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Providence by Max Barry
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Providence (edition 2020)

by Max Barry (Author)

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1007201,347 (3.96)2
"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"--… (more)
Member:jimctierney
Title:Providence
Authors:Max Barry (Author)
Info:Hodder & Stoughton (2020), 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
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Providence by Max Barry

  1. 00
    The Martian by Andy Weir (Aug3Zimm)
    Aug3Zimm: A small number of people on a spaceship for an extended period of time
  2. 00
    Redshirts by John Scalzi (Aug3Zimm)
    Aug3Zimm: Entertaining space adventure
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Most of it is not bad. But it's never explained how the aliens learn from and adjust to the humans' tactics. Do they have faster-than-light communications or travel? It's never addressed. Much worse, at the end we learn the true nature of the alien enemy and it makes no sense:
The individual aliens emerge spontaneously from a pool of genetic material, whatever they use in place of DNA. Um, what? There's no way evolution could act on such a pool of genetic material because there'd be no feedback. Evolution works on (populations of) organisms because the organisms reproduce, and the genes of those that are more reproductively successful are a larger proportion of the next generation. But a pool of genetic material spitting out non-reproducing organisms wouldn't evolve because there's no feedback from the individuals it spits into the environment back to the genetic material. ( )
  Carnophile | Aug 23, 2020 |
An unexpected first contact situation goes drastically wrong and it's all captured on film for the world to see. Seven years later Providence Five is launched. A giant deadly warship tasked with eliminating the alien threat to humanity. This is the beginning of Providence by Max Barry.

The ship takes only a crew of four to run. Artificial intelligence is responsible for most of the operations of the ship, including the battles. The four crew members report on their duties and progress to a wrapt worldwide audience through social media. In the middle of their tour, their communications are cut. They find themselves isolated and uncertain of whether or not they can continue to trust the ship which seems to be growing less effective.

Max Barry may not turn out a new book every year but when he does put one out man is it worth the wait. The crew of the Providence is chosen not only for their individual technical skills but for how they are expected to complement each other during a long journey of extreme isolation in close quarters. They are more spectators than participants in the ship's actions. The danger they are in is frighteningly real. Barry does an excellent job not only of depicting how battles in space may actually be conducted but in describing the dangers of space itself. In one passage Talia reflects on the stars: “But now that she saw them unfiltered, she felt revolted. They weren't beautiful. They were the lights of anglerfish, deep-sea monstrosities with glowing lures calling the small and stupid toward jaws and needle teeth.” Barry beautifully and succinctly captures the attraction and the danger of the stars.

Barry is one of the best writers of thoughtful science fiction. The characters here are outstanding. Each has a distinct personality and motivations and they stand in stark contrast to one another. The aliens are truly alien although not, in the end, entirely incomprehensible. The deep-space setting and cramped quarters increase the feeling of claustrophobia and tension. The artificial intelligence that controls the ship also begins to take on the dimensions of a character itself.

Providence propels you along its journey not only with a great story but with great characters and great ideas. This is an early front-runner for best book of the year and it should certainly be in consideration for a Hugo award among others. My favorite book of the year so far and a highly recommended read.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. ( )
  tottman | Jun 2, 2020 |
I've never read Max Barry before, but after reading Providence, I have become an absolute fan that will be hunting high and low for the rest of his works.

The book is just that good. Fantastic characters, disturbing situations, a slow boil into a fully cooked crew, and layer upon layer of commentary that many of us can take away something new on the same read.

Let's get some specifics in here because while some of the initial setups are somewhat old-hat, the full execution of the tale is extremely effective.

It like sliding down a mountain, slowly picking up speed and rocks and debris until the angle drops suddenly and you find yourself off the ground entirely in a free fall that lasts for the rest of your life.

A vast, impressive ship maintained by an AI runs just about every aspect of a war of annihilation against an alien species nicknamed the Salamanders. The four-person crew on board it is there to give facetime to all of the war-machine back home, sound-and-picture bites and reality-tv post-production values, while on the ship, this AI-picked crew ---pretends--- to be in charge.

Meanwhile, the Providence, the ship itself, goes on through enemy territory, cutting huge swaths through them all, very reminiscent of Ender's Game, but the twist goes in a different direction.

None of this would be a tenth as good as it is without a very firm hand on the writing. We get all four PoVs their personal problems guide most of the novel, but it's really fascinating how THEY ... inevitably... chart the final course... :)

I TOTALLY recommend this book to anyone. It's easily the first, best book to beat this year. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
An easy reading science fiction book about a crew who are sent on a mission to fight against aliens they call salamanders who live in hives and are very aggressive against humans in their section of the universe. The crew over time find that their ship functions quite well without them and they they are a public relations stunt to prove to people back home that they are winning the war against these alien life forms. Eventually they become marooned and have to fight their way back home. An enjoyable Scify novel that will be enjoyed by fans of that genre. ( )
  muddyboy | Apr 25, 2020 |
This reads like a standard science-fiction novel, maybe between John Scalzi and Becky Chambers. That's fine, but I wanted a Max Barry novel. This doesn't have much of the bite or originality that I had expected. Barry stretches himself by writing a few main characters, instead of just one—and it doesn't really work. They don't feel differentiated or real. He is better at writing interior monologue than dialogue. ( )
  breic | Apr 6, 2020 |
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"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"--

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