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A Calculated Life Audio Download – Unabridged

4.2 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 50 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 26 Nov. 2013
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GX15OTM
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I generally go for space opera type sci-fi but I very much enjoyed this book.
Liked the that the world in which the main character lived was gradually revealed to the reader.
The future world she creates is not so dissimilar to ours, which makes a great backdrop for exploring more subtle things such as the characters attitudes, expectations etc.

Its an intimate style and story, but there is still a plot that moves along nicely and keeps your interest.
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