Summary and book reviews of The Mother Code by Carole Stivers

The Mother Code

by Carole Stivers

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers X
The Mother Code by Carole Stivers
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Aug 2020, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

What it means to be human-–and a mother-–is put to the test in Carole Stivers' debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

It's 2049, and the survival of the human race is at risk. Earth's inhabitants must turn to their last resort: a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order—an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.



Kai is born in America's desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too—in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?
 
In a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human—and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.

Part One
1
March 3, 2054

Their treads tucked tight to their bodies, their wings outspread, they headed north in tight formation. From above, the sun glimmered off their metallic flanks, sending their coalesced shadows adrift over the ridges and combs of the open desert. Below lay only silence-that primordial silence that lives on in the wake of all that is lost, of all that is squandered.

At their approach, the silence was broken. Every grain of sand hummed in tune with the roar of air through their ducted fans. Tiny creatures, wrested from their heated slumbers, stirred from their hiding places to sense their coming.

Then, pausing in their trajectory to map ever-larger arcs, the Mothers fanned apart, each following her own path. Rho-Z maintained altitude, checked her flight computer, homed toward her preset destination. Deep in her belly she bore a precious payload-the seed of a new generation.

Alone, she set down in the shade of an overhanging crag, sheltered from the wind. There she ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. There are two time lines in The Mother Code: the earlier one telling the story of the adults, and the later one telling the story of the children and their Mothers. The author chose to tell these stories in parallel, switching back and forth between the two time lines in the first half of the novel before merging them. Why do you think this choice was made? How might you have viewed the story differently had it been told chronologically from beginning to end?
  2. In The Mother Code, the author eschews the portrayal of "superheroes," "evil scientists," and "cruel dictators." Do you think that there are clear protagonists or antagonists in this story? If so, who and why?
  3. In chapter 35, Kendra and James are surprised by the nonverbal ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Stivers' novel is not merely a book-length thought experiment about the consequences of a scenario like the one she envisions. It also carries immense and poignant resonance about the vitality and fragility of human lives and relationships and the complexity of human emotional needs, offering heartbreaking scenes of both optimism and grief. Despite its apocalyptic premise, The Mother Code is, at its heart, a surprisingly hopeful novel, one that offers a particularly generous depiction of scientists using their skills and training to address a future that they know they will never see...continued

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
[T]he sheer momentum and urgency of Stivers' prose will keep readers riveted to the page. Fast-paced plague fiction that weds realism and SF while posing truly profound questions about the nature of motherhood.

Booklist
Debuting author Stivers, a biochemist, blends hard science, emotional relationships, and artificial intelligence to produce a chilling and realistic narrative.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Stivers's mythic vision and sound science will strike a chord with readers who fear for humanity's future. This dystopia is painful, provocative, and ultimately infused with hope.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Carole Stivers is far from the first to wonder if motherhood can be scientifically replicated, but this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking addition to that meditation...Stivers' wonderful story settles right on the line between human and machine, as blame and threat and rescue and love shift from character to character in surprising and powerful ways.

Author Blurb James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of Crucible
Some stories are so unique, yet so universal, that it is wonder they aren't a part of the human fable already. Carole Stivers's The Mother Code is such a novel. Simply written but powerful, chock full of ideas and extrapolations about what it means to be a mother and all that such a word implies. Both apocalyptic, yet hopeful, treat yourself to this story. You'll be well rewarded.

Author Blurb Devi S. Laskar, author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues
I could not put down The Mother Code! Part action adventure, part sci-fi, the novel is suspenseful and cinematic and such a pleasure to read. Carole Stivers is a masterful storyteller and she has combined science, technology and history to tell a beautiful story of humanity and love.

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Beyond the Book

Archaebacteria

Yellowstone's Morning Glory Spring with yellow color from archaebacteriaCarole Stivers' novel The Mother Code imagines the rapid spread of a deadly genetically engineered disease called IC-NAN. The widespread proliferation of the disease is due in large part to its receptive archaebacteria, which serve as both host and incubator for the IC-NAN's DNA; as one character puts it, "these archaebacteria are capable of taking in the [nonlethal] linear form, making more copies of it, and manufacturing more [deadly] spherical NANs from that DNA." But what are archaebacteria?

Archaebacteria — or, as they are more properly called, archaea, are microbes that are similar to bacteria in size and simplicity but actually work quite differently on a molecular level. Scientists now believe that archaea form a third, ...

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