appeal. In fact, when the main character agrees to help him—at great risk to herself—he doesn’t even act grateful. If anything, he’s actively unlikable. In fact, the more we learn about him, the less I liked him or had sympathy for him (he was an adulterer, for one thing). (Later on in the story, the android aspect comes into play due to programming being significant, but it wasn’t enough to make him feel like an android to me. It could have as easily been a human with some kind of override chip in his head.) Maybe the author is trying to make the point that people shouldn’t have to be likable in order for us to want them to get a fair trial, which is a true enough point. But that comes back to this being a message story instead of an entertainment story. The author seems to be trying to teach us something rather than to entertain us, and that’s just not the kind of story I enjoy. Maybe others do. The bigger problem, though, was that the whole story felt like the author was trying to specifically make some kind of political or social message and was deliberately using androids to represent any kind of minority group among human society. In other words, it felt like a message story. As someone who enjoys android stories but not message stories, I didn’t like it. The idea behind this book reminds me of the Star Trek TNG episode “The Measure of a Man”, where Data (an android) is put on trial to basically decide if he is enough of a real person to deserve human rights. In that case, it was basically just the right of self-determination, the right to decide not to follow an order which would have . . . if I’m remembering correctly . . . resulted in basically his death and de-person-hood in the name of scientific progress. That was, I think, a very effective and entertaining story about androids and their place in human society. This book, by contrast, was not nearly as effective or entertaining. It wasn’t about the androids’ rights, really. In this book, they already have may of the same legal rights as humans, including the right to not be murdered and even the right not to have their memories accessed without their permissions. And the thing that the android is on trial for isn’t simply his right to be a person but for murder. This is part of what made it feel not at all like a real android story to me but like a message story about whoever the minority group in a society of humans is. The comparison to To Kill A Mockingbird in the publisher’s description pretty well reinforces this. I know a lot of people like sci-fi to be a way of using metaphors to talk about modern-day issues, but I like sci-fi when it’s just sci-fi. In other words, I want androids to be their own thing. I want them to be androids. Not stand-ins for something else. When the truth of what happened is eventually explained, I had to wonder why the android character didn’t just tell the whole truth and let them access his memories. Seems like it would have cleared his name. And yeah, someone might have gotten in trouble for something, but it shouldn’t have been murder, given the situation. So, in short, this was too much of a message story and not enough of an actual android story for me. As someone who loves androids, this didn’t hit any of the right buttons for me, personally. Someone who enjoys sci-fi as social commentary will likely enjoy it more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marlene

    Originally published at Reading Reality I picked this up as early as I did because it was teasing me. Specifically, the recommendations I received from a friend listed some readalikes for this book and I was just sure that something was missing – actually I was positive that at least two somethings were missing – and I had to read it to see if I was right. You know how it is, there’s something on the tip of your tongue, or just out of reach in your memory but you can’t quite grasp it. It was drivi Originally published at Reading Reality I picked this up as early as I did because it was teasing me. Specifically, the recommendations I received from a friend listed some readalikes for this book and I was just sure that something was missing – actually I was positive that at least two somethings were missing – and I had to read it to see if I was right. You know how it is, there’s something on the tip of your tongue, or just out of reach in your memory but you can’t quite grasp it. It was driving me nuts that I just couldn’t remember what one of the books I KNEW this reminded me of was, so I had to read it and find out. In case you’re wondering, the recommendation said Murderbot, which, well, of course, yes. Because Murderbot is so ‘top of mind’ after the recent release of Network Effect. And there is something to be said for the correlation, although strictly speaking Murderbot isn’t exactly a self-aware AI. Self-aware, absolutely, an AI, not exactly. But the concept of humans creating an enslavable and exploitable underclass is certainly a match. The other readalike was the classic The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, which I have not read. The ‘so many books, so little time’ conundrum rears its ugly head yet again. I was thinking of Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport for both the self-aware AI and the specifically created underclass, even though in Medusa they are not exactly embodied in the same person – or at least not all of the time. But those references felt fairly obvious. The one lurking in the back of my mind turned out to be the steampunk world created in Ian Tregillis’ Alchemy Wars series, starting with The Mechanical. While the ‘mechanicals’ of that series were created through alchemy rather than science, the situation they find themselves in is much the same as it is in An Unnatural Life. They are created to be slaves and they seem to have no recourse towards freedom. But they are self-aware, and they strike out for freedom anyway, in spite of the odds, the laws, and their own programming. In the end, the story this reminded me of the most was the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man“, where Data is on trial. Not for a crime as the AI here is, but for his right to be a self-determining being in his own right, and not property as has occurred in the world posited in this story. Picard’s speech in Data’s defense echoes many of the abuses that are highlighted in this story, as it is all too clear from humanity’s history that if Data is not considered an autonomous being in his own right that he and others like him will be declared to be ‘property’ and abused as happened in the backstory for this book. Also as did happen in the later history of the universe of Star Trek, as represented in the events of its latest series, Star Trek: Picard. The story in An Unnatural Life, just like the story in The Measure of a Man, isn’t really about the android, the AI, the ‘grunt’, after all. It’s a story about humans, and about humanity’s inhumanity to humanity. It’s about just how very easy we find it to believe that anyone we define as ‘them’ can be treated as inhumanely as we want, because we’ve decided that the only ones worthy of being considered ‘human’ are ‘us’. But Walt Kelly’s Pogo had it right all along when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. And he still is. Escape Rating A-: There are actually two stories in this slim little volume. One is the obvious, the story of Aiya Ritsehrer’s appeal on behalf of the AI 812-3 due to the obvious fact that the AI did not face a jury of his peers, but rather a jury that was utterly prejudiced against the AI, as was the judge and the prosecution. Aiya is convinced the AI did not receive a fair trial, and it’s oh-so-clear that she is correct. There is also a story tucked in-between the chapters about Aiya, the trial and its result. I think that it was about an expedition to discover whether or not there was already life on Europa when it was settled by humans. But that story is more tantalizing than realized. Which is possibly intended, but left me a bit frustrated by its ambiguity, hence the A- rating. Back to the story I’m entirely too sure of. One of the things that so frequently gets lost in the gee-whiz sensawunda that science fiction and fantasy often provoke is that no matter who or what is at the center of the story, no matter where or when it is set, all stories are about human beings. Because human beings are the only creatures that we really know. Writers may do their very best to guesstimate what androids or aliens in the far future or the mythic past might think and feel and say and do, but the fact is that the perspective from which all of those ‘otherworldly’ characters are written is the human one in the here and now of the author. So from one perspective this is a story about a self-aware AI in search of justice on one of Jupiter’s moons. But on the other, the story underneath that, is a story about prejudice and justice. It’s a story about the lengths and depths that humans, following their worser instincts and not their better ones, will go to in order to preserve the status quo that makes them feel safe and comfortable. It is also a story about one woman fighting, not just for justice for an underdog, but for what is right instead of what is easy, in spite of all of her own prejudices, and in spite of the very real fear that her pursuit of justice will bring her into deadly danger in a situation where no one will stand by her, no one will protect her, and no one will seek justice on her behalf. Because all of those humans believe that their hatred of ‘the other’ and their willingness, even eagerness to destroy anyone who shines a light on that hatred, is not human either and therefore deserves whatever happens to them. That they brought it on themselves, and that their fate is not the fault of anyone but themselves for standing up for ‘the other’. And if you don’t see any parallels between the story and both history and current events, you’re not paying attention.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Fantastic if not economical story that wrestled with age-old ethical questions about how humans treat the “other,” with less emphasis on whether AI can be considered “human,” though the question is threaded throughout. Can’t wait for a novel-length work from this author!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Poorly written and poorly developped plot.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for this ebook. I'm fascinated by how AI and humans could interact, how they navigate social life, and what differences might crop up. Erin K Wagner explores one such relationship here. In a space colony, a lawyer explores crime and cultural relevatism through conversations with an AI who is imprisoned. It's a nuanced exploration of the topic that I found very readable. This book was just the right length for what it was doing and it chowed through Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for this ebook. I'm fascinated by how AI and humans could interact, how they navigate social life, and what differences might crop up. Erin K Wagner explores one such relationship here. In a space colony, a lawyer explores crime and cultural relevatism through conversations with an AI who is imprisoned. It's a nuanced exploration of the topic that I found very readable. This book was just the right length for what it was doing and it chowed through it quickly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin G

    Rating based on a free ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. When Aiya agreed to assist in Europa’s prisoner rehabilitation program, she didn’t expect a robotnik to be her first client – or that he would ask her to appeal his murder conviction. After some reluctance, Aiya agrees, but she faces an uphill battle. Europa is resistant to acknowledging the rights of robotniks, and Aiya will have to come up with a compelling reason why the case was mishandled to begi Rating based on a free ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. When Aiya agreed to assist in Europa’s prisoner rehabilitation program, she didn’t expect a robotnik to be her first client – or that he would ask her to appeal his murder conviction. After some reluctance, Aiya agrees, but she faces an uphill battle. Europa is resistant to acknowledging the rights of robotniks, and Aiya will have to come up with a compelling reason why the case was mishandled to begin with. Let’s start this review by setting the expectations for this book. Marketing has been pushing Murderbot meets TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but if you come to this story expecting action and a sarcastic tone, you will be sorely disappointed. This is much closer to a sci-fi TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, one that is much more contemplative than anything else. The author manages to do a great job of world building, establishing the feeling of this colony in a short amount of pages. I particularly liked her descriptions of the robotnik (essentially an android) 812-3. She managed to capture how unsettling the robotnik could be, even when not doing anything inherently threatening. I could have used a little less of the cliched “Most people hate robotniks and mistreat them when given the chance,” but otherwise it was an interesting world setup. On the downside, though, this was a book that was much more interested in introducing questions than interrogating those questions. To be fair, AN UNNATURAL LIFE raises some interesting points. One of Aiya’s legal tactics, for instance, is to propose that 812-3 was not tried by a jury of his peers. But is declaring that humans are not the peers of robotniks a good thing in the long run? And what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? The author will leave you to debate that, rather than offer any true opinions on this and other questions raised in the story. She’s here to poke, not render judgement. It’s an approach that left me feel like the story was half-finished. Your enjoyment of AN UNNATURAL LIFE will depend on how much you want the author to do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to more philosophical questions. The tale is otherwise well-written, so if you like your sci-fi to give you questions to ponder, this may be exactly your cup of tea! I prefer my reads to be a little more meaty and have a definitive thesis, so it didn’t win me over as much as I was hoping. Either way, this is a quick read easily consumed in an afternoon, and worth a look at for sci-fi fans.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    When I finished this novella, I closed my ipad, turned to my wife, and said, "that was really good." Why exactly though? That question took me a couple of days of reflection... First off, this novella reminds me strongly of To Kill A Mockingbird. There are a lot of differences, sure, the being on trial is an AI (kinda), the POV character is the lawyer (think Atticus Finch) with a lot more personal life, the location is Europa rather than the US South. But, the feel of struggle against an unjust l When I finished this novella, I closed my ipad, turned to my wife, and said, "that was really good." Why exactly though? That question took me a couple of days of reflection... First off, this novella reminds me strongly of To Kill A Mockingbird. There are a lot of differences, sure, the being on trial is an AI (kinda), the POV character is the lawyer (think Atticus Finch) with a lot more personal life, the location is Europa rather than the US South. But, the feel of struggle against an unjust legal system for a minority group is all there. Actually, one reason that I can't bring myself to give it 5 stars is because of what it reminded me of (I never cared for TKAM). This isn't just a thin sci-fi overlay on TKAM though. There is a depth of backstory and emotion, a sense of place in the setting, little asides in the chapter interludes that really make this story flow and to me elevate it. It is such a worthwhile story to read. I would highly recommend it to those who love exploitation of new cultural norms and anyone who is curious what happens when a law procedural meets science fiction. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Liz (Quirky Cat)

    I received a copy of An Unnatural Life in exchange for a fair and honest review. An Unnatural Life is the latest novella from science fiction writer Erin K. Wagner. This is one of those novellas that's going to make you think. It's goal is to make you uncomfortable, and to assess your biases, but in ways that you might not expect. 812-3 is a cybernetic organism accused and found guilty of murder. They've been spending their time in prison on Europa. That is, until Aiya got involved. She was s I received a copy of An Unnatural Life in exchange for a fair and honest review. An Unnatural Life is the latest novella from science fiction writer Erin K. Wagner. This is one of those novellas that's going to make you think. It's goal is to make you uncomfortable, and to assess your biases, but in ways that you might not expect. 812-3 is a cybernetic organism accused and found guilty of murder. They've been spending their time in prison on Europa. That is, until Aiya got involved. She was sent there in an attempt to help rehabilitate cybernetics like 812-3, but she ended up diving in deeper than expected. You see, 812-3 is claiming they didn't commit the crime, and they have a very good reason for wanting help from a lawyer like Aiya. The real question is, is humanity willing to give cybernetics more rights? “Either they're machines or we're monsters.” “Well, the latter's a given.” Warnings: An Unnatural Life is designed to make people think and feel uncomfortable, so the use of tense subjects shouldn't be a surprise. There are portrayals of assault and abuse of power within these pages. It's an inescapable element of the plot. Holy cow. I was not prepared for the way An Unnatural Life would make me feel. This is a brilliantly written novella, one that hits right in the heart. It also makes you think, and I adore that. I got sucked into this novella when I saw it described as Murderbot meets To Kill a Mockingbird. I adore both comparisons, so it only felt natural for me to try this piece. I cannot tell you how accurate those comparisons are. Wager took all of the struggles and injustices portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird, and put them into a different context here. That much is pretty obvious, even from the description. It should also be clear that this isn't exactly a happy story. But it does make the point. It makes that point with so much power and emphasis. It left me feeling a little bit shaken, by the time I was done. It's impossible not to feel invested in 812-3's story, or in Aiya's fight for a fair trial for their sake. It's all wonderfully done. “We cannot – we will not – abide this sort of vigilante justice which has no regard for due process. I understand, I am human, I understand the urge to seek out your own justice when looking into the eyes of one of them. But we must rise above our first instincts and prove ourselves human even when facing the inhuman.” If anything, my only complaint would be that the reactions of the humans felt too real. Too pain. It's easy to hope that people wouldn't react in such a way, but doing so would be an injustice. Long story short, I adored An Unnatural Life, and cannot wait to see more from Erin K. Wagner. Check out more reviews over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    It’s 2145 on Europa, the colonized moon of Jupiter. Aiya Risehrer is assigned to help rehabilitate 812-3, a prisoner convicted of killing a human. She barely understands the consequences of her decision to file an appeal on behalf of 812-3 based on the premise that he had not had a fair trial due to having a jury made up of all humans instead of a jury of his peers. What Aiya doesn’t realize is the depth of the hatred of Europa’s human population for the robotic population. This is a very well-w It’s 2145 on Europa, the colonized moon of Jupiter. Aiya Risehrer is assigned to help rehabilitate 812-3, a prisoner convicted of killing a human. She barely understands the consequences of her decision to file an appeal on behalf of 812-3 based on the premise that he had not had a fair trial due to having a jury made up of all humans instead of a jury of his peers. What Aiya doesn’t realize is the depth of the hatred of Europa’s human population for the robotic population. This is a very well-written, multifaceted, subtle, and powerful story about what it means to be human. Aiya is intelligent, complex, and a bit naïve, and she’s trying to do what’s right against unimaginable odds. For readers who are looking for world-building and lots of technology, you won’t find it in this book. There are enough descriptions of Europa to understand it’s an ice planet, but the author did not dwell on that aspect of her story. What she did do is set the story in a unique setting in a future where AIs are newly protected lifeforms who are afforded most of the same rights as their human counterparts – and what that really means. At no point does the author become preachy, she simply tells the story of one AI who was not afforded a fair trial after his arrest. This book deserves to be on the to-be-read list of everyone who believes justice belongs to us all. My thanks to Tor and Edelweiss for an eARC.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Frankie

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. "Either they're machines or we're monsters." "Well, the latter's a given." 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. This is a quiet and painful SF novella about humanity. And yes, you've probably read this story before. Sci-fi is littered with books that question the lines between human and non-human, while revealing just how terrible humankind can be. An Unnatural Life unfolds like a tragedy. I'm warning you. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. "Either they're machines or we're monsters." "Well, the latter's a given." 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. This is a quiet and painful SF novella about humanity. And yes, you've probably read this story before. Sci-fi is littered with books that question the lines between human and non-human, while revealing just how terrible humankind can be. An Unnatural Life unfolds like a tragedy. I'm warning you. My heart is so heavy. There's no action here, no original worldbuilding. But I don't remember ever reading SF about lawyers defending androids. Most striking is how Aiya's life rolls downhill once she does the right thing. Everyone hates her for daring to defend an android criminal in court. Yes, humans are prejudiced against robots. But they're also prejudiced against their own kind. I can't say much because it's short but packs a big punch. I really enjoyed this mature read. I recommend this to anyone who likes more philosophical stories.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rain Reads

    3.5 ⭐️ The story is about a robotnik named Worker Class, ID 812-3, who was convicted of murdering a human worker. Aiya Ritsehrer, who works for the District Eta’s Prisoner Rehabilitation Program serves as his lawyer when he asks for an appeal to his case. The story is very engaging, straightforward and fast-paced. Although the story concept is unique and that the story explored the subject of humanity, there is not enough world-building like the future technology, food and water sources, and the b 3.5 ⭐️ The story is about a robotnik named Worker Class, ID 812-3, who was convicted of murdering a human worker. Aiya Ritsehrer, who works for the District Eta’s Prisoner Rehabilitation Program serves as his lawyer when he asks for an appeal to his case. The story is very engaging, straightforward and fast-paced. Although the story concept is unique and that the story explored the subject of humanity, there is not enough world-building like the future technology, food and water sources, and the backstories of the characters involved. I felt that some parts are unrelated to the story like the discovery of alien life. I felt heartbroken at the end because of the injustice, discrimination, and prejudiced law enforcement. Overall, this was a good read for me and I’ll surely check out the author’s future works. For those who like stories about artificial intelligence then I recommend this book to you. I’m thankful to the author, to the publisher, and to Netgalley for allowing me to read and review the eARC of this novel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    ankita

    I received an advanced digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Really enjoyed reading this relatively short read. The themes that were presented such as natural vs. unnatural, human vs. inhuman, us vs. them, etc. are always interesting to read. There's one line that stayed with me that goes something like: they're either robots (aka not "natural", not "human") or we're actually monsters. This one sentiment is so "human" and it's something that's explored in several pieces of I received an advanced digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Really enjoyed reading this relatively short read. The themes that were presented such as natural vs. unnatural, human vs. inhuman, us vs. them, etc. are always interesting to read. There's one line that stayed with me that goes something like: they're either robots (aka not "natural", not "human") or we're actually monsters. This one sentiment is so "human" and it's something that's explored in several pieces of media time and time again. I wasn't expecting the ending at all and the suddenness when we found out what happened to 812-3 took me by surprise as well. The very end, where we see Aiya's resolve on choosing to move forward despite everything, was a nice way to close the story. It's up to the reader to decide what happens after the book ends.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ihaia Tichborne

    Let down by the ending. Isaac Asimov by way of John Grisham. Short where it should be long; most of the story is taken up by the emotional state of the lawyer character, when what I craved was a focus on the defendant. Also long when it should be short; the intricacies of AI integration in society is glossed over in favour of examining the claustrophobia of living in a small community. Reminds me a lot of the trial in "To Kill A Mockingbird" by the end. Would have given it three stars if not for Let down by the ending. Isaac Asimov by way of John Grisham. Short where it should be long; most of the story is taken up by the emotional state of the lawyer character, when what I craved was a focus on the defendant. Also long when it should be short; the intricacies of AI integration in society is glossed over in favour of examining the claustrophobia of living in a small community. Reminds me a lot of the trial in "To Kill A Mockingbird" by the end. Would have given it three stars if not for the end, which I found to be an anti-climax.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jameson

    I thought this novella had a really intriguing premise, but falls short in fleshing out the questions that the story brings up. I thought the two main characters fell flat and were not developed enough to feel empathetic. The writer is definitely skilled but this title was not cohesive enough for me to give it a rating above a 3/5. It does provide some light into the philosophy of personoood and identify.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Henry Lazarus

    On the colony on Europa a robot, 812-3, killed a human and was convicted of murder. Aiya Ritsehrer, a lawyer, meets the bot and decides that even An Unnatural Life (paper from Tor.com), especially since the human prisoners want to kill the bot. This is a dark gray tale with a lot of moral ambiguity. Interesting.Review printed by Philadelphia Free Press

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    Interesting novella that leaves with more questions asked than answered. I assume there will be a number of followup novellas but I'm also curious to see if the author can keep the same level off quality up in subsequent novellas. 4/5 because of too many questions left unanswered -- which made me feel like there story was too unfinished.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    It's very well written, and it's an effective, concise (if not exactly innovative) morality play. However, I'm not sure what it's ultimately getting at with the short digressions regarding the possible discovery of...something. It feels like a second story intruding on the first. Ultimately, I suppose I simply wanted even more than I received from these pages.

  25. 5 out of 5

    RG

    A great AI legal thriller. It kinda reminded me of I robot but without the action. Slower pace reveal..the ending wasnt what I was expecting at all. Good world buidling although it wasnt grand in scale. It was more based around the legal aspects of the current world. Short read do worth it if you want something under 200 pages

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    A novella that examines some interesting ideas around AI and their intersection with human legal systems, although ultimately it felt a little too brief.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Rose

    This was an interesting science fiction novella that explored the rights of robotic slaves in the far future.

  28. 5 out of 5

    TC

    Recommended with reservations. Review posted at Tzer Island book blog: https://www.tzerisland.com/bookblog/2... Recommended with reservations. Review posted at Tzer Island book blog: https://www.tzerisland.com/bookblog/2...

  29. 4 out of 5

    bogo_lode

    Saw a comparison to To Kill a Mockingbird and I think that’s apt. Solid writing, leaves me looking forward to the author’s next work, but didn’t love this one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anny Barros

    Well, the ending was really disappointing.. How the hell do you end a book like that? 😒

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