Providence by Max Barry
Published: March 31, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Synopsis: A dazzling, inventive, and thought-provoking new novel from the ingenious author of Jennifer Government and Lexicon.
Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity’s war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity–and that the true nature of reality might be the universe’s greatest mystery.
In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss–a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.
But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they’re fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.
Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and G.P Putnam’s Sons!!***
This is my second book by Max Barry and I officially just love him! The way he uses words is just extraordinary. His plots seem so simple on the surface but the nuance and depth that they uncover is astounding. I want to talk to him about how his mind works and how he has so many gorgeous ideas. I may have gotten a copy of this for free, but I now own a paid copy of everything of his I can get my hands on.
On the surface, this book is about a war in space with aliens. Four people have been selected to “pilot” an AI controlled warship that is being sent to the far reaches of space to kill the enemy “salamanders”. No one is clear why the salamanders started killing everyone, they just attacked and so humans attacked back. During an engagement the ship makes the crew nervous and they start to wonder if maybe it is fallible after all or perhaps it might turn on them at some point.
The more I read, the more I realized that ultimately that is not what this story is about. This story is about the psychology of warfare. It doesn’t matter who the enemy is. It doesn’t matter why there’s a conflict. It doesn’t matter who is fighting on the front lines except if they can sell it to the public. So put on a smile and make some wartime diaries for the folks back home. And, in the end, it doesn’t even matter that you won it’s all just part of the game of warfare.
I didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters, they seem incidental to the plot and frankly I think that was intentional. They didn’t matter. They were just a vehicle to the story. That was the point. But the ending got me. It made me tear up a bit. Because I finally got the point. It was a beautifully written book. I absolutely loved it.
2 thoughts on “Review: Providence by Max Barry”
We’re watching Ender’s War right now – this reminds me of the same story – alien intelligence comes to destroy – accidentally?
Some people ALWAYS jump to war as the only response to insults. And they like letting things get to that point so they CAN.
You make it sound appealing.
It is a wonderful book, I highly recommend it. In the end we don’t really learn if the aliens have a motivation or not. The basic communication was “well, you killed us…so we kill you.” So implying some kind of misunderstanding or just two races simple jumping to war at the slightest provocation.