Some hundreds of years in the future, humankind and several alien races have formed the galaxy-spanning Commonwealth. After a mysterious spaceship called Faith destroys the Sakhran Empire, the Commonwealth eagerly fills the power vacuum. Then Faith begins harassing Commonwealth colonies, killing off armed resistance and showering cities in sewage before disappearing. The Commonwealth’s best weapons against it are the Outsider ships, a Dirty Dozen–like fleet of brutal and expendable soldiers. When Faith and its mysterious crew threaten a Commonwealth world, the Outsider ship Charles Manson is called on duty, and Cmdr. Aaron Foord decides to destroy Faith even if that means demolishing Commonwealth ships that get in his way. While the story eventually devolves into murky faux-profound allegory and Love’s decision to make two of his three protagonists former rapists feels gratuitous and jarring, Love’s deft touch with complex characters and ethical quandaries make his work worth reading. Agent: Paradigm. (Jan.)
If you're looking for a good ship-vs-ship story with a thought-provoking plot and an ending that will leave you surprised, maybe angry, possibly confused (until you think it over for a bit), and definitely entertained, you'll discover that Faith is one of those rare science fiction stories with plenty of twists and dozens of questions... and those don't come along all that often in my opinion.
The book closely resembles a military thrillera daring commander tracking an enemy sub across the seasbut Love provides readers with plenty of sf color: aliens whose history seems drawn from ancient Eygptian influences, human warships named after psychopaths and crewed by dysfunctionals like the hero, Commander Foord of the warship Charles Manson, and other fun stuff. Love has a quirky stylea character's eyes are "as warm and golden as urine"and it seems virtually impossible to imagine an sf fan who won't thoroughly enjoy the tale.
Faith is a science fiction debut of the highest order. It has fascinating, well-rounded characters who will remain with you for a long time. It has gorgeous, understated prose. It is chock-full of tension, making it a compulsive page turner. It has an intriguing fictional universe which, I hope, will host more novels in the future. It's got one of the highest signal-to-noise ratios I've encountered in a long time, which, if you think about it, is really something, given that the vast majority of it describes one long, protracted battle. Faith is a novel I maybe would have expected from the mind of Iain M. Banksand if that isn't a compliment for an SF debut, I don't know what is. What I do know is that it's only early January, and I'm already sure that this novel will end up on my list of 2012 favorites.