Review: Providence by Max Barry

Rating: 9.0/10


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…


Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance copy of Providence for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

Providence is a rip-roaring and discomfiting sci-fi thriller that is a bit Ridley Scott, a dash Avenue 5, and a whole lot Barry’s unending imagination. This was my first Max Barry novel and will certainly not be my last.

Like I stated before, this was my first read by Max Barry so I really had no clue what I was looking forward to going in. I’d seen some glowing reviews for some of his novels, especially Lexicon, so I figured I’d move this one up a bit on the pile and see what the fuss was about. Plus, I was given the opportunity to host Max on my podcast so I needed to have at least read a portion of something he’d written. Upon checking the synopsis, I felt this one was right up my alley:

Giant militarized spaceship > check.
Crew that mimics Netflix’s The Circle > check
Alien race that needs obliterating > check

Can you imagine being on board the “ultimate killing machine” and watching it completely obliterate alien lifeforms, all the while you are chilling in the cockpit, eating bon-bons and “doin’ it for the ‘Gram”. That is basically where we find this rag-tag crew, you know, until the fit hits the shan and the Providence enters the VZ. All bets are off and our social media influencers have to soon realize that the are on their own… or are they?

While the Providence isn’t exactly a sentient ship, just one with insane computer intelligence and weaponry, the crew begins to believe the ship is watching them, influencing their decisions, and maybe even, perhaps, putting their lives at stake as the days go on. On top of that, true behaviors and characteristics of the crew, you know, the ones who are practically imprisoned on the ship, begin to reveal themselves in not so subtle ways which makes for and very intriguing story. And then you have the salamanders, which I won’t go into on account of spoilery things.

What I can say is that I really enjoyed Providence. It has great pacing, an engaging storyline, very believable characters that you can emotionally connect with, and fantastic writing. Pretty much all you need to enjoy a novel. Highly recommend checking it out!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bookstooge says:

    When I first glanced at your post, I just saw the “Barry” part and thought it was Dave Barry. I was wondering why a comedian was writing SF! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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