This is a quick read by one of my favorite contemporary science fiction writers, but it’s not science fiction. It’s a space fantasy. At only 136 pages in hard cover, it can be easily read on a rainy afternoon, which is what I did. It is set in a universe in which gods have replaced science. Things people once did for themselves using technology have become the purview of gods. If you want to communicate across distances (like radio), you pray for it to happen. If you wish to travel to another planet, you compel a god imprisoned by your god to move your starship. Everything on the starships, communication, life support, engines… is god-powered. Nothing happens without the direct intervention of some god, and they are not doing it to be magnanimous. The gods do not serve man. Man serves them in their competition with other gods for believers and the faith that gives them power.
This book differs much from everything else I’ve read by John Scalzi. In addition to being fantasy rather than science fiction, it’s darker. The characters lack the ineffable charm that I’ve come to expect from Scalzi’s creations and there are few if any smiles invoked by the book. It includes a fairly detailed sex scene and graphic violence. I imagine it is intended as a social commentary but I can’t say the message it is trying to convey was clear to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed many of Scalzi’s other works including his ‘Old Man Goes to War’ series and ‘Fuzzy Nation.’ I’ve ordered ‘Redshirts’ and eagerly await its arrival. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this particular story much, but the setting and characters were interesting, and the art between the chapters of the hard cover edition are a nice addition. It kept me reading, but I much prefer Scalzi’s science fiction.