Lyda Morehouse,
Fallen Host
(Roc, 2002)

Imagine a world far different from our P.C.-conscious world of today, where instead of shunning any affiliation between religion and government, the government requires membership in a state-sanctioned religion in order to be an accepted part of society. Imagine that, instead of sitting down at your computer to access the Internet, you can access the LINK mentally. Imagine a world where angels, either fallen or still in God's good graces, walk the Earth just as you and I do. What you've conjured up is the world of Emmaline McNaughten, Inquisitor for the Vatican.

Although this post-war world is far different from our own present time in many respects, it does mirror our history. In our not-to-distant past, religion and politics worked hand-in-hand. People who held positions of power in the church also held sway at court; the advice of a well-trusted bishop could influence a monarch's decision in almost any realm. Similarly, Lyda Morehouse shows us a world in which governmental and religious powers are one and the same.

Emmaline lives in a stratified society, with the "norm" being those who are part of a certified religion being able to utilize their LINK implants for almost everything imaginable. Those not wanting to belong to a religion and those who have contracted a disease from the nanobots used in the last war form the fringes of society -- the outcasts, if you will. Within this religion-laden reality, two Artificial Intelligence beings, Page and Dragon, have been deemed sentient. The Vatican dispatches an American Catholic female priest (yes, the American Catholic religion in this world accepts gay and female priests, which is a bit unorthodox for the Pope's tastes) to determine whether or not these AIs truly have souls.

Herein lies the clincher: Lucifer, who calls himself Morningstar, sees Page as the ultimate opportunity for beginning Armageddon. Morningstar needs an Antichrist, and what better vehicle than a religiously ambiguous being such as an AI? Using Emmaline to get to Page, Morningstar strives to bring about the Beginning of the End, and he also makes a muddle of Emmaline's investigation.

Fallen Host introduces us to a seemingly distant future that is, in many ways, like our own world. During the investigation, feelings between the AIs, their makers, the angels (good and bad) and Emmaline become irrevocably enmeshed. The plot moves on many levels, from the emotional entanglements formed and the personal consequences they bring about, to the higher realm of religion and its place in society. Those in positions of religious power can make or break you in Emmaline's world, as can sometimes happen in our own.

[ by Carie Morrison ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002

Buy it from