Sunday 18 December 2022

Our Lady of the Artilects - Andrew Gillsmith

Our Lady of the Artilects
Mar Thoma Publishing
ISBN 9798819594711

This book was a very interesting read. I was thankful that I have a religious studies degree, my specializations were Roman Catholic thought and Jewish studies but I did have to do a large number of world religions courses. I know many would struggle with some of the nuances as presented between different religions and even in Catholic thought and theology as presented in this novel. That being said it was still a fascinating read. As a lifelong Sci-Fi fan it is an intriguing premise and presentation. The dedication states:

“Dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, Queen of Heaven and of all Angels”

The beginning of the description of this volume states:

“World leaders are on edge when reports start coming in of next generation androids having strange, apocalyptic visions of a lady in white.

But when an Artilect belonging to the wealthiest man in Africa shows up at Our Lady of Nigeria basilica claiming to be possessed, the stakes are raised.

The Vatican sends Father Gabriel Serafian, an exorcist who left behind a brilliant career as a neuroscientist, to Benin City to investigate...and to figure out who is behind what must surely be a hack.

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.

Serafian quickly finds himself caught up in a conspiracy of global--and possibly supernatural--dimensions.”

Part of the forward states:

“The story is bold in that it does not shy away from the spiritual dimension of life that permeates us all. While many shy away from this for fear of offending or being misunderstood, Gillsmith weaves it into his vision with sincerity and well-rounded optimism. Regardless of where you are on this front, I think you will find this story broadening your perspective.
If you are tired of reads that do not challenge you, rest assured that this story will stretch you in good ways. Gillsmith did not "phone in" his layered plot, nor will you be able to "phone in" your read. But in grasping the advanced concepts put forth, you will gain an understanding of far more than what the pages of this book contain. 

So I encourage you to open your mind to a future that is not only plausible but potentially not that far away. Across the events of this story, you will see the seeds of today's news fully grown. And in some of its many characters, you may find reflections of your thoughts and dreams.”

At the end of the book are two sections by the author, the first is called ‘On Fatima’ and the second ‘On the Chinese Genocide Against the Uyghurs’. Both are well worth reading, and maybe even reading before the book. So if you pick this up and give it a try consider reading them either before or after. They will be worth it. At the beginning of the first of those sections Andrew states:

“Nothing contrived in the imagination of a science fiction writer could possibly be stranger than the reality of our own sacramental universe.
The events at the Cova da Iria in the little Portguese village of Fatima in 1917 are perhaps the greatest modern evidence of this fact.”

The second begins with:

“When I first began writing this story, I did not think it would be about the plight of the Uyghurs. Along with my hero J.R.R. Tolkien, I "cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations."
But as the book developed, I found myself drawn more and more to the story of this ancient Central Asian people. Activists of various causes have (rightly) said that "silence=death." Failure to speak out against injustice is a kind of consent to it.
The Uyghurs are facing total cultural annihilation. Is this something that we can allow to happen without protest? Unlike, say, Ukraine or the Middle East, the land they occupy is of no strategic interest to the United States and other Western Powers. I fear that on some level, Western Governments share the Chinese Communist Party's belief that people of faith not only have no future, they impede the "evolution" of humanity by their very existence.”

Now back to the story. This story seems to have a bit of it all. The world appears to be separated into several large geographic regions. Each with a religious bent. You have Artilect’s (synthetic beings) have received a vision of a lady much akin to Fatima. The world’s governments and corporations are greatly concerned. For The possibilities are few:

1. It actually was a spiritual vision
2. Someone/group has found a way to hack all of the Artilect’s simultaneously
3. A back door was created to allow access. 
4. Could it all be a hoax conceived of and orchestrated by the Artilect

Each government is trying to figure out what really happened. They are putting their top people on it. 

“But when an Artilect belonging to the wealthiest man in Africa shows up at Our Lady of Nigeria basilica claiming to be possessed, the stakes are raised.”

“Serafian quickly finds himself caught up in a conspiracy of global--and possibly supernatural--dimensions.

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.

Serafian and Mbambu are helped by a guilt-wracked Filipino Emperor, a taciturn Caliph, and a Uyghur Sufi named Ilham Tiliwadi as they race against time to stop a centuries-old plot that could end humanity as we know it.”

We end up with a supper soldier/body guard, an exorcist who is also a scientist, rulers, all working together to solve the mystery. But can they put the pieces together in time? To find out you will need to read the story. But if Android can dream of electric sheep, why would we not expect them to one day see visions and dream dreams of things to come.

I recently had a discussion with a couple of college friends. We were reflecting on how some of the authors we read and loved in high school and even university were preaching a deeply humanist, and atheistic world view through their works. One that at times was openly, but more often subtly anti-Christian and even more anti Catholic. This book does not do that. But it does blur the lines and distinctions between religions. As such I would be cautious which teens and even young adults I would recommend it to.  It was a book that caused me to think long on certain scientific theories, religious practices, and how humans have treated other humans especially the Chinese Government. As a long time fan of Sci-Fi it was a very thought provoking read. I am thankful I gave it a read and it gets a very solid 4/4 stars.    

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Andrew Gillsmith:

Planet Gallywood Series:
The Final Season

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