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The Mother Code

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As a flu-like pandemic sweeps the globe (sound familiar?), the U.S. government rushes to ensure humanity will continue by developing a "mother code" - robots that can birth, protect, and mother human children immune to the virus. But as those children grow and their "mothers" lead them farther away from the last survivors, the new generation struggles to understand their own history.

It's downright eery how much this book tracks with the current COVID-19 pandemic, and I'll be a bit surprised if Berkley chooses to stick to the original release date (5/5/20). That being said, I kind of enjoyed seeing a pandemic situation from a different perspective of what we're seeing now. The "mother code" concept was really interesting, but I feel like the narrative timeline and character building was a bit lacking. Letting us watch the kids with their mothers for a while before learning how they got there would have built more suspense. But overall, I'm sure this will make an interesting read for all of those folks seeking out pandemic stories right now!
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The Mother Code by  Carole Stivers

Pros: the relationship between the robots and kids was interesting

Cons: I intensely disliked the government personnel, the book made me feel angry and anxious

After a biological attack in Afghanistan goes wrong, a team of scientists is assembled to both find a cure and - if that fails - ensure the continuation of human life.

Reading this while in social isolation during the Covid-19 epidemic was… not ideal and definitely coloured my reception of the story. The novel has 2 halves and two narratives, that of the scientists and military personnel trying to get a handle on the manufactured virus starting in 2049, and that of some of the kids from their plan B, starting when the kids are 6 years old, in 2060. As a Canadian, the US characters’ decision to kept the knowledge of the plague from the rest of the world, deciding in their arrogance that they and they alone could solve the problem, rather than asking for help from scientists around the world, was infuriating to read. I found myself really hating the US scientists despite the author’s attempts to humanize them with love stories and heartbreak. Even at the end it seemed they were hellbent on compounding their errors.

The kids’ story in the first part of the book wasn’t that interesting and really cut down on tension for the other storyline, as the reader knows from the start of that book that at least some of the mother robots succeed. I found their story more compelling and interesting in the second part of the book. The author nails the tension in this half and I was worried about what was going to happen to the kids.

In terms of characters, I did like learning more about the kids and their bonds with the mother robots. I was impressed at how capable the kids all were in terms of caring for themselves, despite their youth.

I felt conflicted by the Hopi inclusion. On the one hand it was neat seeing them, on the other it made them feel like ‘mystical natives’, only there to help the scientists survive. Aside from Nova, we never see them from their own point of view, living their lives, only how they help the scientists with medicine, scouting, and food.

I was also unsure what the end goal of the scientists was. Even if all 50 kids survived, that doesn’t seem like enough genetic diversity to repopulate the world.

In better times I think I’d have enjoyed the story more. As it was, I found the book made me feel a mix of anxiety and anger.
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2049: A team of scientists is tasked with curing a bioweapon that has gone rogue. 2060: A handful of children, raised in isolation by robots coded to nourish and protect them, start to search for each other and any other people they can find. The two timelines slowly come together, one leading to humanity's doom and the other pointing toward a new way of being human. Does great with the crunchy technical aspects, less well with character-building. Excellent timing for the publication of a novel about a mysterious respiratory illness with 100% mortality.
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Carole Stivers has created a brave new world where Artificial Intelligence is the world’s savior after a man made apocalypse.  The question isn’t who can save humanity but how to do it without losing our humanity. 

“The Mother Code” explores a future where technology can aid us but a higher power is needed to make the world better.  

Can’t wait to read a sequel. I can see this book adapted as a movie. Technology, action, great character development and interactions.  It’s also a brilliant warning about taking any kind of warfare too far.
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As a genetically modified virus runs rampant, a small elite team come together to prepare for the end of humanity.  In a last ditch effort, they create fifty robots, designed to "birth" and raise children who have been genetically modified to survive the virus.  The book alternates between the team creating the robots, and years later beginning with the children as six years old.

This was a fascinating and hard to put down book.  The alternating story lines worked really well together.  I thought the dynamic between the Mother robots and the children were fascinating.  I would love to read another book set in this universe.  Overall, highly recommended.
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When it is snowy and cold outside, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

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.

This was a very heavy-duty science fiction read: although with all I read about Corona Virus every day, we may be down to robots running the world as they are a billion times smarter than current leaders in charge. who cannot even remember the gender of the first US victim (on US soil) to the disease!? (eye roll) The story is very, very technical at its roots and I found myself glossing over the technology to get to the root of the story: a boy named Kai and his mother...robot. Mother robot? 

I would say this book is best for lovers of serious sci-fi-fantasy - I skimmed and skipped through it as the technology did not really interest me enough to read every word. 

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 👶👶👶
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Not very cohesive even for a sci-fi novel. I thought it needed more development on the characters and world building.
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Not what I was expecting! This book was definitely more science fiction than anything. It was a good read, that had me turning pages fairly quickly! It was thought-provoking and definitely has you exploring relationships and how much we are ever relying on technology. Would definitely recommend to any fan of science fiction!
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Scary, exciting, thought provoking! Children are raised by robot mothers because a virus threatens to decimate the human race. A lot of the technical stuff went over my head, but I still enjoyed it and would recommend it.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Excerpt from Amazon Book Synopsis 
"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."

The Apocalypse Begins
December 20, 2049.
The US military, beleaguered in the long war against terrorism and following secret orders, deployed an air drop of deadly nano bots, NANS, in a remote area of Afghanistan. The intended target - the lungs of Afghan terrorists residing in a desolate area. Due to the remote location, the deployment was deemed a low risk for inhalation by persons outside the kill zone. The NANs that were not inhaled were programmed to fall to the ground and become inert.  U.S. military scouts found the bodies; the mission deemed a success.

The high fives were short lived as a rapid-onset virus began spreading through the country. The U.S. powers-that-be turned to the scientists that created the NANs for help. Their nano-tech scientists, having reported that the NANs had not been fully vetted for use, had been kept in the dark about the deployment. Suddenly it was a deadly race to determine if the NANs could be stopped before it turned into a pandemic. But you can't put the genie back in the bottle.

In their search for answers, the scientists found the only way to survive the NANs would be to alter the human genetic code. It was possible to create embryos with altered DNA but it was impossible to use human surrogate mothers to birth and raise the children. There wasn't time.

A small doomsday project set aside long ago was dusted off and put into production. "Mother" robots would be used to perform all the functions of a human mother from carrying the embryo through fetal stages to birth. Socializing, educating, and protecting the children would continue until they had reached self-sufficiency. Reminded me of that early Superman movie where the baby Kal-El is given all the knowledge of his ancestors and information about his new home -Earth.

The story is well told traveling back and forth in time until reaching an equilibrium - the vestiges of mankind receding but the memories and knowledge of the past alive in the Mother Code and her human offspring. The characters are interesting and believable. It was simply told in a manner that seemed more like a Young Adult book but nonetheless engaging. Inherent in the story are questions of morality and spirituality that challenge the reader to question things.

Reviewer's Thoughts
As I neared the end of the book, the news of the corona virus broke out in the real world. It knocked me back on my heels. Are there plans in the works now that we don't know about to sustain human life beyond a pandemic?

Consider the scenario where we would relinquish care and raising of children to robots. I realized it was very possible. Think about it. We don't even have to parallel park our cars any more. SIRI provides answers to questions that used to require humans to think for themselves. How many people do you know that rely solely on their phones for everything.

Finally, it wasn't scary but maintained a positive and uplifting message. Those characters facing their own mortal end find the strength to put the future ahead of their own demise. Hurrah! And there's a secret in the story that I won't reveal. Find it for yourself!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to review.
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From the publisher: 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. 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.

The Mother Code has a terrific premise, but it didn’t quite live up to its promise for me. The military releases a bioweapon that causes a global pandemic. In a desperate attempt to save humanity, a fleet of robots is launched containing genetically engineered embryos. The robots are coded with the personalities of the real women who donated eggs to the project. The robots disperse, the babies are incubated inside them and born, and the mother robots raise the children. A core group of military strategists given an antidote survive the pandemic, along with pockets of naturally resistant humans like the Hopi. Years pass as the children grow up and the team of humans tries to find them.

The Mother Code is very readable and moves along at a brisk pace. I totally bought into the sequence of events at the beginning. However, as it moved toward the end I felt the plot twists were too Hollywood-esque. The narrative tension felt artificial.

I never felt I got to know the kids, who read like a casting call for a movie: the combative natural leader; the meditative naturalist who communes with snakes; the reckless tomboy; the shy mouse; the boy with almond-shaped eyes who is good at cooking; the black girl who starts a garden. In fact overall this entire book reads like a detailed movie script, and indeed Steven Spielberg has optioned the movie rights.

The overall message of what it means to be a mother seemed very labored by the end. If you are looking for a fast-moving thriller that reads like an action movie, The Mother Code may be for you. As a book that will truly make a reader think, that’s perilously close to something that could happen in real life, the book is not quite as successful.

I read an advance reader copy of The Mother Code. It is scheduled to be published in May 2020 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in print and as an ebook.
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The Mother Code by Carole Stivers.   Insightful, compelling and thought provoking future view of how technology and humanity will co-exist after apocalyptic event that threatens the future of mankind.  Although filled with technical information, the story is fast paced and offers a hopeful future with the relationship between the robotic Mothers and their children.  The interaction between Rho-Z and Kai is at the heart of the story.  Before publication, the film rights for book has been sold.   It will be interesting to see how Stephen Spielberg film adapts the Mothers and this future world.  

Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for the opportunity to preview the book.
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I really enjoyed this book.  In a future that seems terrifyingly possible humans create a technological virus that will soon end all human life. Desperate for any solution they create bots that will birth and raise children that will be immune. The story alternates between the scientists and techs that struggle to save themselves, or anyone and the children born from bots years later.  These kids are born with no companions besides their mother bots until at age six they get a command to find the other children. There is so much more to say but that would spoil it. This is story about technology and humanity, how they work together and against one another. I'm not a Sci Fi fan, the technological mumbo jumbo usually turns me off but the writer did an excellent job of making it seem real and understandable. The characters also felt real and were sympathetic. As the two story lines began to merge and align I could hardly put the book down.  Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for making this available. I would recommend this title to any Sc Fi fan and anyone who loves Dystopian novels.
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Carole Stivers takes on a topic which almost by definition is beyond any attempts to diagnosis it.  It is what is motherhood?   What does it signify to those becoming mothers and how they perceive their offspring.  How do the children look upon the figure of their mother aside from the normal views of the protector, guider and the the epitome of love.
      The story takes place in the near future as conflict between nations decimates the populations of the countries.  The United States tries an experiment by building a group of robots meant for the care and raising of human children.  It is hoped that this will allow replenishment of the species.  Using advanced techniques the robots are inculcated with an instinct and desire to care for and nurture embryos of human children  entrusted to their care.  Each robot has a space within them where the child can be protected and guided and used as a living quarters.  
     The robots are followed secretly and watched as their charges grow and develop.  They are guided into taking the children into a situation where they can pick up food and water deposited for them and at the age of 6 years brought together as a means of socializing them. Several of the children are followed as are some of the adults that were involved in setting up the experiment.  
     It is obviously the author's opinions that guide the direction of the novel, but she does develop a scenario that makes for a fascinating read and the question of whether or not artificial replacement for the human trait of mother hood could ever replace the real thing.  A different type of story from any others, and one that is a definite five star all nighter and one that poses questions beyond any others I have come across.
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With The Mother Code, I believe Carole Stivers has solidified herself as one of the most promising new voices of science fiction. The line between humanity and technology has long been discussed in this genre, but Stivers has managed to do something interesting and new. Stivers has not only begun a new conversation on whether or not AI could potentially gain a personality, but she has also simultaneously weaved this discussion into a human-driven end-of-the-world narrative. Every single character is so incredibly thought out. The plot is intense and all-encompassing, but it never feels too heavy. My only complaint is that I felt a little lost around the middle, but I can't tell if that was the technology jargon or the narrative. Despite that hiccup, for the most part, The Mother Code felt grounded in science and reality while still being accessible to a wide range of readers. 

I particularly enjoyed the "present" and "before" narratives that began the book. I also adored what ended up being a very profound discussion on motherhood and what it truly means to be human.
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Get ready to flip pages and encounter a quiet disturbing mash-up of two intriguing subgenres: Genetic mutation and fatal disease! When bioterror knocks on your door, you cannot easily run away! So buckle up and join this thrilling sci-fi adventure! I’m giving my four stars and dedicating them for the love of motherhood!

I have to warn you before you jump in without your swimsuits, you gotta have some technical knowledge about the bioweapons, how they function, what changed with their operation skills throughout the years not to keep in the dark. So I can honestly say this book is not for regular readers. It fits the expectations of true die-hard fans of sci-fi books. If you are not into them, you may get lost easily with the jargon and the technical terms and you start blabbering, “who am I”, “what the hell I’m doing here” and giving so long blank looks to the pages.

But what I liked mostly about this book is building of characters. You can easily sympathize with their motions, how they handle the situations and face the risks which makes you feel like you are one of them.
So another apocalyptic shockwave hits the world and after the infection, only a few group of military personals and scientists survived with the help of daily treatment. Two little children: Kai and Sela survived because they are immune to the epidemic and the main reason how they are still alive is they’ve been raised by ROBOTS. 
The name of the robotic mothers is “MOTHER’S CODE”. They were designed to raise and guard the children for eight years before the children are ready to socialize with their other friends. 

 And of course we have MISHA, another engineered child. Unfortunately her robotic mother had crashed and she has been raised by Hopi and other scientist who had survived from infection.

Another thing I liked about this book is giving you promising future. It doesn’t serve you depressing, bleak, suffocating kind of message. It is controversial, questioning the nature of motherhood, fast pacing, capturing and interesting read. 

Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for sharing this intriguing ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review.
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