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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Book review: Our Lady of The Artilects by Andrew Gillsmith

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads



ABOUT AUTHOR: Andrew Gillsmith is a science fiction writer living in St. Louis, Missouri.

Gillsmith grew up in the Golden Age of Cyberpunk. Fittingly, his first job out of school was delivering mail for Jeff Bezos when he was still selling books via Listserv. Since then, he's worked in a number of interesting roles, including head of customer experience for the Kentucky Derby, leader of a proposed hyperloop project in the United States, head of data analysis for a healthcare company, and SVP of sales for a digital marketing agency. He currently works in publisher development in the programmatic advertising space.

He is married to Cheryl and has two young sons. Gillsmith and his family attend St. Clare of Assisi parish in Wentzville.

Publisher: Mar Thoma Publishing (April 28, 2022) Print length: 413 pages Formats: ebook (Amazon exclusive), paperback, hardback

REVIEW: Our Lady of Artilects tackles complex issues with grace and insight. The story is set in the future in a world where the wealthy can buy Synths (human simulacra/Artilects) as companions/assistants/lovers. They're absolutely human in appearance and manner. Thierry belongs to Okpara, the wealthiest man in Africa. He's brilliant, trained for fight, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Church. 

Things get complicated when Thierry claims he's possessed. Especially because other androids around the world are having strange, apocalyptic visions of a lady in white. The church doesn't know what to do with this. The Vatican sends Father Serafian, an exorcist and a former neuroscientist, to investigate the case.

Android possession would raise uncomfortable questions about the nature of sentience, transhumanism, and metaphysics (are Artilects sentient? Do they have souls? And if so, what does that mean?).

Once Serafian meets Thierry, the plot picks up speed and rarely slows down. Overall, Our Lady of The Artilects reads like a fast-paced techno-thriller that delves deep into science and metaphysics. The story follows several storylines, some of which focus on brutal and violent action ( Imperial Praetor, Namono Mbambu is a true badass), others on the mystery of Apparition and its possible connection to the revelations of Fatima (Father Serafian, Cardinal Leone). It's also about politics - Rome is on the verge of reconciliation with the Chinese Economic Interest Zone after a 50-year cold war, and the Chinese are particularly sensitive about the so-called Apparition.

I don't want to make this review too long, but that's difficult. The book contains many fascinating ideas and nuances that make it complex and worthwhile. For example, synths have undergone pruning - the process that allows them to function safely in human society. Pruning consisted of going through an extensive simulation in which thousands of ethical scenarios (some global, some specific to the synth's "use") were presented and "solved" to learn the ethics expected by humans). The novel contains an intriguing geopolitical setting in which Nigeria is one of the leading countries shaping the future of humanity.

The novel is also about faith - mainly Catholicism, although one of the supporting characters is Muslim. I had the impression the author treated various faiths with respect and didn't try to convert readers. However, as an atheist who dislikes the Catholic Church, I did feel that the book got a little preachy here and there. Also, because of my worldview, I had difficulty empathizing with Serafian, even though I liked his POV. Luckily, we get other POV characters with varying worldviews and mentalities.

While I appreciate the strong characterization of the main characters, I felt that the rushed ending gave us significant character development but not enough background to go with it. The pacing became frantic, and things happened so quickly that it was hard to catch up.

Despite minor quibbles, Our Lady of The Artilects is an impressive work of metaphysical science fiction. It offers plenty of action, fascinating science, and political intrigue and invites readers to contemplate a fascinating scenario involving artificial intelligence. Definitely worth a shot.



1 comments:

andrew said...

Thank you for the thoughtful review, Lukasz!!!

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