Genre
Science fiction, mystery
Audience
6th grade and up
Author’s Worldview
Catholic
Year Published
2021
Themes
Free will, Thomistic philosophy, Good and Evil, the problem of evil, choice, responsibility, murder, sentience, AI Technology, Artificial Intelligence

Reviewed by

A. R. K. Watson

The people of New Athens are done with religion. Fleeing a world ravaged by religious terrorists, the self-proclaimed-utopia of the world’s first space colony requires all citizens to revoke any religious affiliation and practice upon entering. All religious leaders are barred from entry. And yet, when a priest shows up dead in their precinct and his murder seems tied up with both the shackled AI printers who build most of the station and an excommunicated Catholic terrorist on Earth, colony leaders must turn to Fr. McCellan, a man who might understand all three forces at play. Though not an action thriller, this mystery has so many plot twists and revelations that I binge read it in less than a week. Interweaving themes of free will, Thomistic philosophy and artificial intelligence, A Printer’s Choice is both an intellectual and escapist delight.

Even though the government of New Athens dislikes religion, they are not cruel to their visiting investigative priest. They go out of their way to be polite and even build him a chapel to say Mass in during his investigation. Of course, civilian attendance at these Masses is akin to professional suicide, but a few curious people show up. It’s also understandable why so many people are adverse to religion. There is hardly a character present (Fr. McCellan included) whose life has not been touched in some way by the Armies of the Soldados de Salvación.

The “Sals,” as they’re called, were started by Juan Carlos Solorzano, a Mexican Catholic and member of a local cartel group. He quickly rose in the ranks of the cartels and started his own personal crusade, inspired in part by the rampant Islamic terrorists that were boldly attacking countries around the world and in part by his objection to the Pope’s statement on self-defense. The Pope of that time issues a statement about “the moral rights of Christians to defend themselves and to wage just wars if civil authorities did not, followed by firm boundaries on what was meant by defense that such defense cannot include inflicting harm for personal gain or against innocent lives.”

Solorzano wrote back that “for those who wish to survive, who wish his people to survive, there can be no limits to war and power.” Of course, the Pope excommunicates the warlord and all his followers but to outsiders with little understanding of Catholicism or Christianity, that distinction is vague and confusing. Most people of the world only know that where once they were fighting ruthless Islamic terrorists, now they fight the far more ruthless Catholics. Part of what impresses me about the world that Patenaude has built is that every character, regardless of their beliefs or religion, is given relatable motivations and is in some way a good person—excepting members of the Sals whose thirst for survival has twisted them into ruthless enemies. This is a world where atheism and Christianity sometimes collaborate and sometimes clash but neither is demonized or idealized.

For this reason, it makes for an excellent read for anyone. Though a Catholic reader will more readily recognize the philosophies drawn from I see nothing in here that will not also be a delight to Protestant or Secular readers. If you’re looking for a good book to bring some quality ecumenical dialogue, this is an excellent choice for both science fiction and mystery fans.

Get Catholic Books & eBooks for as little as $1 to FREE

The Light by Jacqueline Brown

Even as the world & nation she knew winks out of existence, Bria discovers family secrets that leave her questioning everything.

Nightside The Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

A groundbreaking classic that conveys the practical need for ritual and a Priesthood to a secular world.

The Poppy and The Rose by Ashlee Cowles

While abroad in England, Taylor discovers a mystery linking her to an heiress and passenger aboard The Titanic.

The City and The Dungeon by Matthew P. Schmidt

Who knew fighting monsters in a D&D dungeon could convince him that not everything can be attributed to a chance roll of the dice?

Dying for Revenge by Barbara Golder

After her husband’s murder Dr. Jane Wallace moves to Colorado to nurse her grudge against the world and ends up tracking a serial assassin.

A Very Jurassic Christmas by Corinna Turner

Christmas with Jurassic dinosaurs is often wild!

The Pre Persons by Phillip K. Dick

The pro-life Phillip K. Dick story so prophetic it was buried.

Somewhither by John C. Wright An Unwhithering Realm

What if the Multi-verse were not a theory to disprove God? What if he created it, and all humanity must unite to fight the powers of Babel?

Soul Cycle books I – IV: by Brian Niemeier

In a evil universe a band of space pirates begin a journey of revenge that instead takes them in search of the true, the good and the beautiful.

Do Carpenters Dream of Wooden Sheep? by Corinna Turner

A poignant retelling of the Holy Family in a cyberpunk universe.

Old Man & The Void by Karina Fabian

When Dex decides to catch the treasure of a century, he is pulled into a black hole and must fight the robotic ghosts of an alien war.

Where to begin with Dorothy L. Sayers?

A Detective novelist who believes in conscience, and in the reality of redemption.

Books for Lent

Deepen your Lenten reflection with these stories of repentance and forgiveness

Feel-Good Books For Pandemic Summer

Book Therapy to chase the blues away

Nowhither by John C. Wright

Ilya Muromets fights off a dozens of tempting sirens and finally grows into the man he needs to be to defeat the Dark Tower.

The Vines of Mars by A.R.K. Watson

While tracking down his sister’s murderer, a Martian farmer discovers a secret that may destroy his colony.

The Fire of Eden (The Harwood Mysteries Book 3) by Antony Barone Kolenc

The mystery of a stolen treasure might hold the key to Xan’s discernment about whether God is calling him to the priesthood or to Lucy.

Comet Dust by C.D. Verhoff

A Catholic end-of days inspired by the private revelations of the saints.

Night Prayer by Brother Bernard Seif, SMC, Ed.D., DNM

The Motto Suaviter Sed Fortiter (Gentle But Strong) informs this historical mystery novel about the founding of the Salesian spiritual family and its various branches.

Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

In a post-apocolyptic world a small Catholic monastery fights to preserve civilization for the next age.