Cover Image: Synapse


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Member Reviews

Wow. Excellent fast-paced writing, with incredible thrills and mystery!  Steven James, never fails to provide gripping, can't turn the pages fast enough Christian thrillers.  For anyone looking for this kind of read - this comes highly recommended - especially if you're interested in techno-science fiction.  If you're not technology-oriented as I am, this may be difficult to understand.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC for this my honest review.
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While I am of the Christian faith, I do not appreciate or particularly enjoy religion shoved down my throat and especially not in the fiction I read. I have read several books that would fall in the genre of Christian that I absolutely loved but I found this to be over the top, and didn’t make it passed the second chapter.  I won’t be posting a review to any social media outlets.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing a digital copy in return for an honest, unbiased review.
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I couldn't get through enough of this to leave a comprehensive or fair review, so I am not going to feature it on any platforms. The beginning was too sad and I felt that the use of a dead baby as a plot device was unfair. I also have no interest in God or Religion and felt that there were too many religious references throughout.
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3 Simple Things You Should Know about Synapse
He’s a master of words–and points of view.  Of tenses.  Where most authors find one and stick to it, Steven James weaves several into a perfect web of connections that somehow manage not to short-circuit your brain. If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d love a book full of first, second, and third-person points of view, as well as past and present tenses, I’d have laughed.  Especially at the thought of them all in one book.

But true to form, James doesn’t just pull them off, he does it in a way that makes you feel like it couldn’t have been done any other way.

So what are those three “simple” things? 
I’m calling them simple because I’m keeping my review of them as succinct as possible.

James knows characterization and story.  As far-fetched as this plot would have seemed even fifteen or twenty years ago, he makes me believe it not only can but will happen someday. He not only suspended my disbelief as I read the book–but also of what could be.
This is no mindless thriller that keeps you hopping without anything to feed your soul.  I’ve complained a lot about Thomas Nelson this year–about their seeming deviation from strong faith elements in their books.  Well… Synapse gave me hope that they haven’t abandoned solid Christian fiction after all.  This book has such deep, rich faith-filled elements that I know I’ll need to read it another time or two in order to really and fully grasp all that James wired into his story.
It’s almost impossible for me to talk about this book without giving away cool things that only the reader can discover for him or herself.  So, I’ll just say this.  I loved it.
Recommended for lovers of light speculative fiction (it’s not heavy sci-fi that you can’t follow if you aren’t of a scientific/nerdy turn of mind) and for lovers of well-crafted stories that make you think without turning preachy. James did a beautiful job of balancing all sides of various issues without seeming to come off as wishy-washy. I am thrilled to have received a free review copy of the book, and I’m eager to purchase a copy for a few of my friends.  I think it will be well received.
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AI is a tricky subject.  On one hand, it could greatly improve our lives.  On the other, it could become too intelligent and be out of our control.  This is a great addition to the subject of AI.  Highly recommend.
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Just the kind of suspense I live for! Synopsis had me hooked and the book itself didn’t disappoint. Fast paced and suspenseful. Advanced AI? Sign me up!!
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When I finished, I am reminded why I am drawn to speculative/sci-fi fiction. Being written from a Christian viewpoint, I like the conclusions better than those of a secular book. Steven James packs a lot of solid Biblical truth into Synapse and utilizes key story threads to do so. The lack of bad language or bedroom scenes is a real plus for me! I enjoyed seeing how James develops the characters of Kestral, Jordan, Nick, and Trevor. Interestingly enough, ALL of them show growth. You’ll have to read the book to see why that’s an ironic statement. The action really accelerated near the end. I love to be surprised by who some of the villains and allies are, and this book did not disappoint.
It did take me a while to get into the book, as James uses different point-of-views and even tenses for each character. Switching out of third-person past to the first-person present and back again was not comfortable for me. There were spots where James felt it appropriate to write the text all next to each other, with no breaks for words. These spots could be a paragraph long, and unfortunately, I was also fighting off dizziness the day I read this part, so I was doubly dismayed. All in all, though, I did enjoy the book. It came together well in the end. I would read another of Steven James’s novels and see where he takes mankind.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book by the author and publisher. This does not affect my opinions, for which I am solely responsible.
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Great read. Great book. I would love to read other books by this author. The description was great and the characters seemed real.
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I am a big fan of Steven James and his chess piece series. This book is similar to the structure of how James writes.

In Synapse, you will find a minister who has lost a child living in a world where artificial people are manufactured.

The book asks interesting questions about the future of artificial intelligence and gives readers a convincing "what if" kind of future.

Like his other books, James builds to a high-octane climax where you're racing to read the answers to the questions he's lay before you.

Unlike his other books, I didn't care about any of the characters. I didn't find myself invested in their journey.

But here's another observation about books by Steven James (at least recently): he tries to build instant emotional connection with his readers by involving some horrific or traumatic experience that involves children.

I'm not a fan of that type of overt manipulation (at least that's my interpretation).

Like I said, the book asks interesting questions that may very well be asked in our near future. But I don't think I'll be reading any more books from this series - if this is to be a series.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Thomas Nelson Publishing.
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This one was unique. I enjoyed the dystopian style story. It keeps the reader guessing with it's many twists and turns.
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Wow just wow!  What a thought provoking, timely read.  I’ve been intrigued by AI over the last few years as we see it popping up more and more in technology today and I have to say I absolutely loved Synapse!  I was drawn in to Kestrel’s heartbreaking story of personal tragedy as I turned each page, intrigued by Jordan and his journey of self awareness and faith and heartwarmed by the second chance love budding between Kestrel and Nick. 

I loved how Steven James interwove faith into this story.  It was a raw and real depiction of how we can struggle with the unanswerable questions in life and what it means to be human.  From start to finish I was hooked and would totally recommend!

#NetGalley #Synapse #Goodreads
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Title:  Synapse
Author:  Steven James
Genre:  Suspense, thriller
Rating:  5 out of 5

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but what they believe. Is hope real for them, or merely an illusion? 

Kestrel Hathaway is a minister reeling from unthinkable tragedy when she witnesses a terrorist attack and steps in to render aid. When she’s questioned by the officials, she realizes the possibility of another attack—a devastating one—is looming, and she and her Artificial, Jordan, work together to untangle the lies and secrets wrapped around the attack.

Federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon is determined to stop the attack he knows is coming. He doesn’t want Kestrel in danger—but her insight might be just the thing he needs to break the case.

And Jordan is asking questions an Artificial should never ask; questions about life, God, and the afterlife. Where does the line between humanity and Artificial blur?

This book was a wild ride from the very first page. I read it straight through because I had to know what happened! I was very intrigued with Kestrel, who is a minister asking tough questions in the wake of tragedy. I’ve never read a suspense/thriller book with a minister as the main character, and I think every novel of this type set in the future that I’ve read has done away with the idea of faith and religion, so this was fascinating to read. I highly recommend this novel—but don’t start it unless you have a few free hours to kill right then!

Steven James is a bestselling author with a master’s degree in Storytelling. Synapse is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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It was in 1999 that I first was faced with the issue of robotics and humanity as I watched Robin Williams’ humanity develop over 200 years. In the final scene, Robin’s robot character is worn out - he lays down and “dies”. His current owner, the great-granddaughter of the original owner, has had so many body parts replaced with computer upgrades that the only way she can die is to ask the nurse (another robot) to turn her off.

Synapse addresses many of the same issues - only it does not occur 200 years into the future but 30 years into the future.

Kestrel has just lost a baby during childbirth; her brother, Trevor, buys her “an artificial”, Jordan. Jordan is special in that he has a history and he begins to question his own relationship to God. It takes three explosions, a corrupt technology company, and groups of normals, plussers (those augmented with technology - be it arms, eyes, hearts, etc.), and artificials, to find a resolution to the crisis facing that future world.

The book read like a light cozy mystery, but it is science fiction that addresses difficult issues - grief, evil, love, forgiveness, etc. Written with a strong Christian message as it addresses these issues, the book is a well-written novel offering hope. I do not know if the author is considering additional books based on these characters, this reviewer hopes so.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
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I have mixed feelings about this book.

I adore Sci-Fi. I grew up reading sci-fi and all the techy things that go with it. Almost no tech stuff to bite into in this story, but lots of stuff to think about. However, I couldn't get over the fact that an AI has no soul, therefore an AI doesn't need Jesus to save something he doesn't have. The question of who can and who can't believe is a non-sequitur. So when the premise of the book became a non-factor, I lost all interest because I just didn't care about the characters.

What irritated me the most was all the different points of view. That came off to me as a trick Just-To-See-If-I-Can-Do-It kind of trick. To me it spoiled the whole flow of the storyline and was the main reason I quit reading the book, not the content nor the lack of character development.
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I was hesitant to read this because I knew it would be a little more “techie” than my normal type of novel, but I am so glad I did. It was both poignant and edgy at every page-turn. It tugged at your heart on one page, and on the next made you think through not just elements of artificial intelligence and the society in which we live and may eventually live, but also, it challenged you to examine your thoughts about beliefs and God and intelligent beings. I truly did enjoy reading this novel. Action-packed and suspenseful! From Jordan - “ They spend the vast majority of their lives pursuing what doesn’t matter while neglecting the things that they know do.” From Kestrel - “In that moment, I realized that if I had to choose between knowing the why and knowing the who, between closure or intimacy with the Lord, I would choose the Father too. Just as Jesus did. Even if I had to live lost in the questions, as long as I could live there with him beside me, I would be okay.” I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This is my first exposure to this author and indeed it didn’t disappoint. Synapse is a futuristic whodunit that is believably familiar despite the futuristic setting. It puts forth some thought-provoking concepts and asks some serious questions about the nature of God, humanity, and salvation. A wonderfully crafted story with plenty of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat right to the last page.

The book raises lots of ethical and philosophical questions that will make you think twice the next time you look at your computer, tablet or phone. There is a whole conversation about who can believe in God, what does it mean to believe in a higher power and what happens when we have a lapse in faith. Then there is a lot of commentary peppered throughout the book about the whole technology slant. Are we moving too fast, what is suffering while we are making all the technological advances, and what is the societal cost to both humans and sentient AI beings?

James did a beautiful job of balancing all sides of various issues without seeming to come off as vapid or insipid. I definitely look forward to reading more by this author.

Thank you to NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Rated five stars out of five by reviewer Iris Chacon.

I received a free copy of the book from NetGalley, and I am voluntarily posting my honest review.

Synapse, by Steven James

It's thirty years in the future, and life has both changed and stayed the same.  Self-driving cars are the norm and everybody has robot employees, called Artificials. Still, the Pacific Northwest of the USA is home of the latest tech giant, and people still wrestle with terrorism, political street protests, and prejudice.

The spine of the story is the controversy surrounding AI, or artificial intelligence. Thirty years in the future, people are still arguing about whether smart machines are good or bad. Tech industry execs and shareholders, of course, see a golden goose in the newest level of thinking robots. Many citizens disagree, and some have turned to truck bombs and other catastrophic violence.

The controversy is brought to a human level by author Steven James, who introduces us to Trevor (a tech industry security expert and atheist) and his estranged sister, Kestral, an ordained minister in the church. Kestral is unmarried and has opted for in vitro fertilization to start a family of her own.

As the novel begins, Kestral suffers the death of her child. Trevor, thinking he is being helpful, ships the latest robot model to his sister. Kestral does not trust in AI the way Trevor does not trust in God, so the arrival of Jordan (a thinking, feeling, human-looking robot) brings the siblings' differences to a crisis point.

On the way home from the hospital, after losing her child, Kestral is nearly caught in the truck-bombing of a tech plant. She rushes from her car to help save lives at the bloody incident scene and believes she has saved at least one man, although he will lose an arm.

Thirty years in the future, loss of an arm is not a problem. In fact, it can be an advantage, because robotic arms make superior limbs and are installed routinely. Artificial body parts are so common, in fact, that the general population is divided fairly evenly into three groups: Naturals (humans), Artificials (not humans), and Plussers (humans with enhanced artificial parts).

Trevor is trying to prevent further violence against AI manufacturers, Kestral is trying to mourn the death of her tiny daughter, and Jordan is trying to understand and protect his human owner, amid the larger chaos of a world fighting over advanced technology.

The story has plenty of action and suspense to keep us turning those pages, but author Steven James brings us a more than mere entertainment. James involves us in the emotional ups and downs of the characters and causes us to examine our own philosophies about the nature of life and faith. 

For example, Trevor wants Kestral to tell him how God could let her baby girl die, if He is both all good and all powerful.  Kestral gives him her answers, even though she is struggling with her own questions at the same time.  

Jordan, who has been given abilities to understand and experience emotions, pain, and more, has his own questions about faith and an afterlife. Does an afterlife exist for sentient robots? If Jordan can understand the Bible, can he also believe in God and Jesus? Can a machine worship? 

The author sweeps us along at a faster and faster pace, with the stakes rising to a life-and-death level, right up to the surprising, enigmatic, and exciting climax.

This novel has all that any science fiction enthusiast could want. Readers from the community of faith will enjoy and appreciate it as well.  James forces no conclusions upon anyone, but he presents excellent questions and arguments from all sides of each issue the story confronts.

Don't shy away from this book, thinking it's a philosophical treatise or religious homily. This is a rootin' tootin' heckuva good story from beginning to end.

Synapse, by Steven James, is available at AMAZON and other book sellers. Follow the author on AMAZON or GOODREADS.
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A lot different than I would typically read. I did find parts of it interesting. There are robots called Artificials. Kestrel has an Artificial assigned to her named Jordan. I loved Jordan and how he wanted to be human. The story is set thirty years into the future. A lot of things different from today, but a lot of things still the same.

If you are into reading about robots and how things may be in the future, you will love this book. Someone that isn’t into tech/computers may not understand a lot of terms in the book.

I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher through Celebrate Lit. This book review is my own opinion.
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Talk about a whirlwind book! From start to finish, I was amazed at the thought, care, and detail attributed to Synapse. It takes over two-thirds of the book before the title makes sense, but you kinda know what’s coming. And it was still remarkable.

Although it’s given a futuristic setting, Synapse is not so far out there that it becomes unbelievable. Think I, Robot mixed with God’s Not Dead.

Since the book is told through several different perspectives, you’re able to see what is happening on both sides of the automaton debate even though you don’t know who the head honcho is behind the screen.

I requested a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. I was not required to leave a positive review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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Synapse is a difficult novel to review. Parts were excellent. Parts were not excellent. And parts were downright weird.
Let’s start with what I thought was excellent. Synapse is set in the future—2037. Humanoid robots are commonplace, as are the Purists, terrorists who seek to destroy the Artificials before Artificials destroy humanity (a valid concern for anyone who has seen a Terminator movie).

The main character, Kestrel, is a Methodist minister, and that gives lots of room to muse in the nature of humanity, whether a sentient robot has a soul or can believe in God or needs forgiveness for their sins.

There are some big questions around artificial life forms in this novel, and Synapse addresses them all in a natural way. Is salvation only for humans? I’d always thought so, but I don’t live in a world with sentient artificial life forms. If a computer were sentient, would it have a soul? Would it have eternal soul? These are the tough questions Steven James addresses in Synapse.

But that’s not the plot. The basic plot is more mundane—there’s a bombing, our heroine is one of the first on the scene, and that naturally brings her to the attention of the investigating officers. Predictably, one is single (well, divorced) and interested in her (but has to get past his own issues first), and the other is a dirty cop. Yawn. Sorry, but that’s one plot line I’m kind of over. However, I did enjoy the occasional touch of humour.

The underlying novel is the search for the truth about the bombing, and will the good cop find out the truth before the bad cop destroys all the evidence and implicates Kestrel. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I found the bad cop a little cliché, and the writing in those scenes somewhat bland.

Yes, some of the writing was bland, but there were also passages of brilliance, and passages that could be either. Or both. Take the introduction. One of the first “rules” of writing is about managing point of view. In short, write in first person or third person, but be careful about writing in both. And don’t write in second person.

Synapse breaks these rules. It starts in second person as Kestrel gives birth and realises her baby is not okay. Honestly, I almost stopped reading there—using “you” (meaning me, the reader) would have been weird in any context, but in the context of a mother losing her baby? Beyond weird.

The novel then switched into first person past tense. But Jordan (Kestrel’s Artificial aka sentient humanoid robot) was also a viewpoint character, and Jordan’s scenes were written in first person present tense. This was somewhat jarring next to the rest of the novel, and definitely not a technique I’d recommend to new writers.

Overall, Synapse is a futuristic whodunit that uses enough common tropes to make it familiar despite the futuristic setting. While I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy Synapse, it was a fascinating concept that asked some serious questions about the nature of God, humanity, and salvation.

Recommended for science fiction fans. Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
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