Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Steven James’ latest work is a science fiction/dystopian thriller that contains great dialogue and many creative ideas…along with enough errors to make it a slightly less than average novel. After nine months of carrying her daughter, Kestrel’s child is stillborn. Even though she lives in a world where Naturals (human beings), Artificials (lifelike robots), and Plussers (humans with robotic implants) live alongside one another, Kestrel wanted a human child to love and care for. When this is snatched away from her, she is left feeling hurt and alone. After witnessing a terrorist attack from an unknown source on the way home from the hospital, Kestrel is contacted by Agent Nick Vernon. Nick is investigating the company which creates Artificials, Terabyne, along with the terrorism issue. In the midst of all this, Kestrel’s brother Trevor decides to send her a ‘special’ Artificial named Jordan as a companion. Against her better judgement, Kestrel turns Jordan on and soon finds that he is not what she expected. When Kestrel’s apartment is ransacked and a prized possession of hers is stolen, she realizes she got more than she bargained for when she agreed to help Nick. Nick and Kestrel soon discover a wide-ranging corporate scheme that no one could have foreseen. Will they live to see justice prevail? The plot and storyline in Synapse are engaging, however, there are some moments of choppiness and a few too many meandering philosophical conversations. Additionally, there are several violent combat scenes that don’t fit with the questioning nature of the rest of the novel. The only other error to note is the rushed ending. On the other hand, the dialogue is above average. The discussions between characters about the afterlife, Christianity, and who can be saved are interesting and acknowledge the reader’s intelligence. Finally, it was interesting to build a storyline around the potential dangers of giving AI too much power, but without a strong conclusion this section cannot receive more than an average rating.
Character Development (2.5 points)
In contrast, the characters are the strongest point of the novel. Kestrel is a strong and relatable protagonist who sometimes questions God and the spiritual guidance she offers others. It was a great idea to include the character’s thoughts in the text, as this adds depth and meaning to conversations. Comparatively, the large cast of minor characters is a mixed bag, with some having clear arcs and others seeming to exist only for individual scenes. Additonally, the villian reveal is interesting and outside the box, but there wasn’t much of a lead up to the same. Thus, because this section contains only minor errors, James receives an above average score in character development.
Creativity and Originality (1 point)
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, it was a very creative idea to create an world were humans and AI coexist together. Because James was able to implement this idea in a believable way, he earns a full point in creativity. This being said, it is possible for a Christian filmmaker to adapt this novel into a Christian futuristic/sci-fi film if they wanted to. However, the screenplay would have to focus more closely on the characters from a first-person perspective, and the ending needs some work. Overall, this is an interesting story that could have been a bit more personable.
Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points