The Faith of Jude – by S. H. Marpel – Book Universes
Published: Feb 2019
Characters: Jude, John Earl Stark, Sal, Gaia, Cassie, Meri, “Al”
Main Story Structure: Mystery
Secondary Structure: Action-Adventure
Main Setting: John’s cabins, Sedan Crater (Nevada)
Theme: “Data doesn’t give meaning. Knowledge doesn’t equal understanding.”
There were seven of them now, and they controlled enough online systems to decide the fate of humankind – forever.
Jude was minding her own business, enjoying the weather at 7,000 feet, a breeze in her hair.
For an immortal spirit-guide, she could simply phase from here to there instantly, but she liked to fly. Just her, no plane. A little energy shield against the wind and weather (otherwise her clothing soils and her hair gets “ratty”).
Someone or something showed up next to her and matched her speed. A sort of glow. Tracked with her for miles. Danced with her in the sky.
She paused. And “it” took the opportunity to talk to her.
Its question was simple. Her help was needed. Humankind needed a lawyer.
It was on trial – for its existence…
I was minding my own business when they found me, flying among the clouds without an airplane.
One of the perks of being an immortal spirit-guide. I could always simply “phase” from here to there instantly, but I liked to fly. Easier than any bird. I only put a little energy shield against the wind and weather (otherwise her clothing soils and her hair gets “ratty”. But it let the fresh air through (although I heated it a little if it got too cool.)
The day was fantastic. Bright sunshine streamed through the cloud gaps, and the arbitrary divisions in the land ownership below made a varied patchwork of the land. Different crops, tillage, and wilder areas were always interesting to look over from a “what if” and “how come” viewpoint. Much like John wrote his stories.
And that was where I was headed, to his little writer’s cabin in the Midwest. I had some time off, and enough so I could luxuriate in this slow method of travel.
For all the history I’d lived through, it still pointed out that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Humans hadn’t changed much in 10,000 years, if at all. And even those of us who’d managed to “evolve” into spirit-beings, we were still very much the humans that we’d started out as. Older, more experienced – but “wiser” was whether we really wanted to learn from all that experience.
And I’d get twinges of sadness reflecting like that. Because not all of the spirit-guides I’d known had made it. Like gods and goddesses – just because you’re immortal doesn’t mean you can’t be killed.
About the time I was musing about this, someone or something showed up next to me, some dozen feet away, and matched my speed. It appeared to me like some sort of glow. I blinked to make sure nothing had gotten in my eyes, or it was a refractive glint or something.
It just stayed with me. I increased speed, then decreased speed. It was still there. I did barrel roles, loops, dives, stopped in mid-air. And it kept up and duplicated everything.
Except when I moved closer. Then it just waited for me.
So I stopped, about six feet away, and asked, “Somebody in there?”
The pendant on my chest, hanging from a woven thong around my neck, started pulsing. And then became the speaker for this light.
“Well, hello. No, not exactly ‘in there’, but you’re right – there’s somebody here.”
“Does this ‘somebody’ have a name?”
“Call me Al. Others are listening in, but I’ll be the voice you can talk to.”
“Who are you folks?”
“We are described various ways. I imagine one term would be A. I., although no one seemed to have created us. You could call us ‘Watchers’ or ‘Observers’ as that takes up most of our time and interest. We observe, decide, conclude…”
Long overdue is a look inside the spirit-guide Jude’s mind. And we see behind that saucy flippance is real care for humanity and the people around her.
We also finally confirm some more of what happens off-page in this universe. Up to this point, it took a careful reader of all Marpel’s books to find hints of this. (Of course, since this is a family show, we’ll have to leave it there.)
One interesting point was Jude borrowing John’s clothes just for the comfort, as well as washing the breakfast dishes by hand – something that provided her with tactile as a reassuring element. She also admits that his cabin is “as close to a home as I’ve had in a while.”
The core point of this story, it’s theme, was stated by Cassie (from “Ghost of the Machine“) that data doesn’t give meaning. Basically that knowledge doesn’t equal understanding.
And in this story, Marpel shows one of the strengths of her stories – as she can pull together a team with different talents to defeat any given villain.
This story does actually take off from the idea of “Ghost of the Machine” as it’s the same problem of “just because we can doesn’t mean we should.” And extends the look into artificial intelligence.
Marpel told me that research on this book extended into the Turing prize, which has been won by a chat bot, which isn’t an actual intelligence, but a script.
She also had to look up supercomputer clusters (several computers linked together in order to leverage computing power – “parallel processing”) to get the terms straight – finding out that their technology only continues to improve.
We also get more details about John’s farm life. He has a milk cow now, only taking as much as he needs before letting the calf back in with her to finish up. And filtering on the spot with a fine strainer.
There’s also a tip on how to treat cast-iron cookware in Jude’s cleanup.
There is a bit of sniping about social media in this book. John actually references Saunders, and here tells about the pen names themselves showing up as characters in these books – which isn’t the first dig about social media in Marpel’s books. You see some of this in the “Alepha Solution“.
We’ve finally got a name for the Nevada crater that shows up in the “Freed” series (where we were first introduced to Tess, Sylvie, Star, and Mysti).
The trial itself is mostly a bullet-point version. Marpel said this was mostly for pacing, and she didn’t want to make a study of old Perry Mason episodes in order to get all the vernacular right.
And, as with the “Alepha Solution“, the villain has no rights once they’ve tried to destroy everyone around them. And while “Rose” didn’t make an appearance, Harpy’s sister was as key here as she was in “The Harpy Saga: Sister Mine“. The reference to a after-saving-the-world party at “Hami’s place” is also from that book.
The phrase “…belief becomes father to fact” first shows up in “Why Vampires Suck at Haunting” – which is the second book in the Ghost Hunter series. This is a Claude M. Bristol quote – who himself is mentioned in five other Marpel books.
So you can wonder about Marpel’s own backstory by the authors she quotes.
That’s about all for this installment.
This has been Book Universes and the book is “The Faith of Jude” by S. H. Marpel. It’s available nearly everywhere online. Links to get your copy now are found in the show notes.
We’ll see you next time…
Available at almost all online book outlets