cover image Providence


Max Barry. Putnam, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-08517-2

This terrific sci-fi thriller from Barry (Lexicon) pits humanity against a powerful and rapacious alien enemy. In the near future, scientists studying bacterial growth aboard a research vessel in space die after being attacked by six-legged creatures, some human size, that spit tiny black holes. Earth declares war on the aliens, nicknamed salamanders, recruiting the best and the brightest to seek out and destroy as many of the creatures as possible. Seven years after that deadly first contact, five combat spaceships enhanced with advanced AI are launched. One is under the command of Capt. Jolene Jackson, whose crew consists of an IT expert, a weapons officer, and a life officer responsible for maintaining the crew’s mental health. All four struggle with the challenges of their isolated and claustrophobic four-year mission, even as the vessel’s AI makes most of their abilities redundant. Naturally, the assignment isn’t as straightforward as it was billed, with the salamanders able to learn and adapt from every defeat, and each team member is tested both mentally and physically. Fans of Robert Heinlein open to more nuanced characterizations will be delighted. Agent: Luke Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.)