4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The Solar Empire is a force that has spread across the universe, relying on "peace through superior firepower." In Providence Ends (Solar Winds Book 1) they've recently expanded into the Hourglass Galaxy. The Hourglass Galaxy is unique because of how time is affected - not only does time move faster the closer one is to the source of the anomaly, ripples of time distortion randomly spread from it. These ripples essentially freeze time temporarily, and between the ripples and the adjustment of time it's a source of interest to the Solar Empire and the Interstellar Combine.
The Interstellar Combine has been in the area long before the Solar Empire arrived, and they're not happy with the Empire colonizing their areas and taking in their enemies in the middle of war. Tensions continue to rise, but the Solar Empire's technology is so superior they hardly even consider the Combine as a threat... for now.
Providence Ends follows five threads as they weave together for one whole. This is uniquely done by rotating through them each chapter, such as 1A and 3E. When plots are hidden or unimportant, they're skipped - chapters 1 and 4 have A-E, but then chapter 5 has only an A, B and C for example. The first of these is Colonel Robert Panzer, a member of the Commando Corps. The Commando Corps are super-elite soldiers, not only masters of their weaponry and tactics but also psionic masters who wield advanced technology. Panzer is both telekinetic and telepathic and can hide in plain sight with tech that renders him invisible. Despite these amazing abilities, he's far from invincible, especially when he battles the Vaar - a tall lizard-like race with tough skin, incredible regenerative properties and two brains. If these brains aren't destroyed, they can even be brought into a new body! Panzer has been searching for something called the Sovari Soma and his provident moments - moments that show the future - have shown him a war is coming. After his mission is deemed a failure he's "punished" by being given vanguard duty for Simmonne Mandrake, daughter of Emperor Mason Mandrake.
Simmonne is the second thread, and she's a "mere empath" among a family of incredibly strong telepaths and psions. This means that while her brothers, sisters and parents can read minds and move things telekinetically, she can merely sense and mess with a person's emotions. She is a very kind, gracious woman who has been tasked with going to see refugees that have been flooding in, and has been given a Commando Corps member (Panzer) to escort her since the destination is near the border between the Combine and the Empire. The third plot follows Third Lieutenant Jonathan Clearwater, a freshly-minted officer sent to a veteran unit on a mysterious planet. There they discover technology that can turn regular mice almost instantly into super intelligent ones that can use tools. The planet also seems plagued by ghostly activity, and it seems like the presence of the Solar Armed Forces isn't welcome there.
The last two plots each follow agents of the "bad guys". The first of these is Steven Mandrake, brother to Simmonne. While he's always been a good brother to Simmonne, he has also had questionable traits. When he learns of the Encephalon, a creature from ancient times that is kept as a slave for information to the Emperor, things quickly become much worse. It's such a strong creature that people who spend time with it often end up driven insane, so a Commando Corps member must always be present (once again, Panzer in this case) to protect their minds. Despite his protection, the Encephalon somehow ends up breaking through and leaving a part of itself with Steven, tutoring him and making him so powerful that he can alter people's memories and control seemingly-countless people at once. The last plot varies between different characters but always follows the Vaar, the main race in the Combine. Oul'Sor is a particularly mighty Vaar that Panzer struck down in an epic battle, but because his brains weren't destroyed he was able to be restored. He's furious he was kept from death but as soon as he learns Panzer also killed his son - his only son that rose through the ranks of the Vaar - his life becomes a quest for vengeance.
Sci-fi novels typically fall into one of two categories - serious, heavy, hard-to-follow sci-fi with names that are impossible to pronounce and countless pages setting the stage for the rest of the book or sci-fi that could really be any genre but loosely uses a futuristic setting to make it unique. Luckily, Providence Ends by Bryan Shewmaker falls right in the middle; it's light enough that anyone can read it and enjoy it, yet it expertly builds its world and explores its technology naturally throughout the book bits and pieces at a time. It's like learning a new language a few words at a time instead of being thrown into a conversation with someone who speaks the language! The more of the history of humanity, the rise of the Solar Empire or the way technology works is revealed the more it's revealed that Bryan put a lot of thought into the history of his world. For example, one of the most important advancements seems to be the nanites that everyone has in them at all times. The book begins with Panzer using these nanites to repair his hand that was sliced in half, and then is able to use them as an air-tight barrier around him to explore space. As the story goes on, it's revealed that these nanites actually became a part of humanity due to the Encephalon's guidance, and they're the only thing that kept humanity alive during a particularly brutal plague. From that point on they're a permanent part of all humanity, and the nanites are what give some humans psionic powers.
In addition to the excellent inclusion of technology, one of my favorite things about the book was just how balanced the "good guys" and "bad guys" were. Not only could this story be completely rewritten to follow the Vaar and the reasons they're the "good guys" and the Solar Empire are the villains, the two sides are excellently balanced with heroes, might and technology. Panzer felt like some invincible warrior at first, but even in the introduction I was clearly shown otherwise.
I'm also a big fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Just like the One Ring's true strength (in addition to being Sauron's greatest weapon) is in the way it corrupts people, so too are people corrupted in Providence Ends. The Encephalon reminded me a great deal of a creature from Cthulhu Mythos with its ability to drive people insane, and it also manages to empower and corrupt Steven right down into his core. The Encephalon was one of my favorite things in the book, not only because of how well it's written as it speaks to Steven but also how much it managed to corrupt Panzer. While Panzer's corruption was temporary, it was amazing just how much it changed him. The madness and way it destroyed inhibitions was handled excellently! The same can be said of Indorai. Another mysterious creature, this one more of a puppeteer with unknown power, Indorai is referred to as the Hollow One because of how impossible it is to sense unless it wants to be seen. Even the Vaar, who have an extremely heightened sense of smell, can't smell him. When Indorai does reveal itself, it merely distorts the area around it leaving a hollow image within.
Providence Ends is a fantastic first book in a series, and it ends magnificently. There's no cliffhanger, but there's still so much to do. Despite a few errors (I counted 11), that's not bad at all for a book that's said to have 320 pages on Amazon. Those errors are also the only flaw I saw in the book, and while I can't recommend the book to kids (both because it's a long, somewhat-heavy book and because there are a few naughty scenes), I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi. There's romance, action, hope, desperation, technology, relatable themes and so much more that I can't recommend it enough. I'm happy to give it 4 out of 4 stars.
[Editor's Note: The publisher has reported having the book re-editing to correct the few errors mentioned in the review.]
Solar Winds: Providence Ends
View: on Bookshelves
Like CataclysmicKnight's review? Post a comment saying so!