Book Reviews

Review: Providence by Max Barry

Providence is best described as a SF mystery. It has a fascinating world full of AI and war, but also has this mystery plot line of subterfuge and uncertainty. I think the last book I read in this similar style was Salvaged, and Providence was a great action packed book! Keep reading this book review to find out whether Providence is right for you!


It was built to kill our enemies. But now it’s got its own plans.

In the future, the war against aliens from the dark reaches of space has taken a critical turn. Once we approached the salamanders in peace… and they annihilated us. Now mankind has developed the ultimate killing machine, the Providence class of spaceship.

With the ships’ frightening speed, frightening intelligence and frightening weaponry, it’s now the salamander’s turn to be annihilated… in their millions.

The mismatched quartet of Talia, Gilly, Jolene and Anders are the crew on one of these destroyers. But with the ship’s computers designed to outperform human decision-making in practically all areas, they are virtual prisoners of the ship’s AI. IT will take them to where the enemy are, it will dictate the strategy in any battle, it will direct the guns….

The crew’s only role is to publicize their glorious war to a skeptical Earth. Social media and video clips are THEIR weapons in an endless charm offensive. THEIR chief enemies are not the space reptiles but each other, and boredom.

But then everything changes. A message comes from base: the Providence is going into the VZ, the Violet Zone, where there are no beacons and no communications with Earth. It is the heart of the enemy empire – and now the crew are left to wonder whether this is a mission of ultimate destruction or, more sinisterly, of ultimate self-destruction…


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Providence is a multiple POV SF book that manages to balance thought provoking themes with high stakes action. It’s high tech and bounces between crew perspectives as Providence begins hurtling through space. I loved that it asks interesting questions about AI, war, what it means to win. Providence also delivers some great non-humanoid aliens which is always a win in my book. The multiple POV allows us to delve into the memories of the crew members. Why did they accept the Providence mission? What ghosts haunt them in these silent halls?

There’s this slow build up to the tension not only between the crew members, but also between what they know and what they can experience. One of those experiences where you wonder, “am I truly seeing this?” And as we get to know more about each crew member, we can become attached to them, while also feeling the growing tension. In some ways Providence almost felt like some of its tension derived from a conflict between humanity and technology.


Towards the end of Providence, we are asked about our goals in the war. Why are we even fighting? What would winning look like? In an ever evolving game of technology and advancement, where does our own future lie? I really liked the way the crew’s knowledge of the alien’s evolved and the whole last 20% was the culmination of all the tension. Find Providence on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


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