Our Lady of the Artilects by Andrew Gillsmith is a theological sci-fi and the first in the Deserted Vineyard series.

Our Lady of the Artilects by Andrew Gillsmith is a theological sci-fi and the first in the Deserted Vineyard series.

I read this book as a judge for the Self-Published Sci-Fi Competition 3, as a possible Senlin semi-finalist choice for my team The Space Girls.

In Our Lady of the Artilects, all the androids (or Artilects) have recently reported a shared dream or vision of the future. It’s dismissed as a bug or computer virus — until an Artilect belonging to the richest man in Africa claims to be possessed by a demon, which forces the Vatican to send a priest to investigate. And then, the Artilects begin to gather in the same place in the desert, with a pull they don’t understand.

Our Lady of the Artilects is available on Amazon and you can read more reviews on Goodreads.

My review

Every meaningful choice that humans made involved a sacrifice of some kind. And sacrifices must cost something. Serafian wondered whether synths could experience choice as pain, as humans did.

Our Lady of the Artilects was really well-written. The writing flows really well, and the dialogue felt realistic. My favourite character was probably Namono, and I enjoyed seeing her develop as the book progressed. I also loved the way that androids were portrayed. The concept of androids having souls felt really unique and was an interesting concept.

The story was really different, especially for a sci-fi novel. The storyline has lots of different threads that slowly come together, with different organisations competing for different goals and trying to find the same information. There’s quite a big mystery, and the resolution wasn’t one I had expected. It’s quite religious (think Da Vinci Code), but despite not being religious at all this didn’t bother me and didn’t feel too heavy-handed.

I marked this down a star as some sections were very long and overly detailed, such as Serafian researching the blindness or long descriptions of paintings in the Vatican. There were also a few parts of repetition where the characters would explain what we already know. I found myself skim-reading these sections. I also thought that it was a little cliché that the top expert in astrophysics that was brought in to help Serafian just ‘happened’ to also be his ex-wife (they couldn’t find anyone else?).

I can see why this was scored so highly by the previous team (Edpool), as it was a great read. I just felt that at times it was a bit too long-winded and detailed for me, and a few places at the conclusion left me feeling a bit lost. But Our Lady of the Artilects is a unique twist on a sci-fi novel, I don’t think I’ve read a sci-fi that also combined religious elements before – and the writing really is excellent. The story continues in A Cloud of Unknowing, and I’ll certainly be adding that to my TBR.

About the book

For fans of Dan Simmons, Gene Wolfe, Neal Stephenson, A Canticle for Leibowitz and other classic metaphysical sci-fi… This near future technothriller dives deep into questions of consciousness, faith, and artificial intelligence.

World leaders are already on edge as Artilects (next generation androids) begin reporting a strange apocalyptic vision that only they can see.

But when an Artilect belonging to the wealthiest man in Africa shows up at the Basilica of Our Lady of Nigeria claiming to be possessed, the stakes are raised. The Vatican sends Fr. Gabriel Serafian, an exorcist and former neuroscientist, to investigate. Serafian quickly finds himself swept up in a conspiracy of global–and possibly supernatural–dimensions.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Rome is on the verge of reconciliation with the Chinese Economic Interest Zone after a 50 year cold war, and the Chinese are particularly sensitive about the so-called Apparition.

To discover the truth and save not only humanity but the artilects themselves, Serafian enlists the aid of a tough-as-nails Imperial Praetor named Namono Mbambu.

Our Lady of the Artilects is a mind-bending supernatural science fiction novel where The Exorcist meets Westworld, with a light dusting of Snow Crash.

About the author, Andrew Gillsmith

Andrew Gillsmith is a science fiction writer living in St. Louis, Missouri.

Gillsmith grew up in the Golden Age of Cyberpunk. Fittingly, his first job out of school was delivering mail for Jeff Bezos when he was still selling books via Listserv. Since then, he’s worked in a number of interesting roles, including head of customer experience for the Kentucky Derby, leader of a proposed hyperloop project in the United States, head of data analysis for a healthcare company, and SVP of sales for a digital marketing agency. He currently works in publisher development in the programmatic advertising space.

He is married to Cheryl and has two young sons, a Great Dane, and a pet rat named Reggie.

Our Lady of the Artilects is available on Amazon and you can read more reviews on Goodreads.