Cover Image: Providence


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Member Reviews

Max Barry, as an author, is a master of capturing the human spirit. I love the way he reaches deep down in the awkwardness of people and puts it in your hands. Providence doesn't deviate from that craft. He takes us to a place where you see what comes out of people when placed in impossible situations. Providence is full of the impossible, but, as he writes it you see that it's very possible and maybe even right around the corner in our civilization.
In a world that is currently at war against disease, you can see how the human race could rally together to fight off something bigger than itself as a united front. You can also see how there will always be offshoots that go against the rationale of humanity in general. I enjoyed seeing this new world through his eyes as he recounts history and movements that lead us to the story of this Providence spacecraft.
His characters, laid bare, are written almost as pieces of each of us. They represent our intellect, our leadership, or emotion and our brute force.
I've been reading Max Barry for 20 years and the things that drew me to his writing then are the things that keep me enjoying his work now. His subject matter has morphed from youthful marketing in Syrup to dystopian corporate satire in Company, Jennifer Government and Lexicon and now follows the sci-fi bent he started with Machine Man.
Great read for a highly entertaining deep dive into the human spirit.

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I was sent this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book was a quick, fun read that made me reflect more deeply on human interaction and relationships than I thought. The prose was simple and crisp while still achieving deep character development. As with the recent science fiction I've read, the focus wasn't on the aliens, or the massive spaceship, or the war. It was on the four people trapped on a huge yet massive ship, fifty trillion miles from home, and how they coped. I saw myself in each of the characters in ways I really didn't expect. My only complaint was the prose: it got repetitive at times. That's just a personal preference, though, because that repetition allowed for an immense amount of between-the-lines reading which I heavily enjoyed.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone in need of a satisfyingly deep yet quick sci-fi read.

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We all have our ideas concerning alien beings and whether or not they would be friend or foe. In Max Barry's Providence, it becomes clear, very quickly that these aliens, called salamanders are not going to be the warm and fuzzy type. There are only four crewmembers aboard the Providence, Jackson, Anders, Talia, and Gilly. Their mission, well it isn't much since Artificial Intelligence controls the ship and makes all the decisions. The crew is used to broadcast information back to Earth and even that is heavily manipulated and controlled by the AI. The salamanders are quite disgusting and Providence's goal is to eradicate their hives. Not an easy task and one that might require some human intervention.
It took a bit for Providence to fully grab my attention, mostly because there was an awful lot to explain about the salamanders, the technology, the ship, and the crew. Once a read a few chapters, I became intrigued, and as the story progressed, I found myself enjoying this book. Science fiction is not my go-to genre, but I like stepping out of my box every once in a while. Providence was thought-provoking and turned out to be quite compelling. This is my first Max Barry book and I am interested in reading more.

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Providence is the type of ship Gilly, Jackson, Anders, and Beanfield have signed up to crew for 4 long years, fighting an alien race among the stars. Communication is sparse, and the ship is it's own unknowable entity. When they move deeper into space, they're all forced to reckon with the two alien species in ways they never expected.

Barry's writing is tight and tense, and the multiple perspectives helps (though I wish we got a little more insight into Jackson. The salamanders are truly alien, in type and interactions and strangeness. Equally strange and intriguing is the ship: the crew doesn't really seem to be necessary, and at times the ship seems to be working against them.

Plenty of mysteries and twists, it's a fun and engaging sci-fi novel.

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This is not quite your average hard sci-fi book. It starts with a bang when the alien protagonists are encountered with quite dealy effects at the beginning of the book; then picks up several years later as Earth is on an extermination mission to wipe out these damgerous aliens before they can reach any human outposts.

The title PROVIDENCE also happens to be the name of a gigantic space battleship specially designed to destroy the "salamanders" and their space hives, using a super AI that controls all aspects of the ship, yet uses a four-person crew (mostly for propoganda purposes to recruit more soldiers). At first, readers know very little ablut the crew (and the crew know very little about each other), but as time goes on, we all learn more about the crew of Providence.

The novel ends with a devastating alien attack on the ship and crew, which calls for this cobbled-together group to learn to work with each other, and to care about each other so that they can survive in very hostile conditions. The reader who sticks through to the end will come to appreciate the crew of the Providence, and might even want to read more about them in future works. Recommended.

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I didn't receive the same reaction that most readers had with this one, it wasn't like it was a bad story or that the writing was bad (this was the first novel by Max Barry I've read). I had certain issues throughout the book with the characters, the story, and just other grating things throughout the story. Without giving away spoilers or leading a reader to a possible different conclusion, I won't get into specifics. I didn't find that I cared for three of the four main characters. They were either shallow, petty, or plain dumb and for the life of me I couldn't figure out how and why they were chosen for this "all important mission to save the human race" as we know it. The most intelligent of the four crew members didn't even notice while he was fixing burst steam lines on the ship that it was only an illusion projected on his "film." What!? You're telling me any of his other senses couldn't or wouldn't alert him that what he was seeing wasn't there? Or a guy who is debilitatingly claustrophobic is set out or a four year tour in the confined space of a ship? Small factors aside I really enjoyed the opening of the book and the first part of the read but then it really all just went down hill from there with things happening that were supposed to not be happening and using ex-machina to save the dead ends that the story was leading to, then an all too boring finish, so a 2.5 star out of 5 for me on this one, oh well on to the next.

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Jeeze what a wild ride this was. Absolutely loved the writing, the characters, the overall feeling and everything else.

This was a slow burn but oh so good. Satisfying read that I couldn’t put down. A fine space adventure.

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I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I highly enjoyed the first and last third of this book but though the middle was quite boring. We start off in space where humans find themselves in contact with another species for the first time. It ends tragically but the aliens don't actually make an appearance until the end. The whole middle of the book is spent aboard a ship called 'Providence'. That part took me FOREVER to get through and the book isn't even that long. There is just so much ship politics that goes on amidst some of the fastest "battle" scenes I've ever read. It wasn't until the last bit that I felt the characters were in any danger. For a book named after a ship, the most exciting parts happened off the ship. I did enjoy the style, however. Berry is clearly a very talented author and knows how to build full characters. Overall, I think it was a good book, it just wasn't for me.

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Providence by Max Barry combines sci-fi, survival, action, and suspense with interpersonal drama. And it does it well. Providence is the name of the AI ship sent out to battle the alien "salamanders". The crew consists of four characters thrown together in tight quarters and the depths of deep space.

Barry continues his use of concise and thoughtful prose to get the reader into both the a ton and his characters. Fans of his previous novels, Jennifer Government and Lexicon, will be glad to know he has only gotten better. He paces the story well by making action sequences quick and frantic only to cool everything down a moment later. The second half of the book is where he really shines with his complex characterizations. If you are looking for good stand-alone sci-fi, check this book out.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, for an Advanced Reader's Copy on exchange for an unbiased review.

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Having just read a couple of decidedly underwhelming sci-fi books, I was excited to come to Providence. I was reasonably certain that Barry wasn’t going to disappoint me as his 2013 novel Lexicon was—and still is—one of the most original pieces of science fiction writing I have read. I was not disappointed. Set in a future where humanity has made first contact with a hostile alien species, the story focuses on four people who crew a new ship with top of the line AI as they are sent in to deep space on a two year mission.

Barry creates a narrative the unfolds in incremental pieces in a psychological slow-drip. The story’s opening contains a number of questions that I was so desperate to have answered that I found myself at 12:30am having to pry myself away from the book so that I could be functional at work the next day. Those meta questions (for example, what exactly is the nature of the AI that runs the ship?) are complimented beautifully by the personal mysteries, the questions surrounding each of the four characters who eventually all have chapters from their own perspectives. The motivations of the four for joining the war effort and signing on to the crew of the Providence (genuine idealism, curiosity about the unknown) become poignant dramatic foils and compliments to the overarching story of the ship going deeper and deeper into uncharted territory to kill the dreaded salamanders.

What was particularly delightful about the meta story is that it could be many things. It could be a story about touching the unknown. It could be a story about what drives four very different people to take a claustrophobic, socially isolated two year mission (certainly, there isn’t enough money in the world to compel me to do that). It could be a story that offers a scathing critique on the machinery of war; how it’s perpetuated due to the financial interests of certain stakeholders, how it is ‘sold’ to an otherwise war-weary public, how there is a certain senselessness to it after a while. It could be a story that is about the intersection of all of these things. The multifaceted strands of Barry’s story make it thought provoking without being taxing in large part due to writing.

Interestingly, there are echoes of Ender’s Game in the story (although without the side serve of homophobia that haunts Orson Scott Card’s name); the sense of disconnection from the terrifying salamanders – the alien enemy – as they are slaughtered by the Providence is emphasised by the fact that we know very little about them and they are thoroughly demonised as an existential threat to humanity without clear basis for this claim. It’s this which led me to feel the novel’s primary focus was about war more so than anything else. While we do learn a bit more about the salamanders as the novel nears its conclusion, it’s never enough to understand them, which keeps the mystery alive and keeps them a menacing force, drawing on the Lovecraftian tradition in leaving the most terrifying monsters the ones only partially glimpsed. The way in which Barry depicts them is a testament to his skill as a writer and the fact that he really knows his craft.

Providence is one of the most original conceits I’ve encountered in quite some time. Barry provides a setting that is so authentic that it vividly captures the intense atmosphere of four people living on top of one another, struggling to understand what exactly they’re doing and why they’re doing it. This intensity grips the reader form the get-go. The narrative unfolds in unexpected ways, yet the ending has been clear all along, especially if you listen to the character whose voice we first hear and thus, who we trust the most, Gilly. Perhaps that’s what makes it such a great book – the fact that the answer is there all along, but, like the other crew members of the Providence, the reader doesn’t want to buy in to it.

Thrilling in truly every sense of the word, Providence is a triumph that grabs you with mystery, tension, and great writing, and won’t let you go until the last page.

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A very different new novel from Max Barry, something of a space opera with grand horizons but an exceedingly small cast. The people are interesting if also a bit two-dimensional, but it's their growing knowledge of their situation with regard to the enemy and their own ship that remains fascinating in that sci-fi way. A bit of AI, a lot of violence, and some decent witty banter round out what I expected from the author, so it all ended up satisfying in its way.

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I don’t really read sci-fi but I want to get into it more. Of the sci-fo I’ve read the ones I’ve liked have been on spaceships. I don’t think this one was really my taste but I did enjoy reading it! It kept me engaged and interested. I didn’t love the ending but I could see where others would. Overall, I would recommend it!

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I'm sad. I have now read Providence and who knows how many years it will be until I get to read a new Max Barry novel. Back in 2014 I got around to reading Lexicon by Max Barry, one of the talked about genre hits from 2013. I absolutely loved it. I tried another book my Barry and discovered that this was an author that I completely jived with. I can't really pinpoint what it is other than to say that his prose style is completely in sync with my brain waves. Ever since then I'd tried to pace myself with his back catalogue. Between his first novel, Syrup (1999), and Lexicon (2013), Barry had only published 5 novels.

Then I got approved to read the eARC for Providence: Barry's 6th novel. My eyes about popped out of my skull.

Predictably, I devoured Providence.

There are a number of obvious comparisons that can be made here, I will skip mentioning all of the ones which I made. But I will tell you this about the setup: Three astronauts and and a tech liaison are on board a fantastically advanced spaceship hunting an alien threat which was the aggressor in a first contact situation.

This book hit for me on multiple levels. The first is the straightforward fun of hunting for aliens with a badass spaceship. This is pretty enjoyable and the book can be read as just that and will delight on that level alone. However, Barry has a number of Things to say about Things and he stuffs them into this book. Some are obvious and some I'm still trying to mull out the meaning of. Barry uses this book as commentary on many things including AI, Military, Social Media, and of course Humanity.

I really hope this book picks up some steam and recognition because it engages with a number of Science Fictional tropes in some new ways and has good things to add to the conversation wherever it engages with the genre.

(Because this is an eARC I should mention that Providence will be released on March 31st, 2020. Go read it and then come back here to talk to me about it.)

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Max Berry has crafted an engrossing page turner of a read in Providence Well worth the time and the read!

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This science fiction novel is a page turner thriller, with plenty of suspense and character development to keep readers engaged from start to finish. The spaceship the Providence is completely controlled by artificial intelligence, but is staffed with four unique individuals who are intended to provide human interest for the folks back home on earth. Each of the four feels like the most important person to the mission, but it becomes clear to each eventually that the ship is in complete control. The enemy is an apparently endless supply of aliens dubbed salamanders, who can destroy entire ships in the blink of an eye. The mission's danger becomes critical, if not insurmountable, when it is sent out of range of any communication with earth. Because the four characters are complex and well-described, this book transcends the science fiction label.

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ARC provided by NetGalley.

One of my all time fave authors Max Barry jumps right into crafty creepy spacebound hardish sci-fi with Providence.

At first, the plot of Providence seems fairly straightforward: super far from home, a small crew specially chosen by Earth's armed forces is off to hunt xenomorphs on a mighty AI-powered starship. But things slowly go awry as they tend to do in super-far-from-home-AI-powered-starship tales.

If you are a well-read, sci-fi-in-space fan you will certainly see some familiar ground covered here. Questionable corporations? Check. Sketchy military? Check. Scary creatures? Check. Freakouts? Check. However, a thing that Mr. Barry excels at is deeply exploring the motivations of his various genre characters while simultaneously presenting action thrillers. (e.g see his books Lexicon, Machine Man, Jennifer Government). So I did not mind the mining of well-tread sci-fi material.

Providence is another tightly knit Max Barry adventure, this time in a galaxy far, far, far, far away. Coming soon to a bookstore near you.

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Providence has an excellent premise and it absolutely delivers on all the promises it makes to readers. A.I. controller space warships? Check. And in fact, the ship is a great character and serves as both a place and a kind of unfathomable presence throughout the story, which is hard to do and I was excited to see realized in the story.

There are also hints of Starship Troopers with a social media filter when it comes to the human crew on the ship, who are all interesting characters whose own particular problems and traits make interactions between themselves interesting. A great addition to a science fiction collection, especially if it is one with Max Barry's other works.

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I wish I could say that this book blew me out of the water, transformed my perspective, gave me new insight. In reality, it was just fine. It had all the heralds of an interesting concept: four strangers in space, in an AI ship, off to combat a mysterious alien force that can SPLIT BLACK HOLES. To me it was an unbelievably cool concept that fell somewhat short of my expectations.

The characters were interesting but somewhat formulaic, my favorite perspectives were probably Anders and Talia, and I wished I could have had more from Jackson. Gilly I didn’t particularly enjoy, he seemed more like a vessel for the plot than a fleshed out individual. I was especially interested in the Talia parts as well for what they had to say about projected image versus actualized self, and furthermore what her final fate represented.

Perhaps my favorite concept was the alien planet itself: the Earth literally fighting against a string of mindless DNA instead of an intelligent enemy (and of course, the irony of them ignoring the actual living entity that was their ship)

All in all some solid, interesting philosophical and existential concepts were explored but it fell short of what I look for in a truly excellent science fiction book.

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New unique take on first contact and alien warring. Super smart artificial intelligence controlled space ship with 4 crew on a 4 year mission that are only there for social media and to make the public happy. Some of the crew start losing it and start throwing ninja stars at each other for fun. Multitudes of killer alpha lizard aliens who only want to spit at you and destroy entire species. Lots of death and badassery. 5 stars

Thank you Netgalley for the arc

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This book was fine! It was well written but didn't really break any new ground. People struggling with AI and either mega-corporations or mega-governments or both is pretty well worn ground in sci-fi and I didn't think this book really brought anything new to the table. That sounds negative but it isn't really, it's just the reason that this was a three star book for me. It's a nice relatively quick read and I think the author could do more with the setting if he wanted to.

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