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A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

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REVIEW | Faith by John Love

My last "what should I read next" poll had a clear winner with Throne of the Crescent Moon, which has already been receiving high marks (I liked it as well, but that comes later). Being a bit of a contrarian I wanted to also pay some service to the low-runner in the poll: Faith by John Love. Why was it the low-runner? I suspect it has to do with the book being Sci-Fi while most of the others were Fantasy of one stripe or another. Fantasy still trumps Sci-Fi in terms of fandom, in the US at least, but it really shouldn't especially with something as special and different as John Love's debut Faith.

Faith isn't about the Science, but there are some intriguing ideas here in that regard. It is a smart, thoughtful exploration of humanity and how far obsessions can take us. So the back story. A few centuries ago a mysterious ship nicknamed "Faith" attacked the space faring Sakhran Empire (vaguely lizard-like humanoids) causing their society to pull back technologically. No one knows what Faith is exactly. Is it even like a normal ship with a crew or some kind of space-born creature? That mystery alone pulled me in and gave off a very strong Star Trek vibe. Faith is what you might get if Joe Abercrombie turned his dark skills to Science Fiction after reading a few Robert J. Sawyer novels and seeing a few too many Q episodes of Star Trek. This isn't a hard Sci-Fi read by any stretch, but that should help pull in the more fringe readers who fear something too technical and just want a totally enthralling story.

Presently, humanity has expanded into space and created the Commonwealth along with a few other races including the Sakhrans. Faith has returned. She is hostile and no one knows how to defeat her, but there is a chance. A slim chance that the Commonwealth's latest Outsider class vessel captained by Aaron Foord. Outsider ships are crewed by brilliant yet deeply flawed people that hope to match and possibly defeat the almost mythological Faith. Each Outsider ship is christened with a name to remind those aboard of what they are. Charles Manson is the name of the vessel charged with stopping Faith at all costs. That name alone should give a good idea of who the people are that man the Manson. This isn't a crew of do-gooders, but they are damn good at what they do.

Faith is a challenging read that attacks preconceptions of what is right. Love also reminds us what a lonely and cramped place space can be especially given the submarine-like atmosphere of the Manson and the isolation that most of its crew crave. Faith herself becomes the most endearing character as I winced at each battle scar she earned.

Deeply introspective, Faith, keys into many elements of psychology with deep influences of Moby Dick. For pages at a time nothing seemingly happens except for character examining the implications of what is to come and just what got them in the situation they are in. This "nothing" is completely riveting as exploring these characters and their motivations are what propel the story. At first the story seems like one of redemption for the crew, but as things move along it is clear they aren't looking to be redeemed or even accepted. They just want to win. As their past is revealed many uncomfortable things that would typically turn me off to a character intrigued me more about how they went from such evil to the point of being the possible savior of an entire vast multi-planet society.

This is a story that can appear slow at first, however it is one of the most suspenseful novels I've read recently. This is a complete story from beginning to end, which is quite something given the micro and macro scales Love examines. Once the chess game is officially started between Faith and the Charles Manson you'll be hooked as their back and forth fights are taut scenes that please.

Faith my not be for everybody, especially those that generally turn away from the dark side of humanity, but it is a rewarding experience that leaves you with that sense of wonder about space, what it can hold, and our place in it. I give Faith 4 out of 5 hats. Whoever found John Love for Night Shade Books should get a bonus for finding the next great Science Fiction star. Love is going to eventually belong in the same breathe as some of our greatest Sci-Fi writers. If Faith had been published just a month earlier I have no doubts it would have made my best of Sci-Fi shortlist.

And remember a little Faith can kill you.

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Kevin Reynolds said...

Sounds pretty awesome. I always liked it when Star Trek went to the dark side. Especially the Mirror Universe stuff.

re said...

Sounds excellent! Faith is on my TBR list, and it just got bumped to the top!

Glenn Bell said...

I took a flyer on this book and preordered it. I was not disapointed. It's a great read and will stick in your mind for some time. Very much looking forward to the author's next book.