Forced Conversion plays to Donald Bingle’s strengths. He is excellent at taking situations and finding both the problems that nobody’s ever thought of yet… as well as the solutions to those problems.
The setup is pretty straightforward. In the near future, we’ve figured out how to upload consciousness (often, though wrongly, treated as synonymous with the Singularity). Most of the world’s population has. But there are the (mostly devoutly religious) “malcontents” remaining who threaten the stability of the converted… and there are the Conversion forces who hunt them down to bring them into the fold… or else.
There are aspects of military SF here, but only some. This isn’t a John Wayne movie with blasters; there are no clear black and white “good guys” and “bad guys”. Ultimately, Forced Conversion is an exploration of the world after the Singularity… and the consequences of that world.
There are twists and turns that you’ve probably not seen in this kind of near-future fiction before… and better yet, the twists and turns make perfect sense. This is a fully-imagined world, with every action having real and measurable consequences. That kind of attention to detail can (and does) make plot twists that could be cheap hacks into masterful plotting.
There were only two things that nagged at me, both personal preferences. All the characters, were deeply flawed in all-too-human ways. Realistic ways. And I didn’t like any of them. The protagonists were far more decent people than many of the other characters, but I had a hard time liking them. Second, there’s an occasional intrusion of narrative voice and point-of-view shifts, which is just something that bugs me slightly.
Overall, Forced Conversion is a well-plotted story that takes a trope of modern SF – the ability to “upload” – and examines the probable outcomes of that technological development. Well worth reading.