4 out of 4 stars
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The Orb by Tara Basi is a science fiction mystery that starts with a murder case closed after the killer got sentenced to jail. Instead, it leads to much bigger secrets after the victim's father opens his own investigation. Peter Morris is an important computer scientist who is using a record of his daughter's mind to discover what's behind her murder. He hires Zip, a private detective whose mind was transplanted into a young body, to solve the mystery.
This novel is set some decades after a mysterious alien artifact appeared over London. Any attempt to understand its nature failed, and many people started believing it's a god. Religious wars started with catastrophic consequences at global level. London became the last beacon of civilization where advanced technologies are used. There are still many other cities in the world but after the wars they're quite primitive compared to London. The result is a mix of post-apocalyptic fiction and cyberpunk science fiction.
In London's unsteady balance of power, what initially looks like a science fiction detective story expands into a complex story of deception and machination. Advanced technologies such as virtual reality, mind simulation, and body transplant get mixed with elements centered around the religion that sees the Orb as a god.
You don't need to be an expert in technologies to enjoy this novel as Tara Basi uses jargon only when it's really needed. Basic information about those technologies is given to enable the readers to understand how they're used and their impact on the plot.
The religion developed after the Orb's arrival by a man considered a prophet known as the Tramp includes elements of Christianity. An idea of how much that religion has become part of its believers' life is given by Zip, who often mutters "Jesus and the Tramp!". All of this might make some readers uncomfortable, but the relationship of people with religion and religious power are central themes in the novel.
In my opinion Tara Basi made a great job in creating an intriguing plot full of action, twists, and revelations of secrets. That's done also developing the important characters with their backstories. The pace is kept fast with details useful to understand the various elements cleverly included in descriptions and dialogues to avoid parts full of heavy exposition.
You get an action story that also offers food for thought about a number of themes ranging from religion to the use of technologies. It's professionally edited, so it's almost spotless. My rating is 4 out of 4 stars thanks to the great balance of those elements that form an excellent science fiction mystery with a religious flavor.
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