This self-published novel by New Zealand-born, Germany-residing author Grace Bridges was my first exposure to Christian cyberpunk and dystopia fiction, so I really didn't have anything to compare it to. It is also part of a sub-genre called biblical speculative fiction, of which Frank Creed's "Flashpoint" is a prime example, where the characters are unabashedly Christian in lifestyle and evangelistic in motive.
As such, this style of lit could turn some readers off from the get-go, but I think the average spec fic reader might be surprised that, despite the 'religious' setting, emotive themes of love, loss, disaster, and triumph -- if well written -- will remain the focus of their attention. It did mine.
My overall reaction to this particular project? I think Faith Awakened is an interesting, yet falling short of gripping, exploration of an apocalyptic future. Although some sympathetic reviewers refer to "The Matrix" for comparison, this is a very different story even though the characters spend half the book living in a "virtual reality." I won't spoil the plot, but the premise is that our heroes must live out their virtual lives while awaiting their physical rescue when the planet becomes once again inhabitable.
In the not-too-distant future, a one-world-government turns technological advances into an anti-utopian nightmare. A rogue plague decimates the population. A Christian remnant plug into a virtual existence in order to survive the vestiges of the virus that wipes out - for all they know - the rest of humanity. They are eventually brought out of this cyber-matrix and revived to 'real' life 50 years later by another group of survivors who happen upon their hibernation units.
What makes this novel intriguing is the intertwining of two storylines that, if you pick up on some early clues, tells the crisis and resolution in alternating chapters. This non-traditional storytelling device is a bit awkward at first, but the reader soon catches on. Bridges has a unique style of writing (which could have benefited by a strong editor; there is plenty of room for improvement) and makes a bold attempt at telling the story from the perspective of her two protagonists, Mariah & Faith. The relationship between these two women is part of the mystery and makes for fascinating reading.
If you "go with it" (and suspend your disbelief a time or two) then the overall story "works." However, there are a few logical inconsistencies that raise questions left unanswered. Also, this could have been shortened to a novella, in my opinion, as Grace's description of life (in both worlds) was a bit cumbersome in detail (too much "tell" not enough "show"). Still, Faith Awakened is a vivid picture of a possible, and frightening, future. It's a promising start for this first time author. And not a bad introduction to Christian cyberpunk.
Click here to buy Faith Awakened, by Grace Bridges on Amazon