"Remember the Reverse Engineering lab we talked about?" Travis said. "How I used R.E. to add the more detailed traits to our program?...Well, that's old school. The team now has things refined to where we can download an entire personality—thoughts, emotions, memories—the whole enchilada. So we record all that information, download it into a new dude, and there you have him, live and in person."
"Whose personality?" Nicholas asked Travis. "Yours?"...
"...We're working off your blueprint, bro."...
Dixon nodded in understanding. "I've been briefed on your fear of technology, Doctor. Let me assure you there is absolutely no danger. It is merely a matter of recording your brain functions. Nothing more."
"But if I refuse?"
Dixon's response was slow and deliberate. "Then, as I said, the board will have to seriously evaluate whether or not to continue the program."
"And the characters?" Nicholas turned to Travis. "The ones you've invested so much time creating?"
Travis shrugged, then looked away.
Dixon answered. "All the elements of the program would have to be destroyed. Their world, their community, and all of the characters with it."
And that's a problem, because Dr. Nicholas Mackenzie, curmudgeonly old professor and staunch atheist, has come to care about the computer-generated characters he's watching up on the screen. And now he's about to become one of them.
Bill Myers' new novel, The God Hater, is an excellent read, intelligent, intriguing, well-written, and timely, a powerful story.
Themes include the Law versus Love, rebellion and forgiveness, the sovereignty and compassion of God, free will, self-sacrifice, and how following the rules is never enough to truly live.
In the real world, Nicholas is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He relies on his intelligence, debating skills, and knack for discomfiting his opponents. He doesn't need God or any other crutch. He has his philosophies and counterarguments. Yet he has befriended a young single mom, also a professor, and her son. Their one flaw? Their faith in God.
In the AI (artificial intelligence) world, created by his brother for polling and market research, "lives" a man called Alpha, whose face and personality Nicholas has cause to know well. They belong to someone dead for many years.
Speaking into this world to end the bloody results of "survival of the fittest", which is negating the original purpose of the program since all the characters keep getting killed off, Nicholas is, at first, only a voice to Alpha—Programmer's voice that speaks Programmer's Law: You are a steward of this world. You are sacred because you were programmed to be like us. Do what I say and take authority. You are the stewards. You are what is sacred. Treat one another as though you are sacred. Treat one another as you would treat me.
Sounds good, right? Just what the AIs need to hear to guide them away from slaughter, away from "every man for himself", and set them on a path toward progress and enlightenment.
But soon not even the Law can save the world. Enter the computer-generated version of Nicholas, who goes to be the presence of Programmer to the people. He becomes the Law—the Word—made digital flesh.
What happens next changes not only the AIs, but Nicholas—real and digital—until the real-world Nicholas can no longer control his computer self, who begins to literally take on the ills of others in an effort to heal them.
When I read that portion of the story, I couldn't help but be reminded of this passage: He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB).
And yet, despite the deep spiritual themes in this novel, it is never preachy or heavy-handed, and non-Christians will enjoy this story. If there's a weakness, it's in the corporate espionage plot thread, that always seemed a little thin to me. However, if it were expanded, it would detract from the main story, and probably drag the pace.
I'm only writing a single review, but the CSFF Blog Tour covers three days, so check out the other stops on the tour (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), and read what others are writing about The God Hater:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Morgan L. Busse
Carol Bruce Collett
CSFF Blog Tour
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte