Title: The Alleluia Files
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 1998, Ace
Category: Science Fiction
After reading Jovah's Angel and loving it, I had to move right on to this one, the next in the series. There are BIG SPOILERS here for the previous two books in the series (including a huge, really cool plot twist that shouldn't be missed), so don't read this review if you haven't read Archangel and Jovah's Angel yet. Trust me.
It's been a hundred years since Alleluia was Archangel and discovered that the god of Samaria is not actually a god at all but a spaceship housing a complex AI machine that answers the Samarians' prayers. Alleluia decided that the people of Samaria simply weren't ready to deal with this knowledge and kept the secret until her death, but rumors have leaked out. A band of people, calling themselves Jacobites, believe these rumors and have spent decades searching for documents that Alleluia might have left behind proving them. The angels in power have become more and more harsh in their efforts to subdue them, to the point that they are now being out and out persecuted for their beliefs. The story follows one Jacobite named Tamar, as she searches for the Alleluia Files. She is joined in her quest by an unlikely ally, the angel Jared.
This is a great end to the trilogy. I didn't love it quite as much as Jovah's Angel, just because I didn't feel like it packed quite the same punch (though it would be hard to top the proclamation that the god is a machine). The structure of the trilogy works really well--the world of Samaria is set up in Archangel, the basis of that world is questioned and overturned in Jovah's Angel, and the people of Samaria finally come to terms with it all in The Alleluia Files. The world just keeps getting more complex and interesting with each book.
One thing that struck me (and very much appreciated) about The Alleluia Files was that the religious fanatics on both sides of the issue are presented as less than praiseworthy. Obviously the evil, power-hungry Archangel Bael, who has been ordering the murder of Jacobites, is made the main villain. So it would have been easy to let the Jacobites be all saintly martyrs, who righteously go to their deaths for the betterment of mankind. But they are generally shown to be not particularly intelligent or cunning in their planning, and not particularly kind-hearted. Shinn really pokes fun at them--they are depicted as a cult, lemmings whose aimless plans are basically ineffectual and whose beliefs are just as fanatical and irrational as Bael. Their quest obsesses them completely, and though we know that what they believe is actually correct, they do not. Their beliefs are not based on scientific evidence any more than the angels' are. Both sides, Bael and the Jacobites, are blinded by their obsessive beliefs. Tamar and Jared are able to solve the puzzle (and engage this cynical reader) because they are able to take a step back from the problem and think rationally.
Shinn's written two more books set on Samaria--Angel-Seeker and Angelica, both of which are in the TBR. :)