Synapse - a crime drama that explores artificial sentience and religion
In the future, humans live side by side with cognizant androids, known as Artificials, and the AI technology that grants them sentience is getting better all the time. These Artificials have free will and there are many humans who oppose their very existence. Kestrel Hathaway is a minister who has just undergone a personal tragedy that has shaken her faith and she now questions what kind of God would allow such things to happen. Just as she is coming to terms with her loss she finds herself involved in a terrorist attack where she lends aid to some of the victims and this plunges her into a world of federal agents and terrorist groups that are odds with each other. The Purists are fighting to prevent the Artificials from becoming more advanced and they feel that they must stop such advancement before it is too late. Wrapped up in this conflict, Kestrel finds herself not only thinking about her own beliefs but also whether advanced Artificials, who struggle with the same insecurities that she does, have a right to the same faith and belief in God that helps her cope.
Now the focus on religion will be a turn off for many, and there were a couple of times where it seemed a bit much, but human relationships are the real center of the story. The criminal investigation around the terrorist attack is the backdrop that forces Kestrel to ponder the many big questions that trouble her. Artificials are programmed to have free will so the choice of their beliefs is up to them, yet as a minister Kestrel struggles with the thought that an Artificial could believe in God. Her brother is an Atheist and her faith has driven a wedge between them but now the table is turned as she finds herself opposed to the faith of an Artificial. This book doesn't try to provide any answers to Kestrel's internal debates but it does raise a lot of questions about what faith will be like in an advanced future. Did all of that deep religious thought make the story any better, I'm not that sure but I can safely say that I feel that this book was definitely worth my time.
The audiobook version is narrated by Therese Plummer and she does an excellent job with all the characters.