Book Review: A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock

Posted on August 24, 2014

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In this age when US corporations have been granted legal personage without the bother of liability or social responsibility, I see A Calculated Life as a rendition of corporate utopia. At its core, corporate employees are in the process of being replaced with leased workers who have been constructed with hyper-qualifications to perform their jobs. These workers demand nothing but basic food and shelter, and maybe a little entertainment now and then. Largely, they live to serve the needs of the company. The question becomes, how would traditional humans fit into such a society, and how would a corporate-focused utopia affect them?

A comparison with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is inescapable–both novels probe what qualities define humanity. The theme, of course, is a least as old as Pinocchio. Jayna, the protagonist of A Calculated Life doesn’t long to become a normal human–she is aware that her skills are superior. Yet, when she discovers the relative variety and freedom in even a skeletal, human-focused society, the allure of basic human experiences causes her to rebel. My lingering hope is that we don’t have to wait for superior intellects to be cultivated before general society sees the need to limit the control of corporations on our lives.

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