Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber
I had this book out in hardcover from the library - and the audio book ... but never got around to reading it until I bought the paperback. My only regret is that I waited so long!
...set early in the 25th century, hundreds of years after the near total annihilation of humanity by the Gbaba, an alien race hell-bent on eradicating humans from the universe. After decades of war and facing certain defeat, the last remnants of the human race escape and settle on a distant planet, appropriately named Safehold. To ensure they remain undetected by their enemies, the leaders of the survivors ban technology, and genetically adjust the populace to remain in a perpetual pre-industrial state. However, 800 years later, an android of the old world awakens, charged with the task of guiding humanity back onto the path of science, technology and, eventually, the stars.
Clocking in at >700 pages there's a LOT of story in this book - and it's just the start!
I really liked the mind of Merlin - the android who has the mind of a long dead young woman, Nimue - her/his reflections on the world as it has been "programmed" and the task she/he has to bring them back to their technological heritage.
As Weber notes in an interview:
The worst part is having to wait now till July to get the next installment - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/By_Schism_Rent_Asunder
One of the ironies of the book is that Nimue realizes at one point that she is the last Christian in existence … and that she’s a machine. Of course, she’s also the last person in the entire universe who’s ever heard of Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism, Buddhism or any other genuine religion, as well. Yet just as she doesn’t really know if she’s technically “alive” at all, she doesn’t know whether or not she has a soul? Or if Nimue took it with her at the time of her biological death?
Obviously, Nimue is a person adrift, outside the time and place which created her. She’s also effectively immortal, and … she has to deal with the mortality of those she allows herself to love. Not to mention the fact that however laudable her final objectives, and no matter how essential to the long-term survival of the species they may be, the consequences of her actions are inevitably going to lead to an incredibly bloody and vicious cycle of religious warfare.