Tad Williams. And Ministers of Grace. (The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 28th Annual Collection).

Originally in : Warriors (ed GRR Martin and Gardner Dozois, Tor 2010)

From a hefty anthology brought together last year by Dozois and GRR Martin (oh for the days when he wrote SF….)

A story that would have had me gripping the arms of my chair, had I not needed my hands to hold the book. One the one hand it’s a fast, taut thriller, with a solid SF setting, lots of nano-tech and political, religious and societal background pertinent to the story. And on the other hands its an exploration of faith/religious mania. The protagonist is an enhanced assassin (think Arnie), and he is on a mission to kill the President of a society which is anathema to he and his kind – people not only with no belief in god, but completely antagonistic to those with such a belief.

The assassin has been indoctrinated since childhood by a chip in his head, constantly relaying to him the advice of his God, a Christian God, and he must suffer for that God in having that chip removed and replaced by one relaying the messages, the non-religious messages, of those into whose midst he is pitched.

And this is where the story slightly suffers for me, in positing an entirely electronic form of indoctrination, which, when removed at the end of the story leaves him in a wilderness – literally and spiritually – as it therefore doesn’t address the broader, more complicated range of forces which come to create religious zealotry and murderous self-belief.

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