an·o·mie /ˈ ænəˌ mi:/ noun
1. Normlessness or social instability caused by the erosion or absence of morals, norms, standards, and values in a society.
2. Personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals
frend (listed as FREND on some online stores, due to multiple book covers with differing fonts) is an English language science fiction novel in the cyberpunk subgenre by American author Jonathan R. Miller, published in October 2014.
frend tells the story of a woman called Anomie, who makes a Faustian deal to be transformed bodily into a cyborg in service to a race of artificial intelligences called Lumen, following her survival of a horrible incident which left her body disabled and disfigured. Her metamorphosis is traumatic and detailed in exquisitely gruesome prose, and the hideousness of what she survives in the first place is only exceeded by the sadism of the Lumen, who are understood to be an existential threat to all of humanity, only pacified through the self-enslavement of those who, like Anomie, accept the Lumen's bargain at the expense of their own humanity. As the story progresses, Anomie finds she is part of a more complicated conspiracy to eliminate the threat the Lumen represent, with old friends and allies no longer able to recognise her and no longer certain they can trust her (or that she can trust them).
Themes in this novel include examining the idea of prosthetics and cybernetics in a "Ship of Theseus" capacity: how much of a human being can be replaced with technology, before they no longer recognise themselves as human? The story also addresses biracial identity and the interplay between "passing" and invisibility, infiltration and complicity, tolerance and assimilation. Gestural references to the effects of the Atlantic slave trade and its long-term effects on black culture in America are abundant without needing to be explicated. Miller's personal website addresses how his racial background informs his writing:
Miller was born in Illinois, lived in New Mexico for most of his childhood, and then became a California transplant... Miller's own biracial heritage -- Black and white, but "passing" as white -- has had a strong influence on his thought processes and writing approach. His novels deftly explore issues of identity while providing storylines that are layered, thought-provoking, and moving.
This book will be enjoyed by those who have loved The Bourne Identity and Ghost in the Shell, as well as the works of Ray Kurzweil. It will also have a certain ring of tonal familiarity to Fine Prey, Polymorph, and Evolution's Darling, all by Scott Westerfeld. It will also potentially appeal to anyone who enjoyed Seth Dickinson's works in the Baru Cormorant series, for a shared concern about ideological rigidity, colonialism, and genocide through the slow eradication of culture. It should be noted, however, that frend does not hesitate or flinch about some extremely literal biological realities, and those who dislike body horror would likely benefit by avoiding this novel. I enjoyed it immensely and agree with Kirkus Reviews that it is a "lean, well-oiled narrative," but it should be emphasised that this book does not exist to leave the reader feeling comfortable.
Iron Noder 2020, 26/30