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November 4, 2022

2 Books for Science Fiction Readers

by MK French

Are you a fan of science fiction? I recently read two great books that have really good world-building and make you think. 

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Nightwatch Over Windscar by K. Eason 

book cover of science fiction novel Nightwatch Over Windscar by K. Eason
November 2022; DAW; 978-0756418595
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); science fiction

Iari is a Templar for Aedis, a multispecies religious organization tasked to protect the Confederation and eliminate extradimensional horrors. She had helped stop separatists from taking apart the Confederation, and is now promoted and sent to Windscar. Located there are ancient subterranean ruins which local legends say are haunted. Iari is concerned that separatists are hiding there. She is joined by the new Templar Char, a decommissioned battle mecha, and Gaer, a talented arithmancer she knows well. Together they explore the ruins, finding evidence of battle, mechas that reanimate and attack, and dangerous arithmancy. Separatists aren’t the only dangers in the universe.

This is set in the same universe as the duology How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse and How The Multiverse Got Its Revenge, (my reviews here) and is the second book in The Weep series. Arithmancy is a form of magic using mathematics and physics, and can be used to manipulate reality. Alchemy is slightly different, only altering physical matter. Different races make up the Confederate, and some of them have been at war for generations. I missed the first novel in this series, but important parts of it are referenced from the start. It might take a bit to get used to the terms, just let it go and it'll eventually make sense. (I did go back afterward to read the first book, and whoa, having the world building up front does make the first few chapters easier for me to read, ha ha.)

The start feels more like Aliens, in that they're exploring and things randomly come alive to start attacking. It's creepy and horror filled; riev are created from the dead, but there are teams that tried to create half-living constructs to attack the Aedis. The horror and bodies give way to political conspiracies, a cult, and infiltrating said cult. Elements of the horror from the first third of the book remain but are much more muted. The last two-thirds of the book essentially has a thread with half the team going in to find abducted comrades, and another thread back at the base figuring out what happens next. Bouncing between the two halves heightens the tension. I don't want to spoil it, but it's fascinating how the different groups interact, hide information from each other, share information as necessary, and then come up with a plan. I fell into this book deeply despite my initial confusion because the characters are so well-written and I was invested in the outcome. I needed to know if they would be okay, and if the cult and their creations would be caught. I definitely had my curiosity satisfied, and hope to see more in this universe.

Our Lady of the Artilects by Andrew Gillsmith

book cover of science fiction novel Our Lady of the Artilects by Andrew Gillsmith
May 2022; Mar Thoma Publishing; 979-8819594711
ebook, print (413 pages); science fiction

Artilects are next-generation androids, and some begin to report visions of an apocalyptic future. This frightens world leaders, and it only intensifies when an Artilect belonging to the wealthiest man in Africa arrives at the Basilica of Our Lady of Nigeria claiming to be possessed. The Vatican sends exorcist and neuroscientist Father Gabriel Serafian to investigate, which gets him caught in a conspiracy. It's terrible timing, as Rome and the Chinese Economic Interest Zone are in the midst of delicate negotiations to end a cold war. Father Serafian must discover the truth to save humanity and the Artilects.

The new Holy Roman Empire wants inroads into China to reestablish the Faith, and don't want the sacrilege of a possessed Artilect. There was already the reconciliation of Christianity and Islam, creating the Faith. The question of possessions is an important one, as it would mean that Artilects have souls. Between the Holy Roman Empire, the Caliphate and a separate group, the Apparition seen by the Artilects carry a message rooted in religion and prophecy. Of course, this is an important discovery, but the different groups have their own interpretation of what it means. Father Serafian only wants to know the truth, and will go to great lengths to discover it. The ultimate truth involves both science and faith: possessions, the electromagnetic shield of the earth, implants that most people on the world have, viral programs and the visions that humans and Artilects have. 

Chapters are short, with varying points of view. This means that the story moves quickly even as it takes on important questions as to the nature of humanity, souls, intelligence, and the nature of choice. This is the fun part of sci-fi and speculative fiction. It also involves the plight of the Uyghur population; in this future over 200 years from now, that and other genocides are part of the devastation that could have been avoided if prophecies were listened to. The prophecy itself is real, as are some of the "historical" technology discussed in the text. It's a fascinating read, with religious and ethical questions to ponder long after the book is done. 

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for free)

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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