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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
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"...
Published 26 days ago by illegiblescribble

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed reading this
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...
Published 1 month ago by Ms. IM Burton


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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
This review is from: A Calculated Life (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.

I'm hoping that this short novel will someday get the same treatment as Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain, Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley, and Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon: expansion by the author, with a little more experience and more thought, into a wonderful full-length novel.

In the meantime, though, it's still well worth the read. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because I REALLY enjoyed this story.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and plausible glimpse of the future of humanity, 16 Feb 2013
This review is from: A Calculated Life (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow build to fascinating, 19 July 2014
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
In the early chapters it's a slow process to get the story and environment established but stick with it. This does what sci-fi should do - it asks questions about what it is to be us and where we might be going, in an engaging story that makes you care about the characters. Well imagined, cohesive and challenging.
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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
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Ms. IM Burton (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
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
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a well written sci-fi novel!, 5 Mar 2013
This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
A Calculated Life is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

In the beginning of the book, I had some difficulty relating to the bio-engineered protagonist, Jayna, as she was so different from the normal heroines you encounter in futuristic sci-fi novels.

But as the novel progresses, Jayna's world becomes more like our own, making us desire to dive deeper into the dystopia that encompasses her world.

Overall, this novel brings together a captivating storyline, a thought provoking examination of our earth's possible future, and a well-crafted writing style. The only real criticism I have for the novel is that it ends just as you're getting comfortable in the protagonist's world. The epilogue ties up the loose ends but, as with all greatly intriguing novels, you're left with more questions than answers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this. It was so good that I found ..., 20 July 2014
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed this. It was so good that I found it hard to put down. In the end I read it all through the night,(using a light on my kindle) an finishing at 5am.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun in a mathmatical dystopia, 19 Jan 2013
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
As a 'commuter reader', I regularly found myself reading another chapter on the couch or stealing a few more pages at my desk. It was a pleasure to read and I found the perspective of the writing to be novel and engaging.

The book's statistical backdrop really helped tie the story to together and it reminded me of Anathem by Neal Stephenson, though more realistic. I particularly enjoyed the mixture of 'real world' stats and the typical absence of the 'correlation does not imply causation' rule.

I highly recommended this book to anyone who's even a little analytically minded and looking for a little familiar escapism.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first novel - more please, 1 Jan 2013
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
I have just finished Anne Charnock's book, within which there is much to admire and cause for pause for thought.

It's roots in classic scifi (I Robot) and fantasy (Frankenstein) and ancient dramas such as Pygmalion as well as more modern works referenced by Ann are evident. Raising the very ancient conundrums over how humanity will cope with created intelligent life, which may well be an improvement on ourselves.

The future utopian world Anne has created feels very familiar to that we ourselves inhabit, still evolving to a "perfect" ant like society, where free will is suppressed for the gains of physical well being and emotional stability.
Anne's central character is a significant contributor to the turning of this global hamster wheel, having enhanced analytical skills and all the data required to use them. Anne's novel then leads itself to the inevitable expression of free will and it's somewhat failure and the finding of love and other feelings for the intelligent anthropoid characters. It has a bit of a feel of Blade Runner in Manchester without the cops.
The novel is well paced and very engaging throughout, a little persistence to get to the core of book may be needed, but the fruits are there to be had in the end.
I really enjoyed the endings, they are beautifully crafted to leave the reader fulfilled, but searching for more. Looking forward to the sequel!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really inspiring and enjoyble read., 10 Aug 2014
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This review is from: A Calculated Life (Kindle Edition)
An excellent novel, the style matched the theme very well. The analysis of minutiae really worked and left me thinking about what we miss every day, not often something I can say about a book. Really loved the story, strongly recommended.
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A Calculated Life
A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock
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