Book Review: Provider​ Prime

More fantastic reviews from our external reviewer Chris Connors! This one was called Provider Prime: Alien Legacy by John Vassar.

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Synopsis: Earth has endured world wars, global famine and the near-collapse of civilization. It has always survived. But it has never seen anything like this…

After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, one man is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. As an alien starship appears on the outskirts of the solar system, the loyalty of the most advanced machine minds the world has ever known will be tested.

In the final reckoning, with the future of humanity at stake, the SenANNs themselves will hold the balance of power.

Will they stand with the human race or assist in its subjugation?

An expletive might be appropriate here, but I’ll settle for, “oh boy, this book was good!” I admire anyone who has taken the time to write a book, even if it isn’t all that good, because, by gum, they sat down and wrote a friggin’ book! How awesome is that?! Then you get an author who not only has written a book but has done it so well you wouldn’t know that there was no professional publishing house behind him.

For the most part, this book was difficult to put down at bedtime. It wasn’t just good in terms of the storyline, but good in terms of writing, both creative and technical. If there were any spelling errors or major grammar mistakes I missed them. I thought I spotted an incorrect comma placement right near the beginning, but that’s probably po-ta-toe vs po-taw-toe scenario; and I was so involved in the story right from page one I didn’t even slow down to check. The attention to detail needed for this level of technical writing is something you expect from a professional editor—my reviews have more grammatical errors in them than this entire book (I’m pretty good at spotting errors in my own work but only after they’ve gone online or been sent out to a client).

Set about 2 centuries in the future, Earth’s scientific knowledge has leaped forward since the time of the Great Famine when several billion people died and humanity was in danger of extinction. Space flight, orbital living quarters, AI, Moon and Mars colonies are thriving, and crime rates are at a manageable level. People are beginning to exhibit signs of telepathy or empathic connections, something that is viewed with a bit of suspicion, but doesn’t stray into us vs them X-men territory; instead, it plays a background part that adds to the storyline rather than be the storyline.

Part of the story blurb from Amazon states, “After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, ex-FedStat agent Lee Mitchell is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. They also have plans for Mitchell which will make him question what it is to be human.”

It won’t come as a spoiler, given the sub-title of the book, that aliens are involved, but at first, you don’t know why they’re here—to aid or to subjugate?

One thing, of many, that I liked is the author doesn’t explain all the terms— he doesn’t spoon-feed you like some authors (you know who you are) who seem to have a low opinion of their readers’ intelligence.

In real life we don’t explain all our acronyms or terms or how things work to people we talk to, but use them with the understanding that they also know these shortcut terms or how things work: MTO, OPP, coppers, 9-1-1, tweakers, NFL, change the spark plugs, electoral processes, and on it goes. Vassar’s technique feels much more “realistic” than having characters explain things for the sake of the reading audience that should be obvious to the other characters in the book.

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Did your pilot just explain pilot acronyms to another pilot?

With Vassar, the reading audience can pick up what is meant within a few pages of seeing the terms used in context. His well-done technique kept me turning pages; I wasn’t pulled out of the story, which happens when some character explains what should be obvious to those around him. I feel this type of writing technique is under-appreciated by many readers because the story flows so smoothly they don’t recognize why it flows that way.

He also manages not to veer into William Gibson territory who has taken “aggravatingly obtuse” to a whole new level; Gibson is brilliant, but avoid going on Gibson reading binge if you want to maintain your love of reading.

The pacing of the Vassar’s story also kept me turning pages. Things did slow down a bit near the end, strangely enough, when the alien spaceship finally shows up—it was still interesting though. As well, there were a couple of items that didn’t seem to fit into the story—it wasn’t fully explained why an agent’s communication node failure was integral to the story nor why it had to malfunction; far as I could tell it wasn’t necessary as that storyline could have been fulfilled using devices that are already in place.

There is also a couple of near Deus ex Machina used to extricate characters out of tight situations near the end (one technological, one convenient telepathic intervention); it felt like cheating to me. If you don’t know what Deus ex Machina is, don’t look it up—it’ll ruin Star Trek for you forever.

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“Don’t look, you’ll be ok, this will be the last Deus ex Machina device for this week, ahhh.. I mean season”.

And, I thought the love interest wasn’t developed well at all—Mitchell just meets this person yet they’re deeply in love. Yes, they both are latent telepaths, but the story didn’t explore how this brought them towards deep love. The love interest felt tacked on to give Mitchell more motivation for continuing on against some good-sized odds.

But those are minor quibbles. The line “We are the same. But we are different” (see front piece picture) is a recurring theme in the book, which ties things together. It is especially put to good use at the end of the story where the words “We are the same” take on new meaning, which gave me a happy chill. The universe Vassar has created felt realistic, creatively done, and was clever, which is fitting considering his writing was the same way.

The ending does leave room for further books in this universe. It also could end right there, as it was fairly satisfying and leaves it to the reader to imagine what might happen next. If Vassar does continue with this universe I’ll buy those books. Personally, I want to know how Mitchell’s life continues as all he knows now will completely change how he sees life. Vassar has demonstrated that his writing is comparable with some well-known authors, and I thought it was better writing than some big names (you still listening, Dean?).

For just the technical prowess alone I’d give 6/5 stars if there were such a thing. For storyline, creative writing, imagination, well-developed universe, definitely a 5/5 star book, and then some!

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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What book changed your opinion about something?

Alright this is going to sound kind off silly but the book that changed my opinion about something would be The Martian by Andy Weir. It changed my opinion because I used to think Mars would be so cool to visit but after reading about Mark’s time trying to survive on Mars, I think I am good just staying on Earth 😛

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Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads): Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

This book was so intense! I loved that it was scientific but that it dumbed it down a bit for you to understand. The way Mark survived for so long all by himself with very limited supplies was amazing. You find yourself constantly wondering how this guy is still alive (I know if I was in these circumstances, I would not last long :P). This is one of those rare cases where the movie followed the book almost exactly and was just as intense. Andy Weir is a great writer and I would strongly recommend checking him out if you ever get the chance. I know he recently just came out with another book which I will have to pick up soon.

Let me know which book changed your opinion on something in the comments!