In the face of crises much like our own, “The Ghost of Emily” depicts a prevailing hope in humanity

Most of the books I’ve read, fiction especially, have been from established and relatively popular authors. “The Ghost of Emily,” by James Fox Higgins, breaks that trend. Even though he was already an established musician and creative at the time of writing this book, “Emily” is Higgins’ first foray into novel writing. Despite whatever skepticism I had going in, however, I’m happy to report that “The Ghost of Emily” is an exciting, well-written and deeply thoughtful science fiction thriller. People should pick it up for a provocative and challenging projection of contemporary culture and science into the future; they should keep reading for a hopeful and refreshingly optimistic story of perseverance and, perhaps, resolution.

“Emily” is the first book in “The Ghosts of Men,” an ongoing science fiction trilogy. It’s an apocalyptic novel with story lines set in the near and distant future before and after a world-changing disaster. Before the disaster, Dr. Marcus Hamlin and a team of fellow scientists are commissioned to build a potentially world-saving AI system. Post-apocalypse, Jake Thorne and his family attempt to survive among hostile humans and mysterious ghost-like creatures. 

The post-apocalyptic story line, while violent and gritty, also has an endearing depiction of family. It helps give the story heart, but it also makes the characters believable and sympathetic. Even the story’s villain has enough of a backstory for the reader to care about him.

The post-apocalyptic story line, while violent and gritty, also has an endearing depiction of family”

While the near-future story isn’t as down-to-earth, it’s still intriguing in its own right. The Daedalus Project, the near-future central plot point, is an ambitious but mysterious project whose true intentions are revealed only gradually over the course of the book. It’s also clear that Higgins has done enough homework on computer engineering and artificial intelligence to write science fiction that sounds plausible, if not realistic.

In addition to being technologically literate, “Emily touches on philosophical issues surrounding technological development. Can we develop technology that will improve humanity? Eliminate suffering? Should we? While Marcus and co. are asking these questions, the surrounding world is dealing with a pandemic, economic collapse and a possible war oncoming, among other things. The book was originally published in 2017, but these crises, at least in essence, reflect more recent current events. The spread of the Doukkala Flu and war in Europe in the book especially have some interesting synchronicity with the current COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine. In the context of these current events, the book’s question of the meaning of suffering becomes especially poignant and makes the book well worth reading.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is that while it’s sometimes bleak, it never becomes nihilistic. I would attribute this in part to Higgins’ Christian faith. There’s also a clear idea of what the protagonists and antagonists stand for in this book, which, in my opinion, is refreshingly unjaded for the apocalypse genre. The book expresses a belief in mankind’s capacity to still be good even when faced with difficult, and even tragic, circumstances. While Higgins shows the apocalypse to be a result of our fallen nature, he also shows a desire to persevere and perhaps even make amends.

There’s also a clear idea of what the protagonists and antagonists stand for in this book, which, in my opinion, is refreshingly unjaded for the apocalypse genre”

In addition to being available in print and e-book book formats, “The Ghost of Emily” is also available as an audio book. That being said, no matter which version of the book you choose, if you’re a fan of science fiction with well-written action and strong philosophical undertones, I would recommend “The Ghost of Emily” as part of your summer reading list. If you like it enough, book two, “The Ghost of Delacroix,” is also in publication with book three hopefully coming sometime soon.