Synapse

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

When I was growing up it was hard to believe that in the future I would live in an era where cell phones were so small they could fit in the palm of your hand or laptops that you take with you and were able to connect with a click to the web. I remember watching The Jetsons and thinking how cool it would be to have flying cars that whisked you away to your destination. With the above mentioned subjects,  the  author has given us a glimpse into a world that isn't that far fetched of what it could be like in ten or twenty years in this wonderful display of creativity.

The book may not be for everyone but I really enjoyed reading the story and letting my mind imagine what would happen if we had "Artificial robots that helped us through hard times. Kestrel is a pastor of a church who is grieving the loss of her child. I know people will say she was in sin because she had a baby out of wedlock. What the story portrays is a look at sin in a different way. I wasn't sure at first where the author was taking us. As I began to learn more about Jordan, I understood how the author took something that wasn't suppose to have emotions and gave Jordan everything a human could feel. 

Jordan's curiosity about God was one that many of us have wondered before. Why would God allow bad things to happen and watch His people suffer?  Can Jordan really experience everything a human does? With technology taking leaps and bounds everyday, it is not too far fetched to have an Artificial pop up in the market place. Do you remember when a test tube baby was unheard of? The author expands our thoughts and allows us to question our beliefs. I found the story to be emotional at times and loved the secondary plot of a terrorist threat. The twists at the end are unexpected and really enhanced the story. 

I don't want to ruin anything that may give the book away so I will leave you with these thoughts: The story is rich in faith and really takes  a look at the question many have asked. Is God real?  In this thought provoking science fiction book we are able to look past what we can see  and get a sense of what it is like as characters experience faith, grief,  forgiveness and  hope.  

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
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Synapse is my first Steven James novel, despite having heard wonderful things about him for years. I'm struggling to sum up my feelings about this book. Overall, I think I really enjoyed it. It was clear from early in the story that, while we were both Christians, I did not share the same theological leanings as the author. At first, that colored my view of the book itself considerably, but ultimately the story itself won me over. The worldbuilding of the futuristic tech was interesting and easy to follow, and the way in which the twists and final climax partnered with the more philosophical elements of the story was something I was really impressed with. I feel safe concluding that I'm likely to pick up a Steven James book in the future.
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This is the first Steven James book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. His attention to detail in his well-constructed futuristic story world brings it to life in a vivid way. Since that period is not so far removed from our present day, the two mesh seamlessly together. The dramatic tale, and the struggles of life and faith it addresses, cannot help but draw the reader in and evoke questions regarding artificial intelligence and how far we want it to go and whether nonhumans could have faith or find forgiveness. The fascinating possibilities in this novel also create potential situations for abuse and misuse—so I don’t know if I’d like to witness such a world or not. The characters—real and artificial—seem authentic and well-developed. Nearing the conclusion, I choked up several times, even for a self-sacrificing Artificial. This would make a great book club choice since the story begs deep discussion. Kudos to an author I’ve heard great things about. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit. All opinions are my own.
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“Life is so precious and brief and fleeting, and... experiencing all that it has to offer without despairing at its brevity truly did lie at its heart.”

Wow, what an incredible and powerful sci-fi thriller from Steven James!  This is the first book by the author I have read and I am stunned by his creativity, his flawless execution of a detailed and complex plot, and his seamless and emotion-packed writing style that grips you from page one and doesn’t let go. The philosophical, spiritual, and social questions and dilemmas the author raises through an intensely personal look at a world 30 years into the future, where artificial intelligence is so advanced to look human, will linger days after you finish the book. This thought-provoking novel about the essence of human-ness - addressing grief and suffering, faith and hope, love and forgiveness, and the afterlife - will resonate with everyone, not just fans of sci-fi or thrillers. It is one of the most captivating and stirring novels of 2019 and an absolute must-read. 

The story is written in multiple points of view:
1) first person narrative from Kestrel, a Methodist pastor suffering from losing her daughter
2) third person present omniscient narrative from Jordan, Kestrel’s artificial companion and 
3) third person narratives from Nick, the police officer tracking down domestic terrorists, and a couple of the villains/terrorists working to violently destroy the next innovation
The multiple points of view bring the plot together on a larger scale and enhance the reading experience rather than confuse or detract. The three major characters Kestrel, Nick, and Jordan are multi-layered and well-developed and their interactions truly tug at the heart-strings. Who would have thought that interaction between an artificial intelligence and a human would bring tears? But be prepared. Jordan is nothing like any robot you’ve met and he WILL make you cry. 

I received a copy of the book from Thomas Nelson via Celebrate Lit Tours and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
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In Synapse, Steven James creates a world of naturals (humans), artificials, and plussers (humans with AI enhancements) thirty years in the future. As readers are plunged into a world ripe with technological advances, political unrest centered around the artificials, and an imminent attack, they will also be challenged to examine their own hearts and faith.

The perspectives of multiple characters give readers a 360 view while keeping them in the dark as to who the mastermind behind the attack is. I especially connected with Kestral and Jordan in this book.

James doesn’t shy away from one of the most difficult faith questions. If God is God, then why do people suffer? As Kestrel, who is a minister, struggles with her own faith after experiencing a painful loss (in the first chapter), Jordan examines the questions of faith with child-like curiosity and wonder.

If that’s not enough to convince you, James weaves a tale that is concise and engaging, making it difficult to set the book down until the final word is read.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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Christian Mass Effect? Religious Deus Ex? Fair warning on this book: It is explicitly Christian Fiction – and it is pretty damn heavy handed on the preaching. If that isn’t your thing, you don’t want to read the first sentence of this thing. The story itself is decent enough, but the hyper preaching aspects drag what could have been a pretty awesome scifi tale that could challenge some of the Golden Age masters into just another book that likely won’t reach much beyond your local (dying) Christian Bookstore. Instead of a subtle exploration of whether robots could have souls ala Blade Runner, you get what amounts to mini sermons – which is theoretically appropriate, with the central character being a preacher. Overall a solid story that could have been so much more, and recommended if you can withstand the preaching.
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Synapse is a fabulous read that is chock full of all the things I love about Steven James' storytelling!
I've read all but one of this author's books and really enjoyed them all! As soon as I saw the cover of this book I knew I wanted to read it, before I even knew what it was about, because I knew it would be awesome and it totally and completely was! I don't often read futuristic stories, but this book absolutely fascinated me and I was enthralled with its story world! I really liked main character, Kestrel, she was both relatable and inspiring, and her journey was a powerful and suspenseful ride that was heartbreaking at the same time it was incredibly hope filled! Jordan was also a great character and the parts of the story that were told from his perspective were fascinating! Nick was also awesome, and I loved the tiny bit of romance between him and Kestrel! 
While this book is a bit outside my comfort zone I absolutely loved every minute of it and did not want to stop reading! The faith story in this book is wonderful, engrossing, and thought provoking, and will leave you with feelings of awe and renewed hope! 
I highly recommend Synapse, and I am eagerly anticipating Steven James' next book! 
(5 Stars!)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher which did not influence my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions are one hundred percent my own.
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A futuristi sci-fi suspense/thriller. This book showcases what AI could be like in the future. Along with a tense terrorist plot. And a few heart-wrenching moments as well. A dash of faith woven in. There are also a lot of deep questions raised to get you thinking, even on some of the more controversial topics that are highlight in this book. 

While I’m not really a fan of sci-fi, and hence don’t read much of it, I found this book interesting and engaging. So, if your a fan of sci-fi, thrillers, AI robots, here’s one for you.
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Steven James does it again! Synapse held my attention from the first page and kept me reading. Mr. James is a master storyteller and I love his books. This one didn't disappoint! I was a bit concerned as this story is different from his others, but I enjoyed it immensely. His use of sensory details, plot twists, and characterization are superb. I would definitely recommend this book to others.
 
I give Synapse five stars. It will keep the reader glued to the end.
 
**I was given a complimentary copy of this novel by NetGalley in return for my honest review.

Note: also posted on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, BAM
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I haven't quite yet decided if this novel fits my own definition of SciFi better or speculative fiction better, nevertheless, this novel, set only a generation in the future, explores many of the issues we face - and will be facing in the future - regarding technology. 

Kestrel is a strong, well-written main character who has faces an incredible tragedy in the opening of the book. Her baby is stillborn. For a preacher surrounded by a society of AI, this causes all sorts of spiritual questions to be raised - questions she has faced before with the death of her parents, and issues the Purists (a known anti-technology terrorist group) fight over. Traveling home after her personal tragedy, Kestrel sees a terrorist attack and responds with first aid, sweeping her up into a fast-paced thrilling adventure. 

The story is brilliant. I love the questions considered. At times, I did find the slow explorations of God, faith, and belief a little too much, in that it stopped the entire plot of the novel at times, but they are few and overall, the story kept me reading as fast as my brain could process the words. It explores a lot of questions about AI as individuals - thinking, talking, learning beings as well as the idea of human augmentation. I loved the novel and very much look forward to reading more of James's work.
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Steven James tells a story of our future, a future that does not involve Jetson-like advancements. Rather than large infrastructure changes, James sees changes in the form of technology having the greatest impact on society. In Synapse, life-like machines, data walls, embedded chips and prosthesis reminiscent of the Six Million Dollar Man are some of what drive society forward, or not,depending on one's point of view. The Purists see technological advancement as a danger to mankind, and work to rein it in. In the meantime Artificials seek to become like Naturals, even seeking an afterlife and forgiveness, while most Naturals have worked to busy their minds in order to forget those very things. 

Those of us who have lived to see the changes technology has brought in the past three decades can easily believe in the possibility of the future James describes along with the moral questions it brings. Synapse gives us the chance to consider those implications before finding ourselves in the middle of them. Sci-fi fan or not, I believe you will enjoy the way this book is written and the way it engages your mind in thoughtful consideration.  I am grateful to have received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review, and I received no monetary compensation.
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Synapse is Steven James at his best!  In his first futuristic thriller, he shows readers what an absolutely outstanding writer he truly is and why his books are a must read!

Kestrel Hathaway has just experienced a horrible tragedy when her baby is born without taking a breath. As she leaves the hospital mourning her baby, she witnesses a terrorist attack that sends her world into a tailspin. In a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing faster than ever before, Kestrel has never wanted to be a part it, especially after her parents were killed by an AI. Her brother has never held her views against AI’s and has spent the last few years working to advanced Artificial Intelligence higher than ever before. As she mourns the loss of her baby, she receives a gift from her brother, her own Artificial, Jordan. There is another terrorist attack looming and Kestrel begins working with Federal Counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon to figure out who is being targeted and how they can stop the attack. Jordan is not your normal Artificial, he starts asking questions normal Artificials have never asked before. With technology advancing so quickly along with the questions they raise, the world we once knew is not what we live in and we will never be the same because of it. 

Anyone who has ever read a Steven James book knows he is one of the very best!  Tthe way he crafts a story is unlike any other. It doesn’t matter if you are reading a Patrick Bowers novel or any of his others, the story you get will be exceptional. Synapse is no different. I normally don’t go for science fiction, too much world building that never pulls me into the story. Even though this is only set thirty years in the future, enough must be set up to make the AI’s believable and relatable. I had no trouble following along with this world and picturing myself right there with the characters. What was written in a little under 400 pages could have been pushed to multiple novels and I would have gladly sat and devoured them all. Steven James does an incredible job of pulling readers into the story and that is why he doesn’t need the extra pages other authors might in order to give readers more information. And just like with every other novel he has written, readers will find plot twists at every turn and tension driving the story each step of the way. There is an element of faith throughout and leaves me with a few questions, especially with AI’s and faith.

With multiple viewpoints, readers will also get a full scope of what is happening without feeling lost. For someone who is not a fan of science fiction, I would happily read many more futuristic novels written by James and recommend them to anyone and everyone. I truly hope he will write a follow up (or 10!) for Synapse and keep these characters and their story going for a very long time. I highly recommend this to everyone, I’m not going to even classify a certain group of readers. If this is not your normal genre to read in, please do not let that stop you.  This is worth the read and just might open your eyes to things you never thought about. I say this after every single Steven James book I read, but there are not nearly enough people reading his books and that needs to change. If you want a fabulous story, no matter the genre, pick up a Steven James book and enjoy.   

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.
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Synapse, by Steven James, is an intriguing book set in the not too distant future that deals with Artificial Intelligence. Never having read any books by this author, I had no idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised by this futuristic story. It is a book that makes the reader think about how the future just might enfold, with Naturals, Artificials, and Plussers too. With characters that are vibrant and have emotions and reactions that resonate well with readers and a plot full of twists and turns and edge-of-the-seat action, Synapse easily kept my attention. The author not only writes a good story but gives the reader things to think about regarding ethics and morality as well as spiritual issues. I enjoyed reading the book and recommend it to readers who enjoy suspense and futuristic fiction.
I received a complimentary copy of this book via CelebrateLit. A favorable review was not required and opinions are my own. This review is part of a CelebrateLit blog tour.
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A story ripped from tomorrow’s headlines . . . or at least it could be. 
     Set just thirty years in the future, advances in technology and AI have created a world where the lines between humans and robots—Naturals and Artificials—are increasingly blurred. Kestral Hathaway is still reeling from her own losses when she finds herself thrown into a world of terrorism and conspiracies stretching to the highest levels. Together with Agent Nick Vernon and her Artificial Jordan, she must try to stop an attack that will change the world as they know it.
     Synapse deftly explores issues of faith and the relationship between the Creator and created, as well as our own responsibilities as creators for that which we create.
     James’ depiction of an all-too-plausible future will leave you grappling with the dilemmas posed by unrestrained technological progress, while turning the pages as fast as you can.
     I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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I have read a number of James' books, especially the Bowers Files. They were generally action packed. 

This book was certainly different. Not only is it 30 years in the future but it is centered mostly on Kestrel and her experiences. There are some good discussions revolving around the issue of a good and powerful God allowing Kestrel's baby to die. There is also a good exploration of artificial intelligence, such as whether a robot could have a soul, believe in God, etc. Part of the plot development also questions advances in technology in general, whether they are good for mankind or not. The build to any suspense was very slow in coming. 

I found the change in point of view disconcerting. Some of the book is from the universal viewpoint but much is from the first person. Kestrel's experiences are in the first person. There is often a change after a few paragraphs, perhaps several within one chapter. Also disconcerting was the change in action tense. Most of the novel was in the past tense. The exceptions were passages from Jordan's viewpoint and the opening scene.

Speaking of the opening scene, it is of Kestrel experiencing a still birth. It is a very emotional scene, written so that you feel you are experiencing the tragedy right along with Kestrel. Potential readers, particularly women, should know this. A woman who has had a similar experience might find reading that section very painful.

I found this novel to be the rather preachy in style. There are many discussions of God and salvation and heaven. I almost felt James designed the plot to revolve around what he wanted to communicate about Christian faith. This is a good novel for readers interested in exploring Christian faith with respect to artificial intelligence.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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Wow. Just wow. Steven James managed to pack so much into these pages: so much tension, so much science, so much truth, while keeping the plot so interesting and swiftly paced, that I could not stop reading.
The characters are deftly crafted and beautifully flawed, the kinds of characters that we can all relate to in some way or other. I loved the juxtaposition of Jordan’s innocent and childlike faith against Kestrel’s broken and jaded outlook. And the story is equal parts heart-pounding and thought-provoking.
This is a novel I think everyone should read. Why? James managed to capture so much truth, and to both ask and give insightful answers to some sincerely deep questions, within these pages, that reading this awesome story about the inherent dangers of overwhelming technology gave me much more than a fascinating diversion from boredom. Reading Synapse gave me chills, made me think, and changed the way I look at the world around me. That is what makes this a novel everyone should read.
Steven James’ Synapse releases tomorrow, so grab your own copy as soon as possible, then hang on for a ride that will leave you breathless.
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the digital ARC of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂
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If you enjoy reading intense thrillers and futuristic novels, you’ll love Steven James newest release Synapse. Steven James did a fabulous job establishing his cast and keeping the reader’s attention. This novel will take you into the future where humans and human-like robots exist. These robots called Artificials can think and reason. One Artificial, Jordan, questions Kestrel Hathaway, a Methodist pastor, about whether he has a soul, and can he be forgiven. 
Kestrel, struggling with a personal loss, doesn’t know how to answer Jordan and doesn’t want to be bothered with an Artificial, especially after what happened to her parents. She witnesses an explosion on her way home from the hospital and discovers it was a terrorist attack. Her compassion toward the hurting forced her to stop and assist an injured man. This act of kindness causes authorities to question her involvement in the terrorist attack. Special Agent Nick Vernon comes on the scene and begins his investigation, which involves questioning Kestrel. 
The action and suspense in this novel will keep readers turning the page. About the time you settle into a scene, something goes wrong that puts Kestrel in danger. Who are the terrorists? Why are they after her? Are the attacks coming from the Artificials, the Plussers, or from Humans? 
Can a robot find forgiveness and salvation? Synapse offers thought-provoking scenes that will challenge your faith and open your eyes to the true gift we have as humans.
I give this book four stars.
I was given a complimentary copy of this novel by NetGalley in return for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.
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When I received the email from NetGalley approving my request to read Synapse, I did a little happy dance in the order line at Subway. (My daughters were mortified.) I have read several of James' thrillers and was excited to have been approved for this one.

To me, this book was a bit different from his Patrick Bowers novels. While Bowers does think and talk about his Christian faith, he's a FBI agent on the bloody trail of various devious killers: he doesn't have much leisure time for debates about God's existence or goodness.

Kestrel, on the other hand, is a minister. Dealing with questions about God and spiritual matters comes with the job description. However, in this case, Kestrel struggles with her own questions, not just other people's. 

The novel opens in second person point of view ("you") as Kestrel delivers a stillborn baby girl. It is a compelling, emotional scene that broke my heart. I teared up. Soon we learn that she's a single woman, a minister, who decided to have a child on her own (presumably by artificial means). Now she faces a crisis of faith: her own faith. 

Can she continue to love God? Where was he when her daughter died? Why has he stopped talking to her? And the central question that haunts the novel and minds of many people, fictional or not: Was any of it real?

What's real and what's artificial are central concerns in this story. 

In this futuristic society, Artificials have inalienable rights. They can exist. They have the right to die. They can have hope, too. The CoRA, tech company Terabyne's mainframe computer system's secure location, stores the essence of each Artificial after it suffers a "terminal event." (Translation: it dies.)

This last part worries Jordan, Kestrel's Artificial; his "mother" has died, and like many humans wanting assurance about their loved ones' afterlife, he wants assurance that she is safely in the CoRA. His concerns run parallel to Kestrel's and she grapples with what assurance she can give him. 

For me, Jordan is the highlight of the novel. When James takes us into his point of view, it's fascinating to see how Jordan describes things. It's like he is awakening to what it's like to be human: all those maddening, paradoxical aspects of our being that give us depth, if only we have the courage to examine them. Not everyone has that courage. But Jordan, an advanced Artificial, has both the courage and curiosity to explore them.  

I appreciate how James has Kestrel and others wrestle with some contradictory ideas that are difficult, if not impossible, to resolve. This is unusual in a thriller. The characters openly discuss many spiritual and philosophical and moral issues. I like characters who wrestle with difficult concepts. 

Unfortunately, that sometimes slows down the pace of the story. I'm not sure that all of the discussions were necessary, nor am I certain that they serve the story as well as they could.

The story feels like a paradox itself: is it a fast-paced thriller or is it a slower-paced science fiction novel that explores spiritual matters? In trying to be both, the story suffers. There are a lot of different point of view characters, which helps build suspense. However, this makes it less likely for us to care as much about Kestrel's crisis of faith, which is central to the emotional core of the story. 

Even so, I was on edge in anticipation of how things would work out between the terrorist Purists and tech company Terabyne. As always, James knows how to plot the action sequences in a thriller. Agendas collide, battle lines are drawn, tensions build--and build--and build until they explode in a catastrophic climax that leaves some dead and everyone else bruised, battered, and possibly wiser for the experience. (I hope!) 

James did a great job blurring the lines between good and bad. The Purists have legitimate concerns. The tech gurus aren't all on the up-and-up. Artificials and humans alike are devious (or not), helpful (or not), and morally complex. It's hard to know who or what to root for. 

Despite my reservations about the pacing, I enjoyed Synapse. I think James was trying to do something a little different than some of his previous fiction. (At least the books I've read.) There's a lot to enjoy here, and even more to ponder. And isn't that what great books are supposed to do? 

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson, I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Note: this will be published to my blog on October 4, 2019.
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4.5 stars. Thirty years in the future, the world is filled with Naturals (humans with no enhancements), Plussers (humans with some enhancements such as robotic arms), and Artificials (robots with advanced AI that could almost pass as humans). Kestrel, a Christian minister grieving the death of her baby, has never wanted to own an Artificial, especially as a police model was responsible for murdering her parents due to a false positive. When her brother Trevor gifts her an Artificial called Jordan, she decides to humour him for a couple of days and then send Jordan back. However, Jordan is more than she expected. He seems to experience real emotions and free will.

Meanwhile, a terrorist group called the Purists, are blamed for a bombing at a plant that produces Artificials. Counter-terrorism agent Nick Vernon is sent to investigate and finds himself drawn to Kestrel. However, bigger plans are afoot. Will Kestrel and Nick be able to pursue their growing attraction? Will they be able to stop the terrorists from their ultimate plot? Can an Artificial receive forgiveness? Can AI be so advanced that it supercedes what it means to be human?

This is the first Steven James book I've read, and I really enjoyed it. The main characters of Kestrel and Nick are likable and the romance has a slow simmer rather than being front and centre. The terrorism plot had lots of twists and turns, with fast-paced action. However, the novel also provides a lot of food for thought about what it means to be human. Jordan, the Artificial, was one of the viewpoint characters so we were able to experience his thought processes as he tried to work out what he thought and felt. Faith themes are woven throughout the story, raising interesting questions about why God allows suffering, the meaning of salvation and forgiveness, and what makes humans different from other life forms.

My only reservation was the dizzying number of POV characters in the last third of the novel. As the tension builds, we're suddenly introduced to other secondary characters and their viewpoints. Although this helped the fast face and allowed us to see what was happening in different areas, I had to keep checking a few times to see whose viewpoint I was in, especially as some scenes were very short (just one or two paragraphs).

Overall I enjoyed this novel and will check out more of Steven James's work. If you like fast-paced sci-fi with suspense, a conscience, and a touch of romance, this book could be for you.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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(rating: 3.5 / 5)

Set at a time in the future when robots (or Artificials) have been taught to not only think for themselves, but to have emotions, and even the option of pain, there is still a lot that is unknown about how similar robots are to humans. Do they have souls? Can they believe in and worship God? Kestrel Hathaway doesn't know, and neither does her Artificial, Jordan. Amidst their discussions of these concepts, Kestrel is pulled into a plot to put an end to the advances in AI by people known as Purists. Working with federal agent Nick Vernon, Kestrel and Jordan do their part to help prevent a deadly attack.

This book was an interesting mash-up of theology exploration and sci-fi elements. For much of the book, Kestrel is simply trying to cope with a fresh tragedy, while being slowly dragged into a deadly cat-and-mouse game between federal agents and terrorists. Jordan was probably my favorite character, as he tried to figure out what hope there was for him, especially in eternity. And there were some twists near the end that I enjoyed. But overall, the book was mostly just okay.

The very beginning of the book shows Kestrel delivering a stillborn baby (that she didn't know was stillborn). It's told in 2nd-person perspective, so it's describing the events as if they happened to YOU. I think this is important to know for those who have gone through this or something similar. She is a pastor, and spends most of the rest of the book idly questioning her faith in God. I say idly, because it's as if she'd forget her questions now and then, and have to remind herself she was still uncertain about if God existed, or he was actually all-powerful, or if he cared about her. She also carries some PTSD from a tragedy 9 years old, and I was surprised by the way some of that played out as well. But I suppose PTSD is not a consistent syndrome (meaning it's not the same from person to person, and probably difficult to pin down and define). I would say that maybe the way she does respond shows her strength, but I didn't really get that characteristic from her otherwise.

I believe Jordan's role in the book was to parallel humanity's question of an afterlife. How can we ever know for sure if Heaven exists, if no one who has been there can return to tell us about it? Artificials are told that there is a manufactured afterlife where their consciousnesses will go when they "die." Jordan's mother "died," and he is desperate to know if she's in the afterlife. Where this parallel falls apart, though, is that Artificials are guaranteed this afterlife by a fallible man, while humans who follow Christ are guaranteed their afterlife by an infallible God. Some of the discussions that arise between Jordan and Kestrel about afterlife and the ability to believe in and worship God are interesting though. Except for the times that Kestrel is just mean to Jordan about his inhumanness.

As for the twists near the end, they did mostly catch me off guard. But there was a weird thing that happened that got my heart pumping about a possible twist coming, but instead, it turned out not to be true. It was a huge letdown, and I can think of a few ways that some dialog could have been written to avoid this letdown. I had some questions that were left unanswered--about Jordan's mom, about some of the Purists' involvements and questionable actions, and some other things that came out during the climax, but are never given any kind of explanation.

I think the sci-fi plot were simply a vehicle for the theology discussed in the book, which is why the plot was fairly weak. And for me, at least, some of the theology was weak too. Kestrel's brother, an atheist, asks her some very good questions about God, and her replies are the type I often see from the token "religious character" in TV or movies. She does go deeper than the stereotype sometimes, but I still found myself wishing for more. And very likely, this can all be chalked up to the author and me having different views on some theological aspects, which will certainly happen. I just found myself very sad about Kestrel's brother's view of God, and wished her responses had been more fulfilling.

In the end, I would recommend this book for those who are interested in the exploration of how humans approach God and the afterlife, and what it means to have a "soul," and understand that there is some sci-fi around that. I don't think I'd recommend this for readers of sci-fi, unless they are willing to wade through the theology.

One more thing that adds to my lower rating, which I almost forgot, was the way the story was told. As I mentioned above, it starts out in 2nd person ("you"), then switches to 1st person out of the blue ("I"), but is only 1st person when the perspective is on Kestrel. When it's on a plethora of other characters, it's 3rd person. And to make it even more confusing, when the perspective is on Jordan, it's 3rd person and present tense, when it's past tense the rest of the time. There's a reason jumping POVs, tenses, and even character perspectives is meant to be kept simple, and while it's not completely impossible to try something different...it was just confusing in this case, and made the reading disjointed.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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