Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review
Book: Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson
Release Date: October 18th 2018
Tags: Sci-Fi / Artificial Intelligence / Technology / First Contact / Reflections / Society
Trigger Warnings: Slavery / Mentioned Pedophilia / Physical Abuse / Emotional Abuse
An alien AI has been sent to the solar system as representative of three advanced species. Its mission is to save the Earth’s ecosystem – and the biggest threat to that is humanity. But we are also part of the system, so the AI must make a choice. Should it save mankind or wipe it out? Are we worth it?
The AI is all-powerful, and might as well be a god. So it sets up some conditions. Violence is now impossible. Large-scale destruction of natural resources is impossible. Food and water will be provided for those who really, truly need them. You can’t even bully someone on the internet any more. The old way of doing things is gone. But a certain thin-skinned US president, among others, is still wedded to late-stage capitalism. Can we adapt? Can we prove ourselves worthy? And are we prepared to give up free will for a world without violence?
And above it all, on a hidden spaceship, one woman watches. A science fiction writer, she was abducted from the middle of the street in broad daylight. She is the only person the AI will talk to. And she must make a decision.
Rejoice, a Knife’s Heart is a sci-fi novel by Erikson. Erikson is probably most known for his Malazan fantasy book series. Books I’ve heard great things about so I was eager to give this book a chance. Unfortunately I struggled a lot with this book.
Sci-fi comes in all shapes in forms. From dystopia to space opera’s. But one other aspect that is often a big part of the genre is the introspectiveness to look at our own society. Something that this book attempts to do and in places certainly succeeds. For one, the nod to the current Trump administration and its voters was very clear. America got quite a few jibes here. But also at capitalism and economy in general and how we sometimes lack empathy towards the other humans that occupy this earth if they aren’t in our own circle. Or how our society seems to spin around violence in ways. I applaud that. And then you will say, but wait Annemieke, wasn’t this a book about first contact. It is. And it isn’t.
Why I did not enjoy this book was because of the packaging. We go through a variety of different characters throughout this book to showcase the above introspectiveness. However I felt nothing for these characters. I barely get to know them because then we quickly shift to another character. The conversations quickly grew boring because there was nothing for me to invest in. And unfortunately Erikson’s writing style is somewhat on the dry side.
I also question the characters chosen but most of all the slave driver and pedophile who seems to be getting some kind of redeeming arc. It was disgusting.
The first contact is more of a background setting to everything. We don’t get big aliens but an AI who asks an SFF writer to be their spokesperson and then doesn’t let her do it for the majority of the book which I didn’t get. I did find it interesting that an SFF author was chosen. Very nice indeed. We got a little more from her point of view which was nice in places.
Overall though if you like dry reflections on society sci-fi novels than this first contact might be completely up your alley.