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A Calculated Life [Kindle Edition]

Anne Charnock
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nominated for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award and a finalist for the 2013 Kitschies Golden Tentacle (Debut Novel) Award

Late in the twenty-first century, big business is booming and state institutions are thriving thanks to advances in genetic engineering, which have produced a compliant population free of addictions. Violent crime is a rarity.

Hyper-intelligent Jayna is a star performer at top predictive agency Mayhew McCline, where she forecasts economic and social trends. A brilliant mathematical modeler, she far outshines her co-workers, often correcting their work on the quiet. Her latest coup: finding a link between northeasterly winds and violent crime.

When a string of events contradicts her forecasts, Jayna suspects she needs more data and better intuition. She needs direct interactions with the rest of society. Bravely—and naively—she sets out to disrupt her strict routine and stumbles unwittingly into a world where her IQ is increasingly irrelevant…a place where human relationships and the complexity of life are difficult for her to decode. And as she experiments with taking risks, she crosses the line into corporate intrigue and disloyalty.

Can Jayna confront the question of what it means to live a “normal” life? Or has the possibility of a “normal” life already been eclipsed for everyone?



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Review

"For readers who want a smart, subtle exploration of human emotion and intelligence, this is an excellent choice. Charnock’s dystopia is actually believable. It’s very like our own world, but slightly stretched at the edges—corporate interests reign unchecked, the class structure is rigid, and technology has taken us well beyond the limitations of our synapses and gray matter. Charnock is a subtle worldbuilder, but a convincing one." —Strange Horizons

“Charnock has fascinating, complex things to say about work, sex, family and hope (and that pretty much covers it, don’t you think?).” —Adam Roberts, author of Jack Glass, BSFA Award best novel winner 

"A strong debut. Recommended." —Violin in a Void

"Gets the grey matter firing." —The Taichung Bookworm

"Stunningly relevant re-imagining of 21st century Britain as a bioengineered corporate dystopia." —Chris Graham

About the Author

Anne Charnock's debut novel, A Calculated Life, was nominated for the 2013 Philip K Dick Award and the 2013 Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award (Debut Novel). Her writing career began in journalism. Her articles appeared in the Guardian, New Scientist, International Herald Tribune, and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied environmental sciences, and at the Manchester School of Art. She travelled widely as a foreign correspondent and spent a year trekking through Egypt, Sudan, and Kenya.

In her fine art practice, she tried to answer the questions What is it to be human? What is it to be a machine? Ultimately she decided to write fiction as another route to finding answers.

Anne is an active blogger and reviews fiction for the online magazine Strange Horizons. She contributes exhibition reviews and book recommendations to the Huffington Post. She splits her time between London and Chester and, whenever possible, she and her husband, Garry, take off in their little campervan, traveling as far as the Anti-Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco.


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More About the Author

Anne Charnock's writing career began in journalism. Her articles appeared in the Guardian, New Scientist, International Herald Tribune, and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied environmental sciences, and at the Manchester School of Art. She travelled widely as a foreign correspondent and spent a year trekking through Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.

In her fine art practice, Anne tried to answer the questions What is it to be human? What is it to be a machine? and ultimately she decided to write fiction as another route to finding answers.

http://www.annecharnock.com


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly compelling 4 Feb. 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jayna, a simulant created to predict trends for the kind of superficially genial corporation we are all too familiar with, is so clever she can determine the effect on crime of a prevailing wind. However, she is naïve, even innocent and despite appearing to be a young woman has not been alive long. The creeping conformity of Jayna’s world suggests a dystopia but the environment lacks the genre’s usual brutal hallmarks. Yes, there is a commodified class structure and yes there is an individual revolution that does not end well but as in our own time events are not set at a single extreme like they are in ‘1984’. This ambivalence lies at the heart of ‘A Calculated Life’.
Some reviews comment that not a lot happens but actually great deal does; it’s just that apparently small things like a change in menu or a chance observation in a shop have terrific significance to Jayna. She feels something as a result of these events but does not have the emotional vocabulary to express it. Perhaps it is the rhythm of the writing, its precision if you like; but the ending is devastating because of this slow accumulation of carefully expressed, often sensual experience.
Jayna’s quizzical innocence threatens to make her unlikeable; certainly some of her co-workers think so and the office politics in the early part of the novel are very relatable. However, two elements of the story ensure we never lose empathy. One is humour; the dystopian paradigm requires the intervention of a chaotic element, usually a lover and that does happen here but the inciting incident is Jayna getting some calculations wrong. Like the wind/crime interface it’s a subtle joke, as is a predictive novel about someone who predicts things, gets some right, others wrong and acts on the latter.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Anne's writing is as economical and studied as the main protagonist's thought patterns. It feels as though each phrase has been carefully, lightly and deftly placed rather than written.

I particularly liked the gradual reveal that Jayna wasn't a high functioning savant but something quite different.

It's a slow burner but it suits the material - and it kicks up a gear in the second half of the book. The epilogue(s) give satisfying closure too.

Overall, it's a great example of a rare thing - finely written, thoughtful, modern British sci-fi.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic debut by a new author 4 Aug. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I can see why this book was nominated for the Philip K Dick Award.

"A Calculated Life" is the story of Jayna, a genetically-engineered simulant with superhuman powers of analysis and deduction. Ostensibly physically human, simulants are hybrid blends of carefully-selected genes taken from mentally-outstanding human progenitors. However, simulants are "grown" rather than raised -- arriving fully-adult, with only rudimentary social skills and experiences. Though highly-valued, they are not self-determining beings: they are owned by The Constructor, who leases their skills out for exhorbitant fees.

The more wealthy and exceptional humans are able to obtain bionic implants, which make them more intelligent and capable, but not with the superhuman abilities of a simulant. The poor and unexceptional humans are just stuck with their mediocrity.

We follow Jayna as she gradually learns more about humans by observation of them and interaction with them. But there's a problem: Jayna's generation has been augmented with more sensory capability than previous generations. This seems to be causing glitches in Jayna's siblings: reports are starting to circulate of simulants who deviate from accepted norms and are taken back for reprogramming -- erasing their previous lives. And what is happening to Jayna?

I found the book's pace gradual but intensely absorbing. Rather than giving the background in a big infodump at the beginning, the author lets the reader gradually figure things out as the narrative progresses. I'm not a big fan of infodumps, so this style is always a winner for me.

My only real criticism is that the story ended all too soon. I would LOVE to read it in a more fleshed-out, fully-realised form.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed reading this 31 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed reading this, but was disappointed that it didn't go on for longer. It kind of felt like it was only part-way through the story when it ended. I enjoyed following Jayna's emotional development, and liked the way that the author didn't patronise the reader by spelling out the differences between the different person 'types' (will say no more in an effort to avoid spoilers!).

The nitpicker in me has to point out that the story is clearly set in England and uses UK English - so why the American spellings? It jarred a bit every time I came across an American spelling - but that's probably just cos I'm a pedant ;)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great writing 5 Mar. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Set in a dystopian near future the main heroine is one of a super intelligent ‘people’ bred specifically for roles in industry. Against this there are also those privileged humans who have intelligence implants and those less fortunate left to live in the slums outside of the large conurbations and do the more menial jobs of society. The pure bred intelligents are segregated from the rest of the population all living together forming relationships between themselves, however the story tells of the heroine who finds herself discovering human nature and forming more human relationships outside of her own ‘kind’.

This is a great read, you really get into the mind of the heroine and feel with her as she ‘develops’. No spoilers but the ending is an excellently thought out conclusion. This is certainly one book that would translate to the screen really well, you never know, I keep my fingers crossed!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
Challenging, thought provoking and intelligent. A Calculated Life moves at a perfect pace, is full of great ideas and is a great story.
I kept wishing it would not end. Read more
Published 5 hours ago by Rus XFire
4.0 out of 5 stars A captivating view of the future!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book & spent the whole of a return journey from London to the North devouring it! Read more
Published 14 hours ago by Mr. P. A. Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and well written.
A really well written original story. Can't wait for more. Please!
Published 15 hours ago by Debra May
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very good read!
Published 1 day ago by Floris W. Looij
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great
Published 23 days ago by Fooled
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written dystopia novel
This reminded me somewhat of Do Androids Dream, not similar in style but it is in the same idea space.
Published 2 months ago by Norbury
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age in a brave new world: well worth reading!
Anne Charnock's training and experience as a journalist pays off in her debut novel. She has a spare, precise style which makes for comfortable reading. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Calum
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative
This is a moving account of the haves and the have nots. Both on the material level and on a human/artificial life form. Sad but unlike others a smidgen of hope. Highly recommended
Published 3 months ago by Aisling McD
3.0 out of 5 stars The second smallest stick insect
The moment I read the opening lines of A Calculated Life by Anne Chamock, " The second smallest stick insect lay askew and lifeless on the trails of ivy... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Norma Miles
4.0 out of 5 stars ... which is very believable and you really want the best for the main...
A story set in the future which is very believable and you really want the best for the main character. I just wish it had been longer as I was really enjoying it.
Published 3 months ago by cherryred
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