I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Fool's War by Sarah Zettel
Published: 2013 by Open Road Integrated Media
Genres: Science Fiction
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I had been meaning to read Fool’s War ever since Andrea reviewed it back in 2012. I enjoy reading sci-fi and fantasy with a diverse cast of characters, and the protagonist of Fool’s War, a woman named Katmer Al Shei, is a devout Muslim. She wears the hijab and prays facing Mecca, but she’s also the captain of a ship called the Pasadena, which she operates on a timeshare system with her brother-in-law. She’s saving up money to buy her own ship, which will be much larger, so that her husband and children can come with her on her journeys. The only problem is that Al Shei’s brother-in-law is up to no good and gets involved with some shady business deals that end up coming back to haunt Al Shei on her final voyage aboard the Pasadena.
You see, this is a world where artificial intelligence is a major tool, but sometimes, an AI can gain consciousness. When an AI becomes sentient, it is generally scared, upset, and dangerous. A rogue AI could wipe out an entire settlement without even trying. It’s happened before, and it can happen again. And the problems on board the Pasadena can be traced to an AI that’s gotten out of control.
Some people are suspicious of AIs, and some people embrace them. My favorite character in the book is a Freer named Jemima Yerusha. The Freers are a cult that believe that the AIs should become sentient, and that only when humans can live in worlds of their own creation can they truly be free. This means the Freers don’t generally land on planets and prefer to live in space. They think that AIs become sentient because they capture the souls of freshly departed humans. One of the things that I wished when reading Fool’s War was that the Freers could have played a greater role in the plot; they were such fascinating characters that I was sad to spend so little time with them.
Fool’s War begins as a typical space opera, but then it becomes so much more. It’s hard to describe without descending into major spoilers, but I’ll do my best. It is a mark of prestige for a ship to have a Fool on board. The Fool helps keep the peace between crew members during long journeys in confined spaces, but the Fools have a secret that would make conspiracy theorists shit their pants. So, when things begin to go wrong on the Pasadena, the ship’s Fool, a woman named Evelyn Dobbs, becomes the secondary protagonist, and she plays a major role in trying to make things right. If you read the book, keep an eye on her character. Pay attention to her, and wait for it.
Fool’s War starts out slowly, but as the plot builds it turns into a total mindfuck that makes the characters think of the world they thought they knew in a completely different way. It’s glorious.