the Little Red Reviewer

Faith, by John Love

Posted on: February 10, 2012

Faith, by John Love

published in January 2012

where I got it: purchased New

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Remember Peter Watts’ Blindsight?  Blend it with Moby Dick, and then imagine it was written by Gene Wolfe. Now ramp up the tension and suspense to eleven.  It’s hard to believe Faith is a debut novel. It reads so smooth and subtle that as the pages fly by under your fingers, all you feel is the copper tang of a nameless fear.

Faith has a slow start, and this is exactly as it should be.  Otherwise, we would never know the subtle ironies of the Sakhran race, how they live together, but live apart, their sense of honor even as they were conquered by the Commonweath. Without the slower, gentler, understated start, we would never understand the pure and total demise of the proud Sakhran race, and how they didn’t even attempt to resist it.

Three hundred years ago and unidentified ship came to the Sakhran homeworld. Only one person among them understood what she was. He wrote a book, and when the book was read, the Sakhran race began to decline. Out of vicious irony, the Sakhrans named the ship Faith.  Like her namesake, she visits on a whim, and can destroy with a whisper, not knowing and not caring what she’s turned you into.  But this Faith offers only questions, never any answers.

Faith has returned, and the expanded Commonwealth of Planets believe they have the only weapon that can stop her.  The Commonwealth built nine Outsider ships.  Built in secret, and then pushed away as lepers, the ships are named after psychopaths and mass murderers. There is never any shore leave, and crew know to never return to their home planets. Aaron Foord, commander of the Charles Manson knows he is the Commonwealth’s only chance against Faith.  His crew are the dregs of humanity, the mistakes, the undesirables, the hidden criminals, perhaps, the anti-Faith. And those of his crew who aren’t human? some of them claim to have eaten their own children.

How do you fight an enemy that you can’t figure out? How do you destroy something when you don’t know the first thing about it, when all it does is reflect your weapons right back at you? on his bridge, Foord has a trigger happy sexually deviant weapons officer, a genius pilot who refuses to interface with anything or anyone but the ship, two aliens he’ll never understand, a possible spy, and a handful of other officers who are disturbing in their own way.  And everything they throw at Faith, every weapon, every evasive manoeuvre, every pulse, bomb or torpedo, she either eats, or reflects right back at them.  If the Charles Manson doesn’t destroy Faith, she will destroy the Commonwealth.  Their deadly dance with Faith is part cat and mouse game, part courting ritual.

At this moment, some of you may be thinking “freaks and geeks on a ship? this must be like Firefly!”. Get that thought out of your head right now.  This is a dark, dark book, darker than a prison cell at midnight, and it isn’t for everyone. Faith is the the space opera that those of us “who like that sort of thing” have been waiting for. Because Love pulls no punches. He goes into gruesome detail about Foord and his crew. You will squirm. You will wonder why you ever rooted for these guys in the first place. You will wonder why they weren’t executed on sight.

The first half of the book is slow and muted yet the second half is so tense, so sinister, so disturbing that it pushes the boundaries between pleasure and pain, as it pulses with the rhythm and meter of an orchestral counterpoint. And then, only because it must, the end hits.

Reading Faith was a little bit like reading Catherynne Valente, and not just because of the stunningly brilliant metaphors that shine through the book like stars in a clear summer sky. As I write this, its been about 24 hours since I finished the book, and I feel changed. A little heavier, a little more angular, like I saw just the edge of an iceberg before the fog hid it forever from sight.  I feel affected, like I’ve been told only the first few words of something so very destructive that learning the rest of it could destroy a person.

I know it’s only February, but I feel confident John Love’s Faith will be on my best of the year list next December.

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15 Responses to "Faith, by John Love"

I added this to my TBR list when I first read about it over at Night Shade. Now you’ve convinced me I need to read it soon!

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Sounds like something that’ll be right up my street.

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I tried to like this novel, but I just couldn’t. Way to slow to develop. I gave it 1/2 a book, but just had to give up.

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The beginning was surprisingly slow, but it does pick up a bit around half way through, but even then, it’s more psychological thriller than action.

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[...] “Remember Peter Watts’ Blindsight? Blend it with Moby Dick, and then imagine it was written by Gene Wolfe. Now ramp up the tension and suspense to eleven. It’s hard to believe Faith is a debut novel. It reads so smooth and subtle that as the pages fly by under your fingers, all you feel is the copper tang of a nameless fear.” Read the awesome full review at The Little Red Reviewer! [...]

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Sound worth adding to my wish list…

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Well, I guess I’ll have to move this one up on the TBR…

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[...] Red Reviewer reviews SF novel  Faith by John Love, which sounds right up my [...]

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Awesome novel, isn’t it? Night Shade Books is on such a roll with their current run of dark, original SF debuts. I can’t remember a publisher with this many great SF debuts in one year. I don’t think this novel is selling as well as it should, which is a shame, so I’m glad to see other positive reviews like this one.

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I’m with you on the Night Shade Books, they’ve been picking winner after winner after winner. In general, they seem to be under the radar, which is too bad.

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[...] “…I feel confident John Love’s Faith will be on my best of the year list.” – Redhead, littleredreviewer.wordpress.com [...]

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[...] and frightening, once I picked FAITH up I could not put it down. You can read my review here, and visit John Love’s website for more information about the book and links to other reviews [...]

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[...] and frightening, once I picked FAITH up I could not put it down. You can read my review here, and visit John Love’s website for more information about the book and links to other reviews and [...]

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[…] Red Reviewer reviews SF novel  Faith by John Love, which sounds right up my […]

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[…] My Review.  Staffer’s Reviews. Little Red Reviewer. […]

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