Drone Delivery Sparks Chaos in Hilarious Sci-Fi Novel ‘Deliver Us’

Deliver Us, a 2018 novel by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite, takes a hilarious look at the future of drone delivery. The plot revolves around a social media activist named Piper Prince who attempts to stop Amazon from taking over her Detroit neighborhood.

“It’s written in a Coen brothers sort of tone,” Robinson says in Episode 561 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “A Big Lebowski sort of tone. I wanted the world and the characters to be slightly pitched up from reality. So Jeff Bezos and his S-Team are characters in the book, and they are a little bit like the boardroom characters from The Hudsucker Proxy.”

Robinson sees Detroit as the perfect setting for a novel about the collision between social justice activism and breakneck technological disruption, given the city’s rich history and uncertain future. “It’s a place that was the arsenal of democracy,” he says. “The Jetsons future is a future that was extrapolated from what Detroit used to be. Detroit was the place of the greatest technological innovation in the US for a while.”

Robinson worked hard to get the details right, meeting with various members of the Detroit community and also doing extensive research on Bezos. He also got feedback from his wife, author and activist Amanda Knox. “As he was writing it with Gavin, I was reading everything they wrote,” Knox says. “I was telling them when I thought, ‘This feels long, this feels overexplained, go into this more, this is super funny, this is not so funny, I don’t really understand this character’s motivation.’ All of those little factors that go into how you write a story.”

Readers might expect Deliver Us to be firmly on the side of the activists, but Robinson was careful to portray both sides of a complicated argument. “I think that’s one of the things that ties Amanda and I together is that we don’t really believe in evil,” he says. “We believe in humans who are complex and flawed, and who are many things at once. And I think that about Bezos and Amazon as well.”

Listen to the complete interview with Christopher Robinson and Amanda Knox in Episode 561 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Christopher Robinson on his viral wedding proposal:

There was a data crystal from the future that had rocketed back in time, and on that data crystal, in the crevice of a smoldering meteorite, it had a fractured, partial entry from the Encyclopedia Galactica about the Knox-Robinson coalescence, which was the future union in life together of Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson. So it was an encyclopedia article about us and our life together. When Amanda came and discovered this I was like, “Oh wait, I was thinking about doing this, but I guess it already happened in the future. So I guess I’m doing it now?” She didn’t know what was happening. She thought maybe I was leading her on a scavenger hunt.

Amanda Knox on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

That got me through some rough times in prison. Douglas Adams was my go-to. I had The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and that kept me company in a very difficult time. I was in a cell with five other people, and one of them was unpredictably violent, and I spent a lot of time just sitting on my bunk trying to be invisible. I had earplugs in my ears so I wouldn’t have to listen to people screaming, and I just needed some escape, and it was the perfect escape for me because it was so light, it was so fun, it was everything I needed in that moment. It was everything my reality wasn’t.

Christopher Robinson on characterization:

I actually created D&D-style character sheets for all of the characters in Deliver Us, to try to fully imagine who they were. Obviously they don’t have a “move silent” skill or “pick lock,” but I replaced those with social skills and things that people in our modern, contemporary society would have. So for instance, for each character I knew what their “flirtation” skill was, and I knew what their “navigate awkwardness” score was. And I somewhat arbitrarily assigned those things. I also had “What are the five items they have on their person at any given time?” I knew the answer to that question for every character.

Christopher Robinson on the Labyrinths podcast:

We did one episode of Labyrinths with this guy Itiel Dror, who is one of the world’s leading experts on cognitive bias, especially as it affects forensic science, which is super interesting. Because a lot of people think that things like fingerprinting is just a cut and dry science. A print either matches or it doesn’t. But in fact it’s much more of an art, as is DNA comparison and analysis, another thing people tend to think of as just a cut-and-dried science. And Dror has shown, through some very clever study designs, that these people are extremely subject to the various cognitive biases that afflict us all, such that if they’re told extraneous information like that a suspect confessed, they will often change their analysis and say, “Oh, well actually this print does match,” when before they thought it didn’t. And that’s very troubling.

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