Sunday 7 May 2023

A Printer’s Choice - W.L. Patenaude

ISBN 9781726327466
eISBN 9781642280050

This was one of two debut novels I read the same week. The two stories could not have been more different, and I considered both excellent reads. As a debut novel I was very impressed with this offering. It’s depth of world building, breadth of characters and the ambition exhibited in the work. I can only hope it is the first of many. This story kept crossing my path, several authors and other reviewers I respect had mentioned it at various points. I had picked it up shortly after it released but it kept dropping in my ‘to be read’ pile. That was a mistake. It is an excellent read. The description of the novel is:

“In January 2088, life in outer space is rocked with news of its first homicide. The dead man—a young Dominican Priest—had secretly made his way “upside” and lived as a common laborer. His intentions are a mystery and the killer’s identity and motive are questions that the best investigators of the new world cannot answer.

With public order threatened, the reputation of the ruling engineers at stake, and criminal elements seizing the opportunity to gain control, authorities seek help from Earth—itself recovering from decades of war and environmental crises. With assistance from the Vatican, they recruit Father John Francis McClellan, a parish priest from Boston and a retired US Marine Corps expert in “high-defs”—the artificially intelligent three-dimensional printers that built the new world.

A Printer’s Choice tells a story of faith, the future, and the power of free will. It explores questions about sentience, choice, and the necessity of choosing well. Set in locations on Earth and in the orbits, the story takes place in a future extrapolated from today’s geopolitical and ecological turmoil. In this epic debut novel, author W. L. Patenaude illuminates not just the struggles of our world, but also the promises and implications of building a better one, one choice at a time.”

This was a fascinating story from the beginning through to the end. I was very impressed by the skills and craft shown by Patenaude in this work. It is one of the best debut novels I have ever read. A new world is being built above the earth. A series of stations to be inhabited by humans. But to live ‘upside’ you need to renounce religion and embrace a humanist point of view. What is helping make this possible is a new generation of Printers that can mine for resource and create almost anything. The utopian atmosphere upside is disturbed when a young priest a Dominican Friar is murdered. Father John Francis McClellan is sent upside to investigate. He is the ideal candidate because he is a former Military Police Investigator, former US Marine Corps engineer, and a man of faith. McClellan must navigate the political minefield of this new world weaving his way among engineers, builders, printers, and other factions.  But he must also come to deal with his own past, and his own mistakes, mistakes that cost him and others. 

As the ruling elite from the station are threatened by religious zealots, crime families that want a piece of the pie, and workers who just want meaningful employment and freedom to belive. There is soon danger from sever quarters and everyone has much to lose and fear. McClellan is racing against a clock and foes known and unknown. 

This story is part mystery, part science fiction adventure, and part theological discourse. And Patenaude executes on it masterfully. I hope this is the first of many stories from the pen of Patenaude. They we will get other books, stories in this universe and stories feathering Father John Francis McClellan. This is an excellent science fiction story that I can easily recommend. I have recommended it to Catholic, Christian and even humanist friends.

A wonderful debut novel and what I hope is the first of many to come.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan!

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