The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Shadow is a reluctant god with a broken mind and a death wish. He used to be Thomas Astley-Byron, an affluent young screenwriter whose creativity and idealism saved a world from the brink of collapse. Together with Henry Nowak, an AI expert, Tom created heaven on earth by inventing a Jungian simulated reality that helps humans confront their dark sides. The benevolent manipulation platform turned the two unelected leaders into beloved gods, but now everything is failing. The worlds suffer as a sentimental Tom descends into his own personal hell, becoming the embodiment of everything he despises and a shadow of his former self.
His journey from an optimistic, joyful Tom to a gloomy Shadow is paved with heartache and sinister interference from emerging technology. Humans and bots fight for his heart, but their aims differ: some want to own it, some to dissect it, and others to end its foolish beat. Still, the biggest threat comes from within—none of the sticky stories that steer Tom’s life end well.
Who’s pulling on Shadow’s heartstrings? Are their intentions malign or benign? It’s all a matter of perspective, and Shadow has none left.
Now, a young goddess—Estelle Ngoie—has been appointed to replace him, and unlike Shadow, Stella takes no prisoners, and her heart bleeds for no one.
Unanimity is the initial book in the Spiral Worlds series, by Alexandra Almeida. It is a well-written introduction to what aims to be a long hard sci-fi series, a sort of prediction of what could happen if we don't think about the consequences of developing technology before actually creating it; and with well-developed characters to add a layer of humanity to the story.
We are going to be following the story in two different timelines, the first one of them showing how Thomas, with the help of his friend Henry, developed what will become Down Below, and how it was created with the intention of helping people to confront their problems and darkness. But as it is stated, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The second timeline, situated in the future, is about how a new goddess over Down Below, Stella, is taking the control of it, and it is bringing back Thomas (called Shadow now) to life, as she feels is the only way to solve the problems that this world is suffering, now that it has become the the-facto main world for most of the people.
Weaving hard sci-fi, with a character-driven story, Alexandra Almeida creates an excellent story about the consequences of developing technology. There are several elements that enhance the narration, such as the different worlds that form Down Below, described in ways you can almost see them; and getting to know the backstory of the gods, those programmers who created the world, and who got the responsibility of keeping it on control, making it the best for the people.
Sybil, the powerful AI that acts as the control of the metaverse is also an interesting character, pretty unique; zie has a big responsibility, but acts in ways that can confuse Stella and Shadow, sometimes making their task even more difficult, not showing zir authentic intentions. We are also shown how there are still people not believing in joining Down Below, and how they want to preserve what they consider the authentic style of life.
It's a reading that sometimes can feel confusing, due to the number of terms and concepts that get introduced during the narration, being hard on the sci-fi side; and the split timeline requires your full attention to get it. Still, I think Unanimity is a great first novel, and honestly, I wonder how this saga will continue in Parity.
Alexandra Almeida has over 25 years of experience in technology, strategy, and innovation. In her role as Chief Transformation Officer, she acts as a senior advisor to enterprise executives. Alexandra is an experienced speaker at events such as SXSW, and the Women in Tech Series.
For the time being, and to protect her creative freedoms, Alexandra prefers to write using a number of pen names.
Her debut fantasy novel, released under another pen name, has received the following awards and recognition:
- Reader’s Favorite Awards - Gold Medal Winner - Young Adult - Fantasy - Epic
- Reader Views Awards - 1st Place - Fantasy
- CIPA EVVY Book Awards - 2nd Place - Fiction - Mythology
- B.R.A.G. Medallion Recipient
- Eric Hoffer’s Da Vinci Eye Awards Finalist for Best Cover Artwork
- The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Finalist - Books for Adults
- Awesome Indies Approved
Following the self-publishing path by choice to retain full control of her IP, Alexandra invests in the best editors available in the business to match publishing quality standards.