Ok, the first thing I want to say, is this is a damn good book. Now, it may seem like I'm being tough on the book at times. I just always try to point out what I think readers will like and what they won't, regardless of how much I enjoyed it. I also want to point out that it would be best to get this book and hammer it out in one sitting. I was unable to do that, so I'd really like to go back and read it one more time when I get a chance (hah, time, what's that?). It's like one of those movies you watch multiple times and keep catching different things. It took me about 2 to 3 hours to read it, I can't be sure, it was broken up over multiple sessions, mostly due to my wife's Ackley-like interruptions.
So, let's start with the synopsis. It starts out giving a list of all these different measurements of time down to units so small they are impossible to fathom. I figured this was probably pretty important to the story, so I skimmed over it. My bad Travis, I'm dumb sometimes, and terrible about reading intros. I'm fairly familiar with the prefixes of measurements, so I winged it. I know when I was 15 and finally got lucky for the first time, ol' girl says it was a zeptosecond, but I know it was an attosecond at least, and I stand by that. Joking aside, it may be a good idea to bookmark it if you get confused, although, on my kindle I can hold down the word and it gives the definition.
The story starts out in May of 2101, so it's not too far into the future. A bishop of the Catholic church is pretty much exiled from the community. He had been chosen by the pope for an important assignment. With technology becoming more prevalent, and the church unwilling to adapt with the times, their membership numbers were way down. The bishop was sent around on what seemed to be healing tours, performing exorcisms to heal those unable to be cured by medicine and new technologies. He was successful and church attendance numbers were way up. He became a hero or celebrity of sorts and the church began adapting new AI (artificial intelligence) technologies. What the public didn't know, was the sick were actually being healed by other means (medicine or procedures) and it was made to look like it was the exorcism that cured them. Think Benny Hinn, sans the right hooks to the faces of ailing elderly people.
Well, this catches up to them, as some 'gotcha' special news team exposes them for what they are, and to save face the church banishes this guy, where he lives his life in shame, labeled a false prophet. Then we are introduced to another young priest in the church who is a specialist in AI. Essentially, the whole world is now run by these AI to carry out mundane tasks, but over time people have become dependent on them, and they are self-aware beings tapped into large networks running governments, etc. I may be oversimplifying this a lot.
The pope and the computer scientist priest guy go in search of the exiled bishop, because there is some big trouble brewing. Apparently, an older AI has been taken over, and it now claims to be possessed by Satan. Oh, and it only wishes to speak to the exiled bishop. I don't want to give too much away, but they go meet the AI claiming to be Satan, there are debates and nuclear bombings, while they try to figure out how to flip the power switch on this thing (shut it down or exorcise the virtual demon). There are a few twists and the end.
Ok, I hate to say, 'things I didn't like about the story', so I'll say, 'things I would've done differently'. First off, I like to think I'm decently intelligent, and I'm a bit of a tech nerd, but some of the jargon in this book was over my head. I think it would feel that way to a lot of people, especially non-techies. Which is fine, it's one of the things I liked about it too. Honestly, this book felt a lot like when I watched the move Primer for the first time. I think you have to damn near be a savant to follow it completely on the first run.
I'm an accountant in real life, so my brain always goes to--how could it appeal to more people and make money? Can't help it, it's who I am. I think a lot of the philosophical diatribes and explanations could be pared down and made a lot shorter and simpler, to speed up the pace. Keep in mind, I don't think this was Mr. Hill's goal. I honestly got the feeling he wrote this book for himself, because it was the story he wanted to hear. Which I admired greatly about it. I think when authors do this, it creates an x factor that can't be explained, but it can be felt through the words. Ok, so for me and the masses to better understand the book, I'd have taken a scalpel to some of it.
Also, I found myself the entire time wondering what was happening on the outside while they battled the AI. I think it would have been really cool to have another pov with the pope or people on the outside. I mean, once this thing is nuking cities, there would be pandemonium. I also wanted the ol' Lucifer AI to do more than just bomb a couple of cities. Yeah, I'm sinister like that. I wanted him to be sly and a trickster, like Satan supposedly is (and he was, when speaking to the exiled bishop and other AI). But I don't know, maybe he goes through the network and alters shipments of food to poor African children, or crashes Wall Street and makes all the rich people go broke, and then rationalizes it, because of their greed. I mean, I love the nukes and all, I just like to see all the panicking and bedlam that would have been present. Oh, one last thing, maybe have him hack all the media stations and tell the public what is going on, and make them mistrust their governments, or their churches. Ok, I'm done.
Obviously, Mr. Hill is more well-versed in computers, AI, data structures, etc. than I am, so I wouldn't be able to argue on this. But I will bet your ass a giga-wad of cash, there are a lot of dudes in their mom's basements right now, playing WOW or whatever game is cool, who would dissect this thing just looking to poke holes in the story. It would probably be worth it for the entertainment value alone, but I may go suggest this book on a WOW forum and grab some popcorn and watch my troll handiwork. Seriously, these guys will debate robotic d*** implants on a cricket and how realistic the biotech is. If you're one of those guys, get the book. You will probably absolutely love it or absolutely hate it.
Ok, for the good stuff. I really enjoyed this book a lot. For one, because I'm one of those guys who likes to sit around and think about faith and science. I honestly think I could sit down with Mr. Hill, have a couple beers, and have a great conversation. The dialogue, ideas, and thoughts are well rationalized and very entertaining. It's so hard to find someone level headed who can think and create rational dialogue from two different points of view, without just spouting a bunch of talking points. Oh, I used to have imaginary friends too, then I grew up, flying spaghetti monster, you're stupid! Or, I don't care what the bible says about being fat, gays are causing tornadoes and goin' to hell! Ok, slightly exaggerated, but you get it.
This book isn't preachy, and honestly, if the writing weren't so tight and well thought out, the little monologues and in depth explanations would have turned me off from the book in the first few chapters. But, I found myself going down the rabbit hole of philosophical thought alongside the author, like a 23 click Wikipedia bender diagnosing a blister as cancer. It slows down the pace, but you don't realize it, so I never found myself rushing through to see the action. This novel will make you think, it's not one you can read while distracted.
More things I loved? Satan. Ok, wait, I mean uhhhh... I'm telling you, this Satan AI was scary as s*** for two reasons, a) the descriptions and b) because you keep thinking, could this really happen? I couldn't walk by a computer in the dark last night because I kept thinking some holographic demon was going to 86 my ass, or my walls were going to shoot fire with large booming noises.
Then, something remarkable happened today as I was still living in fear of the machines in my house. I was reading about the possessed AI and my wife interrupted to to rip my ass about something, and then banished me to the store, much like the Catholic bishop was banished from the church. When I got back and started reading again, Satan didn't seem nearly as scary. This gave me all kinds of new confidence as I flipped my desktop the bird. Ok, sidetracked, sorry about that.
If you like classic and futuristic sci-fi, robots, AI, etc. and are somewhat well versed in science and tech, or you love thinking about the future of religion and what it looks like, you have to read this book. I don't know that it's an original idea, but I had certainly never read anything like it. It was like the Matrix and Primer with a little Asimov and the Lawnmower Man thrown in. I don't want to spoil too much more, so just check it out, there is much more to the story. It's free for crying out loud! It's a bargain! Overall 4.8 out of 5.