Our Lady of the Artilectsby Andrew Gillsmith
Setting: Benin City, Nigeria; Vienna; Western China; India
Genres: Science Fiction
Published on April 28, 2022
Format: eBook Source: Kindle Unlimited
World leaders are already on edge as Artilects (next generation androids) begin reporting a strange apocalyptic vision that only they can see.
But when an Artilect belonging to the wealthiest man in Africa shows up at the Basilica of Our Lady of Nigeria claiming to be possessed, the stakes are raised. The Vatican sends Fr. Gabriel Serafian, an exorcist and former neuroscientist, to investigate. Serafian quickly finds himself swept up in a conspiracy of global--and possibly supernatural--dimensions.
The timing couldn't be worse. Rome is on the verge of reconciliation with the Chinese Economic Interest Zone after a 50 year cold war, and the Chinese are particularly sensitive about the so-called Apparition.
To discover the truth and save not only humanity but the artilects themselves, Serafian enlists the aid of a tough-as-nails Imperial Praetor named Namono Mbambu.
Our Lady of the Artilects is a mind-bending supernatural science fiction novel where The Exorcist meets Westworld, with a light dusting of Snow Crash.
I picked up this book while browsing on Kindle Unlimited because of its focus on Africa in the description. I like reading books that shift the focus away from North America. It turns out that the author is American but the story does focus on remote areas in the deserts of western Africa and western Asia.
At the time of this story (the mid to late 2200s) the Holy Roman Empire has been revived. It is headquartered in Vienna and the current Emperor is Filipino. He has a close but slightly tense relationship with the Catholic Church. This comes to a head when an android (or synth) in Benin City, Nigeria claims to be possessed. He asks for a specific exorcist who was formerly a specialist in artificial intelligence by name. The Church tries to keep it quiet but word gets out.
What follows is an international thriller as rival powers try to figure out the significance of the visions being seen by the synths and decide how to proceed. The Emperor sends his most trusted guard to Nigeria, a North African woman named Namono. The head of the Caliphate (Middle East and South East Asia) gets involved when one of his synths goes on the run. A Sufi holy man living near the Sahara, who is the descendent of survivors of the Uyghur genocide in China, is recruited because of his knowledge of Djinn. No one wants to make China mad but the key to mystery may lie at the site of the concentration camps first built for the Uyghurs in Western China.
The boundaries between science and religion stretch and blur as everyone tries to decide if the synths have been hacked or if they are truly having religious experiences. If they are, do they have souls? What are the ramifications if they do? Are these visions the last message prophesied by the children at Fatima in the twentieth century? Is it the last herald before a major calamity for humanity?
When no one knows if the problem is technological or spiritual who should come up with answers?
“If this is part of the story of Fatima, do you really believe it boils down to a scientific puzzle about electromagnetism?
It’s like Sodom and Gomorrah trying to build a brimstone-proof dome instead of listening to what God wants.”
In the end I’m not sure I understood everything that the author was trying to get across here. He was reaching for some very big philosophical statements that either didn’t come across as clearly as he may have liked or that just bounced off me. I can’t be entirely sure where the fault lies.
I definitely think this book is worth picking up if you like your science fiction to lean a little more philosophical. There is also a lot of astrophysics to be had in this story if you like that kind of thing. Readers who liked the struggle between religion and science in books like The Sparrow might also enjoy this one.