On reading: Providence by Max Barry

Title: Providence

Author: Max Barry

From the back: She is the ultimate weapon. She once served us. Now she’s got her own plans. 

Once we approached the aliens in peace… and they annihilated us. Now mankind has developed the ultimate killing machine, the Providence class of spaceship. 

With the ships’ frightening speed, frightening intelligence and frightening weaponry, it’s now the salamanders’ turn to be annihilated… in their millions. 

The mismatched quartet of Talia, Gilly, Jolene and Anders are the crew on one of these destroyers. But with the ship’s computers designed to outperform human decision-making in practically all areas, they are virtual bystanders. The Providence will take them to where the enemy are and she will dictate the strategy in any battle. 

The crew’s only job role is to publicise their glorious war to a sceptical Earth. Social media and video clips are THEIR weapons in an endless charm offensive. THEIR chief enemy is not the space reptiles but each other, and boredom. 

But then everything changes. A message comes from base: the Providence is going into the Violet Zone, where there are no beacons and no communications with Earth. It is the heart of the enemy empire – and now the crew are left to wonder whether this is a mission of ultimate destruction or, more sinisterly, of ultimate self-destruction… 

The gist: I loved Lexicon so had high expectations diving into Barry’s latest novel, and I sure as hell wasn’t disappointed. Providence is a high octane, super-charged thrill of a ride through space, and the perfect form of escapism. The characters are great, each one bringing something different to the table (as you would expect given the nature of how they were selected). Barry’s pacing is fantastic, and his dialogue (which was part of the reason I loved Lexicon so much) is once again spot on. I love a good Artificial Intelligence character, and Barry’s spaceship AI is both there and not there and the question of consciousness creeps in and around the edges of the story. Barry does a great job of balancing comments about the nature of war, the commerce of war, and the impact on individuals with pure energetic, all-out adventure. 

This is the perfect book for getting away from it all, into the depths of space, surrounded by aliens that sort of want to kill you. Maybe quite a lot want to kill you. Perhaps I should work on my ‘getting away from it all’ plans, but this is a LOT of fun. 

Favourite line: “I’m going to call you Martin, because it sounds less like someone throwing up.”

Read if: You want to escape into a thrill ride of a space adventure.

Read with: No plans to sleep much as this is the sort of read that keeps you turning the pages through the night.

Get it: Providence by Max Barry 

Review copy gratefully received from Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton 

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