Title: A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
Reviewed by: Tim George and Jake Chism
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Marcher Lord Press
Publication Date: October 2009
Tim George’s Review:
I am a debugger. For all you freeheads that means I serve at the whim of my masters, the Abduls, to correct whatever goes wrong with their machines. And they have many machines, all designed to do their work for them. Then again that is also why they have me. But I guess this is all hard for you to understand since you are freeheads, unhindered by the constraints of an implant that prevents you from disobeying your masters in any way.
Do I have your interest yet? Kerry Nietz debut novel is about as an inventive and thought provoking a piece of Science Fiction (any fiction for that matter) I have come across in a long time. Written in first person and at times direct narrative to the reader, A Star Curiously Singing places you inside the head of one small cog in the machine of a future world dominated by a global fundamentalist religion. That cog is Sandfly, a debugger. Like all debuggers, he has served at the will of his master since the age of ten, that obedience insured by a surgically implanted and state approved conscience. While we are never told the name of this all-pervasive religion, Nietz leaves little doubt what he modeled this future world after. In one candid moment the main character relates how Sharia Law became the law of the world: “We struck and then we hid. We talked peace while planning destruction. We used our own brothers’ suffering as fuel against those who were more sympathetic of such things. We sowed discontent.”
Sandfly is sent by his master to a place few of his world ever go, space. There he discovers a fantastic secret tool of interstellar exploration known as Dark Trench. What happens next is left for you to find out. You, meaning all you freeheads that dare read A Star Curiously Singing. People like Sandfly have paid a terrible price for instant and direct access to all the information of the world, freedom to think for themselves, and freedom to know the truth.
While some may take offence at obvious allusions to Muslim Fundamentalism and the kind of life such a movement might bring to a world dominated by it, this story goes much deeper than any one religion. In some ways it takes a swipe at all works oriented religions. More importantly it leads the reader to consider what Sandfly discovers on Dark Trench. “A” is not God. There is another. One who is so much more. He is “A3”. Does “A” stand for Allah in this story? We are never told. But there is no doubt who “A3” is. He is the One “who stoops” down to man and becomes one of us. He is the One who created all. The One who the stars sing about.
After reading A Star Curiously Singing, I was glad to hear the sequel is already in the publishing stages. Glad because this story ends with Sandfly headed to the stars to learn more about the new song he has just discovered. A song that is about to not only change one lone debugger, but a world.
Jake Chism’s Review:
Sandfly is a debugger, a human programmer that is a worker slave for those who fight to control thought, religion, and freedom. His job is simple: assess the problem and find the solution. At least his job used to be simple, back before he was sent to the space station to fix a malfunctioning bot. Sandlfy’s search for answers creates even greater questions about his purpose and the religion that has been forced upon him. Freedom has always been a foreign concept, even a forbidden one. Now he will stop at nothing to discover the One who stooped down to set him free.
I’ll admit, hardcore sci-fi isn’t my cup of tea, at least when it comes to novels. I love a good sci-fi flick as much as the next guy, and have even delved into some of the Star Wars expanded universe on occasion. However, trusted sources strongly encouraged me to give this one a try, and I’m glad I listened. A Star Curiously Singing is unlike anything I’ve read before, with an original flare that is a beauty to behold.
Kerry Nietz demands our attention with the clever first person narrative of Sandfy. The character’s humor, wit, and determination draw us in and his search for truth and meaning captures our hearts. Throughout the story we are given perfect glimpses into Sandfly’s past that make his story all the more engaging.
This is a fast read, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nietz didn’t spend countless chapters describing this futuristic world. Instead we are dropped right into the middle of Sandfly’s life and we learn things as he does. The back story and explanations we do get flow naturally from the narrative, letting our imaginations soar with just the right amount of direction.
Amidst the superb writing and smart dialog we find a strong message about searching for truth even in the most overwhelming of circumstances. This journey is one that ended too soon for me, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Sandfly and the truth he has discovered.
Review copies provided by Kerry Nietz.