PROVIDENCE by Max Barry

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.


Title : Providence
Author : Max Barry
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : science-fiction
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : March 31, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

This might be a case of “this reader is too dumb for this book” because I have no idea what I just read.

This is a story almost completely set in space, featuring four humans who are responsible for an AI ship as it travels through space to eradicate an alien species that had previously attacked one of their exploratory crews. This story really does feel like being in a bubble because for all that they spend two years in space, traveling and manning the ship that is killing these hives of alien things, you feel very removed from it. In that sense, Barry did well at expressing the lack of need of human involvement in the war. The crew, Life, Intel, Weapons, etc, are all just there to monitor what the ship is doing. The ship, as we hear often, is smarter than them. They just have to let it do what it does best.

Throughout their time on board, we do learn about the strange personalities aboard the ship, each unique, but also, like.. I never liked any of them? Maybe we weren’t supposed to. Maybe they were just meant to exist. But I think I kept waiting for more. I wanted, or rather expected, something to happen and it never did. Maybe that is what makes this unique, that lack of something, or maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. Again, maybe I’m just too dumb for this.

There were a few discussions built into this story, about war propaganda, our society’s reliance on technology, and more, and I’ve come to expect that from Barry, but in a more satirical, clever, or even funny, way. This didn’t feel like any of that. Ultimately this wasn’t engaging, it was just kind of.. rote. This doesn’t feel like anything special or typical of the author’s brand and I guess that’s fine. I just wouldn’t have requested it had I known that.

This is a military/space adventure story set in the near future that definitely has unique elements, and I’m sure some readers will enjoy, but for me it will ultimately be forgettable. And I’m just glad it didn’t take too long to get through. Can’t say I would recommend.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

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