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Void Star

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A riveting, beautifully written, fugue-like novel of AIs, memory, violence, and mortality

Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying, but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco, where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor. Irina isn’t rich, not quite, but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall and lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs, which are complex to the point of opacity. It’s a good gig, paying enough for the annual visits to the Mayo Clinic that keep her from aging.

Kern has no such access; he’s one of the many refugees in the sprawling drone-built favelas on the city’s periphery, where he lives like a monk, training relentlessly in martial arts, scraping by as a thief and an enforcer. Thales is from a different world entirely—the mathematically inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, he’s fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead.

A ragged stranger accosts Thales and demands to know how much he can remember. Kern flees for his life after robbing the wrong mark. Irina finds a secret in the reflection of a laptop’s screen in her employer’s eyeglasses. None are safe as they’re pushed together by subtle forces that stay just out of sight.

Vivid, tumultuous, and propulsive, Void Star is Zachary Mason’s mind-bending follow-up to his bestselling debut, The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

400 pages, ebook

First published April 11, 2017

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About the author

Zachary Mason

7 books275 followers
I live and work in California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 371 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
398 reviews2,164 followers
June 16, 2017
Posted at Heradas Review

I’m notoriously picky, and it’s hard to find something that checks every one of my boxes: worldbuilding, prose, characters, and story. Usually I’ll find something that hits 2 or 3 of them; a great story, written well, but with weak worldbuilding or characters. Or a top notch world, with vivid characters, but only serviceably written. Void Star nails them all. It’s true literary Speculative Fiction, and a rare find.

It not only has that famous sense of wonder that only SF can do so well, but also elegant prose evidencing an author well acquainted with the great works of literary fiction, solid worldbuilding, an engaging story, and well developed characters that feel like they’ve genuinely lived their lives. It’s a novel of ideas, a hugely ambitious narrative, and a character novel all rolled into one. If elements of Neuromancer and The Diamond Age merged with an epic mythology poem and in the process became more than the sum of their parts, you would have Void Star. I’d call it post-cyberpunk, minus the noir element. There is a mystery present, but no tropey, down on his luck detective piecing it all together while chewing the scenery.

Instead we have three main POVs, which build the narrative like three avalanches, accelerating as they accumulate, eventually converging violently and spiraling out in interesting and unexpected directions. The chapters are very short, often only five or six pages, seventy-seven chapters total in just under four hundred pages, which makes it really approachable. I would often sit down with not much time, intent on only reading a chapter or two, but the short chapters gave it a forward momentum that made it difficult to put down. The conclusion satisfies immensely, and I have a strong feeling that it’s even better on subsequent readings. If I didn’t have a few novels and novellas I still need to read before the Hugo vote this year, I would reread this one right now. I’m considering it a strong contender for the Hugo or Nebula awards next year. I do think it’s a little better suited for the Nebula though, as that award usually embodies novels with terrific prose.

Mason’s prose has an inherent beauty to it, and is a joy to read. It is poetically descriptive in a clever, nebulous way. He describes only just enough to jumpstart your imagination, leaving the hard-edged details for the reader to incorporate into the world themselves. You meet the novel halfway. It makes it highly engaging. It’s an approach that can backfire if handled by a less steady hand, but it’s wonderfully executed here. To me it’s a little reminiscent of Jeff VanderMeer’s prose.

The worldbuilding is so thorough: favelas that are nearly alive with their continually evolving construction by drone, layers of society and culture, poverty and wealth all clashing at their intersections, powerful corporations pulling strings, artificial intelligences that are as distant from us as we are to bacteria. It’s near(ish) far future, but the tech isn’t all state of the art. It’s presented in a much more realistic way; the way things have always been. You might have some tech that is cutting edge (your phone, or tablet, etc), but you still interact with other bits of technology that are nearing their obsolescence (maybe you drive an old carbureted pickup truck, or an antique motorcycle, maybe you use an ancient fax machine at work). In this world there is tech that is still far in the future for us, but to the characters using it, it’s a bit obsolete. This small detail makes all the difference in my suspension of disbelief as a reader, and makes this world that much more comprehensively thought out and impressive.

I love novels that tell a huge, satisfying science fiction story in a relatable world like this. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,878 reviews22.6k followers
March 3, 2020
4.5 stars! Recommended if you like SF novels that make you think. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Void Star (2017) is a brilliant, dense and challenging hard science fiction novel with a literary bent, rich in descriptions and imagery. It’s set in a relatively near future, perhaps a hundred years or so in our future. The chapters alternate between the viewpoints of three characters from vastly different social strata:

• Irina has a vanishingly rare type of cranial implant that enables her to communicate wirelessly with computers, from the simplest electronic devices to the most complex artificial intelligences, in addition to giving her perfect recall ― a true photographic memory. She’s an independent consultant who acts as a troubleshooter for people who are having trouble with their information systems and AIs. But now her latest employer, a vastly wealthy and powerful tycoon, is mounting a chillingly deadly effort to capture her for some unknown but ominous-sounding purpose.

• Kern is one of the numberless poverty-stricken masses who live in favelas outside of the cities, formed of concrete walls and rooms many layers deep. With the help of programs and videos on a scrounged laptop, he has relentlessly trained himself in martial arts, and gets by doing odd enforcement and theft jobs. His latest job, a simple theft of a particular phone, goes bad, and he, like Irina, is on the run, helped by a mysterious woman who coaches him through the phone on where to go and what to do. Oddly, she doesn’t seem to recognize him when they finally meet in person.

• Thales is the youngest son of the former Brazilian Prime Minister, who died in an attack that also left Thales damaged. He’s mathematically brilliant but having memory issues, and is now under medical care in Los Angeles. He, too, has a cranial input that assists his memory and saved his life. But when a ragged stranger accosts him at a hotel, telling him that they are both victims and asking him (before being dragged away by guards) how much he remembers, he realizes that other than a few random memories, he recalls nothing of his life before he was brought to Los Angeles.

These three characters and their plot threads are entirely disconnected at first, only gradually beginning to weave together deep in the story, as the reader is illuminated, along with the characters, that all may not be as it seems.

Void Star contains all kinds of fascinating ideas woven into a complex and rather opaque plot: Climate changes that have made many places unrecognizable. Rejuvenation treatments offered by a future version of the Mayo Clinic that can keep you youthful well into your second hundred years, but are prohibitively expensive for most people ― and if you try to start the treatments too late or miss even one of your annual visits, you’re done for. Automated drones and self-driving automobiles make life easier, at least for those who have resources.

But the world of Void Star is dominated by the AIs, independent of humans and impossibly complex (they’ve been manufacturing and upgrading themselves for several generations), and the ability (and sometimes curse) of people who have implants, allowing them to enter the virtual reality of cyberspace and communicate, to some limited degree, with the AIs that inhabit that space.
… she turns on her implant’s wireless, is instantly aware of the constellations of the thousands of nearby machines. She scans through them and finds the elevator and sees that its software hasn’t been updated in years – infrastructure, she’s noticed, is often lost in the shuffle. She tells it lies like bad patterns whispered in its ear, and it’s soon persuaded that she’s a long overdue maintenance program sent by the manufacturer and by the time the elevator starts to slow it’s entirely hers and she’s never been happier about committing a felony.
In Kern’s laptop game, the “Void Star” is the ultimate challenge, where the final battle with the Lord of Shadows awaits, which has its analog in the plot of this novel. The phrase “Void Star” is also a reference to void * in C and C++ software programming: it’s a pointer to an unspecified type of memory location, which is a a programming technique for more easily building a solution, but a risky one. As one programming website comments, “[t]he disadvantage of using void * is that you throw type safety out the window and into oncoming traffic.” This concept, too, is echoed in the plot of Void Star.

Void Star is an ambitious, literary book that will frustrate some readers and delight others. It reminds me of some of Neal Stephenson‘s work, particularly The Diamond Age (to which Kern’s laptop experience owes a clear debt), although I think Zachary Mason has crafted a much better ending. The language is often ornate and the concepts can be tricky to grasp. Sometimes the details threaten to overwhelm, particularly where the overall picture is elusive, only partially revealed until late in the book. It’s also a claustrophobic world, one where danger is always around the corner, and where what seems to be real may or may not be so. The plot got a little murky at times, but Void Star is so creative and intriguing, with such distinctive characters and ideas, that I loved it anyway. It’s already luring me in for a reread, to see how much more is revealed the second time around.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. Thank you!!

Content advisory: Some violence and adult content, nothing that struck me as overly graphic, and scattered F-bombs.
Profile Image for Charles.
493 reviews79 followers
March 15, 2022
Cyberpunk thriller with extensive world building in which a: Plutarch, rogue AI and cyborg hacker vie against each other to achieve their separate goals.

Wanted to Did-Not-Finish (DNF) this, but like with the fascination of watching a train wreck I held on. The story had good bones as a cyberpunk thriller. It fell apart with the author’s implementation. It was made more complicated than it had to be. The death of it was: the use of a sesquipedalian vocabulary, gross errors in detail while trying to create an immersive atmosphere through a high level-of-detail, a too large cast of POV contributing characters, and overloading an already complicated main plot with sub-plots and location changes.

This story was a cyberpunk thriller with literary pretensions. In a dystopian future with rampant technology, government and environmental collapse, the goals of the world’s richest man and an extremely capable rogue AI unknowingly converge in the person of a independent contractor, cyborged hacker with expertise in communicating with AI’s. An ensemble cast of characters were used. Many cyberpunk and dystopian future tropes were employed. Action takes place at many locations around the changed and changing planet. The story was similar to Neuromancer , which was written before the development of environmental concerns. The author attempts to achieve an immersive atmosphere with an extremely high level of detail and tech infotainment.

My dead-tree copy was a hefty 400-pages. Original US copyright for the story was 2017. Reading pace varied from the turgid to paging though.

The author is a PhD computer scientist and “reimagined classics” novelist.

Prose was frankly appalling. Descriptive prose was long and wordy. Dialog was oddly short in comparison. Both types suffered from poor word usage.

The convention for writing popular fiction, including science fiction is to avoid too many multisyllabic words. Using words a reader is unlikely to know breaks their concentration-- the author loses the reader. For example, this single, long descriptive sentence was typical:

With each passing car there’s a deafening pulse and he’s wondering if he could time them, fling himself through one of the evanescent gaps, and he’s looking for his moment when behind him someone ostentatiously clears his throat.

The author may have a large vocabulary, but it’s likely all his readers do not. In addition, there was unexpected poor word usage with the technical vocabulary. For example, on at least one occasion the author uses bandwidth when throughput was intended.

Oddly, the action scenes were good. They did not suffer from the issues found in the dialog and descriptive prose.

The story contained sex, drugs and violence. The naughty bits were well done, but not particularly graphic. Sex was not all heteronormative, although it was amongst the main characters. I was disappointed at this. Substance abuse including alcohol was endemic in the story. Drugs were both futuristic and mundane. I note that old-fashioned alcohol usage among the characters was at levels typical of noir stories. Violence was graphic and included torture. It was: edged weapons, physical and firearms, including industrial laser usage. There were moderately graphic descriptions of blood, gore and major trauma. Body count was genocidal. Collateral property damage was that of a War Zone.

The story was written with an ensemble cast. There were more POV contributing characters than there needed to be. There were three (3) main POVs: Irina Sundan, Kern (no last name) and Thales (no last name). Switching between the POVs was well handled in short chapters. Sundan and Kern were the main protagonists. Thales was more weakly constructed. Sundan was the cyborg, an AI Whisperer. She’s the Magical Girl Warrior . Through her implant she could magically hack dystopia’s Internet of Things: opening locked doors, disabling enemies, and in general performing deus ex machina duties. Kern (no last name) was the autistic savant ninja, petty thief, and morador da favela (slum dweller). He was the story’s unwitting, and uncomplaining Paladin . Thales was the cyborged, son of a Brazilian politician. He was an awkwardly created character that felt added-on to the story in a late review. His part only becomes clear at the story’s end. Akima (no last name) was a minor character closely related to Thales, but contributes no POV to the story. She’s a woman who comes to the Big City to reinvent herself and makes Bad Choices. She’s also Kern’s femme fatale (mostly). All the characters above are either being manipulated by or in conflict with the antagonists. The story’s antagonists were James Croswell and the rogue AI. Through his enormous wealth, in the future plutocracy, Cromwell was the Lawfully Evil King . Cromwell’s competitor was an AI which had escaped into the wild and remains undercover. The AI can access and hijack computer controlled resources as it needed. The AI was at least as powerful as Cromwell. It had competing interests with Croswell. There were numerous supporting characters from the: demimonde, corporate worker-bees, and the moneyed aristocracy. There were also a few AIs counting as characters.

The story heavily leveraged noir-ish cyberpunk tropes. The mutable Crapsack World trope created a dystopian future of an in-progress environmental, economic and representative government collapse and rampant high-technology. Sunden was an independent, cyborged expert with AIs. Cromwell was the planet’s richest man. Cromwell hires Sunden to ‘investigate’ a problem with one of his business critical AI’s. He’s being disingenuous. The engagement leads to the Colliding Conspiracies of the main plot. Cromwell wants to use Sunden to gain leverage on a powerful rogue AI. At the start of the story both Cromwell and Sunden are unaware of Sunden’s relationship with the AI. The author uses the dueling POVs of the Two Lines, No Waiting trope. Irina was on one fork and the Kern character on the other. Kern was a peculiar small time thief. He was hired to steal an unusual communications device. However, he was Robbing The Mob Bank. Actually the covert rogue AI. Both narrative threads lead back to the rogue AI overtly involved with Croswell and later not-so-secretly with Sunden. The author takes the characters on the dystopian World Tour whilst resolving the narrative threads. The story ends, and the author spends several needless chapters describing how the kids are alright, which was not a typical noir-ish ending.

The author started out with a good story well within the cyberpunk sub-genre. World building was a strong point of the story. The author was knowledgeable about future trends in technology, politics and economics. However, he decided to write literary science fiction and didn’t know how to do it.

The story was made overly complicated with a too large an ensemble cast. For example, the two (2) main POVs (Irena and Kern) would have been enough.

The prose was riddled with multisyllabic words that did not improve the narration. I came to see it as pure hubris on the author’s part. This was frustrating, because the author could be good at descriptive prose. Unfortunately, he too often gilded dialog and descriptions beyond common understanding with the polysyllabic words of scientific journals.

Atmosphere is an important aspect of noir-ish novels, cyberpunk or otherwise. The author went to an extreme level of detail to create an immersive atmosphere for the story. Note that he used these descriptions as infotainment too. This was a big writing error in two (2) ways. Firstly, he was too controlling. His overly detailed descriptions robbed the reader of creative ambiguity. That’s where the reader’s imagination is pleasurably engaged in creating possible meanings and scene backgrounds. Note that creative ambiguity can also save an author a lot of words. However, word count did not appear to be a concern of this author. Secondly, The Devil was in the details. Some of the author's descriptions/infotainments were wrong . The author lost a lot of hard written work building an immersive atmosphere by leaving it riddled with errors and inconsistencies.

For example, the little things count:
He pads naked into the bathroom, which is tiled in smooth stone—easing the light on, he sees it’s granite, mottled with the cross-sections of tiny fossil shells.

Kern describes the “granite” tiles of the first luxury hotel room’s bathroom he’s ever seen. They have the imprint of fossil seashells embedded in them. Granite is an igneous rock. Fossils only appear in sedimentary rock.

This also extended to muscling the technical details. Sometimes he was technically very real-- other times not. My suspension-of-believe was flicking on-and-off at too high a rate for comfort.

For example, Sunden’s implant let her perform magic. The implant’s capabilities are described in great technical detail. (Its her magic sword!) Radio frequency transmissions use power (electrical wattage). I wondered, where did the power needed to drive the distant, high-bandwidth, Wi-Fi connections she often made with her implant? (She did this to miraculously and regularly hack the internet-of-things.) There was no description of her plugging in to re-charge her head batteries overnight. I note that Kern’s magic, stolen cell phone, despite being able to get a signal anywhere still required battery charging.

Finally, the author took the story on The World Tour. The locales included: San Francisco, Los Angles, Singapore, Delhi, Tokyo, and London to name a few. Some of them were good. For example, I liked the Beanstalk island . However, the story could easily have been written between San Francisco and Los Angles with the Beanstalk island and maybe Singapore for its part in Sunden’s backstory. That's four (4) locales versus more than ten (10). Again, I came to see the use of so many foreign locations as the author’s hubris.

This was a terrible book. I wondered how this book garnered such good reviews? It could have been a good, work of popular cyberpunk science fiction. The author had a firm grasp on the futurism needed to write one. The basic story idea was good. I could see the cyberpunk influence of both William Gibson and Richard K. Morgan in it. However, he tried to write literary science fiction. That decision added an unneeded 100-pages to the book. Along the way, he forgot about his audience. They were more likely, to be the Hoi polloi and not PhDs like him. The story he wrote read like a technical journal. He sabotaged his efforts at an immersive atmosphere by being both overly detailed, and then not paying strict attention to the correctness of the details. He created a large ensemble cast of characters, not all of them good. He embroidered too many sub-plots into an already complicated main plot. He wasted pages on foreign locations and world travel. And finally, he ensured there was a happy ending with needless chapters after the story had ended.

This book had a few good ideas, and good world building. It failed miserably in its implementation. I only completed it, because it was a shining example of how not to write science fiction.

Readers looking for a better story might want to check out the classic work of cyberpunk Neuromancer discussed above.
Profile Image for Aaron.
201 reviews21 followers
April 8, 2017
A book about technology, artificial intelligence, immortality, memory, the nature of existence itself... and confusion. That last one tends to dominate, for better or worse. I've seen reviews that love the book's florid descriptions and the depth of insight, and others that find it all impenetrably detached, slow-going, overly confusing. I land somewhere in between: Void Star is all of that and more, flawed and brilliant, ponderous and fascinating in turns. The technology shines brighter than the characters, and the plot is rather hard to follow, but there's something here that kept me going. I have no problem setting a book aside if it isn't holding my interest; this one took patience, but I'm glad I saw it through.

Mason writes what you might call "literary near-future SF": think latter-day William Gibson with the "detached chill" knob dimed. Descriptions are pristine and nearly constant, rich in $10 words like "imbricate" and "arabescato" that do fit rather well, despite their tendency to disorient. Human behaviors are coolly observed, subtle psychological insights described through a layer of glass, almost clinical in their sense of remove. The prose is sharp but often obtuse without meaning to be, like something written by a scientist who can't quite disengage the full weight of his intellect, so it has a tendency to dip into the pretentious zone. Similarly, the narrative is built around three unrelated characters whose actions and backgrounds we don't fully understand until much, much further into the book, which lends a sense of comfortable incomprehension (if that makes any sense at all): the language is generally gorgeous, and the snapshots of action within each chapter (some incredibly short, which I honestly love) are often fascinating on their own, but wrapping your head around the larger picture is an exercise in frustration until the final third of the novel.

Where Void Star shines, however, is in its vision: Mason, in the real world, spends his days as a computer engineer or something similar, studying artificial intelligence, and that deep understanding of unknowable complexity informs the story at every turn. Memory implants, rejuvenation treatments, perpetual surveillance, full integration of robotics into society... Mason's vision of the world in a hundred years feels less like science fiction and much closer to our own world after a few more generations of technological development. That is to say, it feels real. His vision of a "smart" laptop designed by an NGO to teach impoverished children to survive by any means necessary is brilliant; it occupies a single chapter of the book, but it's so perfectly drawn it ends up pulling the disparate threads of plot into something resembling relief against the backdrop of endless description and disorienting perspectives. Inevitably, a lot of readers will find this book frustrating, which isn't to say it's particularly hard to read—it just takes patience. Whether it's worth it is ultimately up to you. Caveats aside, I took my time and enjoyed myself.
Profile Image for Carlos.
586 reviews285 followers
October 4, 2017
This book was very intricate, it’s plot was way too complicated and it feels like the author tried to do something way too big , it worked up to half the book but after that it just fell apart . The intent of the author was good but the science was not easily explained and the ending was not clear at all. Kudos for trying but the ending went over my head.
Author 2 books15 followers
March 15, 2017
One of my favorite SF novels of the year thus far. Not for everyone, but if you like thoughtful, philosophical, forward-thinking fiction that grapples with technology, this is a gorgeous book. Mason writes with the cold clarity of an AI.
Profile Image for Ryan.
167 reviews6 followers
January 11, 2018
Neuromancer updated to the 21st century. Our Case-analog is a sort of AI therapist, or translator, or envoy of humanity. She comes equipped with a risky and extremely rare neural implant that includes wireless Net access and extensive hacking capabilities, as well as a nearly bottomless perfect-fidelity memory store filled with every moment experienced since the moment of installation. The characters are diverse, and the AIs suitably inscrutable and disinterested in the physical realm. The prose is brilliantly evocative, though a bit measured, and, perhaps, equipped with too many commas.
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews655 followers
June 8, 2017
I have often wished that Neal Stephenson or William Gibson would write more novels (or possibly collaborate on one?), and I get the impression that Zachary Mason felt the same way and decided to take matters into his own hands. High five.
Profile Image for Nicki Markus.
Author 63 books258 followers
March 20, 2017
Void Star is a tough book for me to review. I didn't dislike it per se; it simply never grabbed me. I failed to connect with any of the characters, and though I read to the end, I never reached a point where I cared about their dilemmas or what would happen to them. Neither the character nor the plot inspired me to the point where the story truly gripped me. Although the premise appealed to me when reading the blurb, perhaps this just wasn't the right book for me. Maybe other, more hardcore, sci-fi readers will find it enjoyable, but for me it was only 2.5 stars.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley.
1 review1 follower
March 22, 2017
After the brilliance of Mason's "Lost Books of the Odyssey", I was eagerly awaiting his next book. Although different in both format (a traditional novel, not a collection of vignettes) and setting (the near future, versus the heroic past), "Void Star" doesn't disappoint. (The title is a sly reference to a common trick in C/C++ programming, allowing the programmer to undermine the safety features of the language in order to build a solution more quickly.)

Like the Achilles of the Lost Books, the hero of Void Star is a professional fighter/killer, a passionate, cerebral young man caught in a treacherous international intrigue from which there seems no escape but violent death. By putting him in a very plausible dystopian landscape -- a North America of favelas and criminal cartels -- Mason makes him and the other characters all the more vivid: they are the children or grandchildren of people alive today.

If your tastes in fiction tend to to space-opera spectacle, or encounters with wise, gentle aliens who teach us Important Life Lessons, then Void Star probably isn't for you. But if you are old enough to remember the thrill of early cyberpunk fiction (William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, et al.) or enjoy the rich near-future dystopias of Paolo Baciagalupi or China Mieville -- or if you just enjoy beautiful, skillfully-crafted narrative -- I can't think of a more exciting new novel than Void Star.
Profile Image for Leo Walsh.
Author 3 books93 followers
August 23, 2018
VOID STAR by Zachary Mason is an interesting, tightly-plotted cyberpunk novel. Part of me thinks, "Hey... this is William Gibson, but with without characters who are heavy drug users." yet the tale maintains many Gibson-like qualities, like Mason's focus, is on AI and cyber technology and how it can, and will, impact culture.

But Mason draws on other sources as well. Indeed, there are parts that read like an updated holy knight or Buddhist warrior-monk story. This is a world where people fight and kill, and yet there's honor in the pursuit, not brutality. And there is a distinctly Philip K. Dick-like surreal edge to many of the sections. Since I love PKD, well... I'll just say it worked for me.

Big-picture aside, the story is hard to grasp at first since three intertwining stories as set into motion, and Mason flips between them. It's disorienting, but Mason's gives readers (at least this one) just enough connection to pull me forward, wondering about the characters and what they're doing which pulls you in. And before long, I was hooked.

The novel's more-or-less hero is Irina, a highly talented computer expert whose implants maker her quite simpatico with AI's, which are super-smart but not yet Turning-Test-Ready due to computing power constraints in Mason's near future universe. Still, AI's handle most of the engineering design work in this world. This creates a social structure where a handful of coders control all the wealth, leaving the rest of the world poor and often scrapping for food.

We see this reality through the next character, Kern. An orphaned street urchin who, A young Kern finds a by a by-then outmoded laptop with an education module on it while scavenging. He fires it up, and the computer's education AI determines that the best way to teach the teen boy was via a first-person shooter/ action-adventure computer game. Along with thrilling fight simulations, it taught Kern math and reading skills which were needed to solve puzzles in the game. What's more, responding to Kern's inclinations, the educational AI has fed him all sorts of classical warrior mythos in order to keep him reading, so he's read thousands of pages on Bushido and Zen warrior-monks, as well as western Christian knights. This makes Kern a compelling character. He's young and deadly with his hands and yet innocent and idealistic.

The third character is the son of a Brazilian diplomat named Thales. He's severely injured during the assassination of his father. Part of his treatment includes a memory implant similar to the one Irina has.

Once these characters are introduced, Mason begins weaving the plots together into a complex strand that's compelling. It's one-part THE MATRIX, one-part INCEPTION and one-part TOTAL RECALL. I'll give no spoilers, but it includes a lot of stuff that's just plain cool. MMA fights. real sword fights in Japan, and a completely immersive virtual reality. And there's plenty pulp-fictional goodness, like people confronting both their inner demons and external villains and, despite the long odds, standing up to do the honorable thing. And the villain's to die for, and yet beleiveable... making VOIS STAR a pulp fiction gem.

I'm sure some readers will find the plot too complex. There were times when I had to page back, re-read until I realized what was happening. But it all snapped together in the end into a satisfying whole. That sort-of updates the Arthurian legends and brings them to life in a near-singularity near-future.

A science fiction page-turner. Four stars. Not perfect bu perfectly enjoyable.
2 reviews
April 14, 2017
This book is an exceptional achievement. It's beautifully written, visually captivating, emotionally intelligent, and above all it makes you think about common futurist topics in new and insightful ways. Best book on it's subject since Accelerando. Arguably better even. To say it is challenging is not a critique so much as an accolade. In fact I didn't find it particularly challenging, it was just intellectually stimulating in the best way.

I don't understand those who rate a book lowly because it's over their head, or they couldn't find the attention span to get past the first few chapters. Complaining that a novel is too literary, is like complaining that your shower gets you too wet. It seems the popular taste buds have the same evolutionary blind spots in literature as in nutrition.

If you can read at a college level and are interested in exploring futurist topics through story telling with a nutritional value then this is the book for you. It's not overly abstract, it's totally comprehensible. The prose is written beautifully, and the imagery is consistently cinematic. The characters are complex. My only criticism is that for a book contemplating the boundaries of experience, the archetypes are rather traditional. But that's a small complaint. I've been craving a satisfying book on these topics for awhile and this totally hit the spot.
Profile Image for Scott Waldie.
627 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2017
I was so distracted by the grandiloquent prose in this one that I almost didn't notice there was a story here, or any characters living it. Too poetic, if that's possible. Author is talented with his words, no doubt, but dialing back every sensation, every stream of thought about every motion and process occurring in the setting and to the characters would have served the novel better for me. At times it felt like watching Ghost in the Shell or some similar near-future, tech-philosophy film in Slow Mo, and certainly there's an audience for that, but I just wasn't in it this time.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,146 reviews49 followers
May 26, 2017
If I paid someone $12.99 to masturbate, I'd think 387 cum pages were a bargain. But since I intended to buy a novel, I feel like I've been ripped off. "Void Star" is the kind of pretentious twaddle that tries to intimidate readers into thinking its garbled story and hollow grandiloquence constitutes art, kind of like your stoner friend in high school who overstuffs his poetry with classical allusions to mask the fact that he's writing about absolutely nothing. Shadows become penumbras early in "Void Star," and like a fool, I kept reading, hoping I'd stumble across meaning at some point. I didn't.

In fairness, to which I'm disinclined but still feel obliged to simulate, Mason is writing about some rather complex and abstract topics -- artificial intelligence becoming sentient, f'rinstance. It's entirely possible that since I prefer literary fiction and am not a gamer, much of "Void Star" went over my head. But that's true of all the cyberpunk I've read, none of which I've hated with this much ferocity, which leads me to believe that "Void Star" is aptly named -- a big, shiny, empty ball.

I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this book.
1 review
March 27, 2017
This book blew my mind. Simply put, Mason is brilliant. Through the crisp, poetic clarity of his prose, prepare to be swept around the world and back on a dazzling flight that will leave you breathless. Void Star will drop you in a near-future world unsettlingly similar to our own. In fact, at times it reads a little like a dire and all-too-likely prediction of what lies ahead. Though other writers have played with the perfect memory trope, here it's deftly handled and well-integrated. This isn't a simple book, but taking the time to soak in its multilayered narrative is highly rewarding. Under the grit and hard edges lies beauty and soulfulness finding its shape in restrained sentences packed with meaning. I've never read anything like this book. In its scope, voice, and themes, it defies genre. At a time when "new" media isn't much but rehashing old stories (seriously, I cannot - will not - watch one more Spiderman movie), Void Star is fantastically, refreshingly original.
Profile Image for Bon Tom.
846 reviews56 followers
November 19, 2017
Damn. I usually like complex books, but ccomplexity here seemed a bit self servient. Without trace of irony, I know there's value somewhere inside and I'm sorry because I couldn't extract it. But the basic premise and occasional glimpses of insight and clarity are so promising that I think I'll have to give it another go, after I find some good guide written by some noble Goodreader, or at least synopsis. To all who intend to read it: this is the one you don't read at your usual speed. Don't you dare even try it. Go slow and be prepared to go back if you miss something, otherwise you'll waste your time and become frustrated.
Profile Image for Bryan at Postmarked from the Stars.
211 reviews22 followers
May 7, 2020
This book falls into a shortlist of my favorite sci-fi books published in the last 10 years.

Mason is a genius. No, seriously, he's a genius. Don't take my word for it... just read the Wired piece from April 2017.

"Mason has always been fascinated by how the "brains" of computers work. “When I was seven, I remember lying in bed and thinking about how great it would be to teach a computer to talk,” he says. When he attended college at 14 (yes, 14, at Harvey Mudd College), he resolved to answer these questions. After getting a Ph.D. in computer science and artificial intelligence, he tried to figure it out through machine learning. He worked on the recommender system at Amazon, and he now heads up R&D at Intellus Learning, an educational tech company that provides digital learning materials to institutions."

I've thought a lot about this book since I finished it. It's really, really good. Not only is it a gritty, believable near-future novel... but it has good characters. This next anecdote falls in random sci-fi ideas/scenes I love category but I freaking loved this idea/subplot.

(While the scenes I really loved take place way earlier in the book, pages 348-349 contextualized what was actually happening.)

"She wonders how he achieved this without any education or even so much as a coach but sees he had a laptop fro the Chiron Foundation, a 21st-century NGO that had meant to save the world's discarded children with computers and design. There's a copy of Kern's laptop's hard drive (she's distantly aware that it comes from W&P's security section but at this point, it feels natural that all data is hers).

Ker's laptop originally belonged to one of Chiron's coders, who seems to have died - it was idle for forty-two years, then one day found itself with an unknown user. This user, it decided was Spanish-speaking, illiterate, unsupervised, probably traumatized, perhaps twelve, and young for his age. Recognizing a client, it launched its game, which, she sees, was lovely, its texture taken from fairy tales and Icelandic Eddas.

Through Great pains and many tricks the laptop coaxed him through the equivalent of an eighth-grade education, until, feeling his attention wane, it played its trump card, a second-person shooter designed around the principle that the best way to engage an unsupervised adolescent boy is with the promise of a really powerful gun. Nominally a gothic melodrama about an alien invasion, the game was frantically maneuvering to give him what he'd need to grow up and survive. (the climactic boss fight was on a satellite called the Void Star, which, according to the comments in the source code, was a cryptic joke, an oddly hopeful reference to an archaic programming language in which void star was a reference to a thing for mutable kind, which spoke to the coders of the chance for metamorphosis.)

Postgame, the laptop tried to get him to learn useful skills - nursing, computer programming, how to maintain and operate now desperately obsolete drones -- but he was only interested in its library's books on martial arts, physical training, and war; he'd study one book obsessively, reading it hundreds of times, and spend days playing fight videos one frame at a time. His journal records his scientific austerities, and how meticulously he drove himself, all apparently toward becoming a kind of secular saint of battle, a quixotic and obviously absurd goal in which he somehow succeeded."

The aforementioned Wired article also touched on something important:

"Mason finds no tension in the fact that he works with AI today and imagines a future governed by them tomorrow. To him, the villains aren’t the AI: They’re the people who misuse AI to perpetuate very human aims. The AI aren’t greedy, or malicious—that would require human sentiment and desire—but the moral calculus of plutocrats can shift when utilizing the inhuman capabilities of AI. Mason didn’t write Void Star to criticize the motivation of the tech elite, but to point out where that motivation might lead. “I didn’t set out to critique Peter Thiel’s vision of a bold new tomorrow,” he says. “I just wanted to engage with what I saw, and with the world that seemed to be implicit in the present.”'

I honestly worry a lot about the future and how we will develop technologies to support our growth as a species or possibly enslave us all through surveillance and systemic, organized oppression. Mason's work is truly impressive. I wish I would have stumbled upon it sooner!

Wired Link: https://www.wired.com/2017/04/void-st...
Profile Image for Andrew.
655 reviews183 followers
May 3, 2017
Void Star by Zachary Mason, is a cyberpunk-style science fiction novel that takes place in the near distant future. The book follows a couple of characters: Irina, a women with special implants that allows her to examine complex AI. Kern, a boxer from the massive slums of San Francisco, who bites off more than he knows when he steals a prototype cellphone. Thales, son of a Brazilian politician, who is slumming in his expensive car around the city. These characters become embroiled in a mysterious plot by a tycoon, Cromwell, who has mysterious designs over the archived memories of our main characters. Irina discovers one of Cromwell's AIs has been hacked by an unknown entity, and becomes a target. She flees, while trying to get to the bottom of the plot against her. Kern becomes involved when someone on the other end of the phone he has stolen starts issuing instructions. Thales becomes suspicious after a surgeon he has been seeing recently due to a previous injury starts toying with his computer implant, and possibly altering his mood, thoughts and understanding of the world around him.

This book is a bit of a mind bender. It plays on themes of memory, immortality and artificial intelligence. Mason has written a compelling science fiction novel, very much in the cyberpunk sub-genre. The atmosphere is gritty, dystopic and high tech. The world is fragmented, and many gray areas outside of the law exist for businesses and criminals to ply their trade. Events in the book often lead to questions of existence, and the lines between real and artificial begin to blur. The book touches on many interesting topics in the high tech world - AI, online security and privacy, private sector power, and consumer culture. Their are a lot of interesting themes in Void Star.

All in all, this was an interesting book. It was a compelling and interesting read, and heavily inspired by the likes of Neuromancer or Blade Runner. It jumps on and off the net, questions existence in the virtual world, and has the feeling of an early cyberpunk story while still maintaining a modern feel. It was a refreshing science fiction read in a genre becoming crowded with similar ideas. Mason has written a great book, and one worthy of a read for fans of the cyberpunk genre, and those looking for a more grounded science fiction novel.
Profile Image for Jon Nelson.
7 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2017
This will be an odd review, because I'm going to spend most of it talking about a different author.

Reading Void Star was a really interesting experience. It's a pitch-perfect Gibsonian cyberpunk novel in the style of the Sprawl trilogy, only it just came out and was written by a guy named Zachary Mason. It's obviously very directly inspired by Neuromancer and can't hope to achieve the same cultural import in its wake. But it's... kind of a better book in a lot of ways.

The thing about William Gibson is that his novels are mostly delivery vehicles for his fetishistic aesthetic obsessions. They have plots and characters, though the interaction between those two is often minimal - Gibson's characters rarely have much agency and their role is often to simply witness pivotal moments in clashes between larger, impersonal forces. His plots aren't without thrilling moments, but they're not typically very memorable overall. What sticks with me are the images they're built around.

Neuromancer came about because Gibson saw someone playing an early wireframe 3D game in an arcade and realized that the player was inhabiting an abstract digital space inside a computer that existed alongside our own physical space. He imagined this space expanding from a small, personal experience into a fully realized world that people of the future could visit and eventually come to live in - a cyberspace of glowing, abstract forms that we could use to escape from our mundane "meatspace". That's an incredibly compelling image, and it made for an astonishing book.

His later stuff isn't so consistent. He went through a phase of escalating object-fetishism. I didn't make it through the Blue Ant trilogy but I understand one of the volumes is about a cool pair of pants or something. He seems to be moving away from that as of late: The Peripheral centers on an unusual time travel mechanic and a wasted future, and it's a very good read.

I've read a lot of cyberpunk that imitates the early Gibsonian aesthetics, but doesn't quite pull it off - there's always something wrong with the mix, and it comes off comic-bookish, or cheap, or just weirdly nostalgic. The thing is, Void Star nails it. So many of the themes that made cyberpunk exciting are here - not in the exact same form as they were in the 80s, but in new and interesting versions that have grown with the times. I wasn't convinced I'd ever read a new book this good that felt like real cyberpunk. But the other thing is: until reading this, I sort of assumed that a book like Neuromancer required a certain amount of navel gazing because of how it's driven by a singular aesthetic obsession. But Void Star manages to avoid that - it has a brisk plot that's actually driven by the main characters, and captures the early cyberpunk aesthetic without indulging in the obsessive Cornell-box making urge that Gibson gives in to.

Previously, I would have told anyone looking to get into cyberpunk to start with Neuromancer. I think Void Star has actually managed to supplant it.
Profile Image for Regan.
234 reviews
April 29, 2017
Forgive me, but I can't pick up this book without hearing David Bowie's "Black Star" and needing to sing a couple of bars of it before reading: "I'm a Void Star, I'm a Void Star; I'm not a monst[aa]r, ahhhhh ohhhhh aaaaaa." Singing the song several several times over led me to the totally unstoned conclusion that these works of art categorically belong together. One category under which they fall (for me) is Perplexing Things. Others are Sci-Fi, “Genre Fiction,” Discursive Fiction, Detailed Fodder for RPG DMs.

I admire Mr. Mason immensely. Lost Books of the Odyssey was excellent, and the audacity of a first-time novelist daring to interpolate the greatest story ever told is...well, ballsy. Even as a consummate Ancient Snob I remain duly impressed. LBOTO has nothing to do with Bowie's Blackstar, and yet they both fall under my personal category: In the Presence of Skin-Prickling Genius.

I can’t say that Mason’s second novel impressed me on the same level. He’s got a lot of very smart, interesting, philosophical ideas about time, memory and self-hood going on, but the attempt to reflect those ideas into the form of the novel itself seemed to me overburdened. He had too many good ideas; given more revisions I think Mason could’ve hit that sweet spot where form and content inform each other seamlessly.

I’ll still read everything the man writes. This didn’t thrill me like the first, but it also didn’t leave me in doubt of Mason’s talent.
Profile Image for Emmett Mottl.
13 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2017
There's many fascinating ideas in this novel, but it sorely lacks a sense of place. The idea of towering cities built by autonomous drones and AIs is lovely, but I had a difficult time putting together the fragments of the world that Zachary Mason created. Much like the characters, I finished the story with little sense of what the world was like, other than a terrible, diluvian badland covered in concrete and badass sword fighting clubs. Don't get me wrong, there's some sicknasty wordplay here and beautiful descriptions, but there's far too much confusion for the sake of confusion. Why are cities getting built upwards by robots? How is food supplied when literally everyone lives in either a favela, a hardened hotel with a standing army, or a clinical citadel with a standing army? A lot of it is generic science fiction plopped in to buttress the point Mason is trying to get to— AI is inherently unknowable.

I imagine some of the confusion is by design (because future), but sometimes when reading this I, too, felt like I was in a fugue state. Also, the Yakuza seem to be the only rational and reasonable players in this world, and they are the ones running the sword fight death matches.
Profile Image for The Bibliofool.
25 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2017
I'd give this just under three stars if I could. I found this incredibly dense, sprawling, and challenging. Mason is obviously an extremely gifted writer, capable of towering world building and mind-bending technical prowess, but this book was overly long for me and I could sense early on that the payoff wasn't going to pay off the way I wanted it to. Certainly an achievement and dystopian sci-fi heads will probably love it, but I just didn't connect to the characters or the exhausting interweaving of their respective narratives.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,800 reviews479 followers
June 25, 2017
I was not enjoying this book at all and I made it to about the 15% point before giving up. Maybe you need to be a gamer to know (or care) what's going on here, but for me this was just not a pleasant experience. I also confess that I am not a fan of first person present tense narratives. I received a free copy of the ebook from the publisher, but I wound up listening to the audiobook borrowed from the library.
3 reviews
April 27, 2017

Like watching a movie while doing mushrooms...everything is vivid and runs into each other and is amazing. Great writing! Kudos.
Profile Image for Oriente.
315 reviews35 followers
September 1, 2019
Nehéz falat volt. Hamarabb jóllaktam vele, mintsemhogy véget ért volna, így az utolsó fejezeteket már kicsit erőltetnem kellett, nehogy eltoljam magamtól.

A tartalmáról, meg a klasszikus cyberpunk-kal való viszonyáról már többen értekeztek előttem, én most csak néhány egyszerű gondolatot osztanék meg arról, szerintem mitől jó és mitől mégsem annyira jó ez a regény.
Először is a szöveg, az nagyon virtuóz: bonyolult, tömény, rengeteg képpel operál, szóval az a koncentrálós fajta, amivel egy Bartók Béla úti villamosan kapaszkodva gyakorlatilag esélytelen lépést tartani – ha kicsit is lankad a figyelmed, kipenderít a fúga. Mondjuk ilyen könyveket szeretnék azok kezébe nyomni, akik még mindig azt gondolják, hogy a science fiction és a szépirodalom két különböző dolog, és nemcsak a tematikai fókusz gyömöszöli ezeket a műveket meghatározott fogyasztói kategóriákba és polcokra. Azt is szerettem, hogy Mason meri nem megmagyarázni a jövőképét, csak elárasztja vele a lapjait és hagyja, hogy az olvasó rakja össze a hátteret a vágóképekből, illetve abból amit az ökológiai veszélyekről, a társadalmi folyamatok irányáról, a neurológiai kutatások és mesterséges intelligencia fejlődéséről pillanatnyilag sejteni vél.
Másrészről ez a könyv szerintem erősen túl lett szerkesztve. Nem is annyira a maximalizmus izzadságszagát, inkább a mérnöki precizitás ridegségét érzem ki a regény felépítéséből, és engem zavart, hogy nem tudtam zsibbadtan beleolvadni a történetbe. A három külön tartott szál önmagában nem probléma, sőt, egészen bevett megoldás a feszültség fenntartására, de a túl gyors váltások és túl rövid fejezetek valami türelmetlen idegességet hordoztak magukban. Én legalábbis hol türelmetlen, hol ideges lettem tőle, kicsit olyan érzés volt olvasni, mint amikor webes böngészés közben a linkek mindig tovább löknek új oldalak megnyitására, ezért nem tudok igazán elmélyülni a tartalmak feldolgozásában.

Amúgy meg az a benyomásom hogy Hannu Rajaniemi csodálatos őrületének előzménykötetét olvastam, csak kevesebb líraisággal és több moralizálással. Masonbe egy csipetnyivel kevesebb intuíció, és több keresettség szorult, mint finn kortársába, ugyanakkor nem lennék meglepve, ha a legjobb regényeit még csak ezek után írná.
Profile Image for Aaron Arnold.
428 reviews126 followers
September 26, 2018
Mason's previous book The Lost Books of the Odyssey was spectacular, so I'm unhappy that this sci-fi novel didn't live up to it for me, especially because as a computer scientist this should have been home turf for him. On a prose level, this is great; there are no iconic, standout lines like Neuromancer's "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel", but just about every sentence is beautifully written, well-balanced and full of interesting imagery. There really isn't a wasted sentence in the whole book, so his various scenes and landscapes are always vividly rendered. However, much like in Neuromancer (and a lot of this novel is like in Neuromancer), the plot isn't very emotionally resonant, so the lucid language feels wasted. Characters act, choices are made, and things then happen, but according to a rapid, purely internal logic that doesn't give the reader much opportunity to get invested in the world, especially because the point of view shifts so rapidly and a lot of the various perils come out of nowhere. "Sit back and let the plot take you for a ride!" sounds like cheesy marketing copy on the back of an airport thriller, but it's also pretty apt here, and I didn't like feeling like such a passive reader.

The world is your standard cyberpunk quasi-dystopia that owes much to Snow Crash (itself an affectionate Neuromancer parody/homage), but without the manic humor or invention of Stephenson's work, so instead of people living in self-storage complexes guarded by armed robot dogs, people just live in grungy favelas, and instead of Sumerian technolinguistic mind-viruses, there's just really powerful Hackers-style algorithms (they literally hack the Gibson in one scene). I also found myself questioning why Mason bothered with 3 narrative lines for the main characters - ascetic street boxer Kern, dying political scion Thales, and Johnny Mnemonic-style hacker Irina - since although they do eventually intersect to fight the requisite evil rich guy and super-powerful AI, their individual quests to uh, find the secret of life/upload consciousness into the computer/become a Japanese swordmaker don't feel emotionally connected at all. Maybe the characters could have spent more time together, or there could have been fewer 2-page chapters to let the story breathe a bit; certainly many aspects of the world could have used some more exploration. I hate ragging on a work by an author I respect so much, so perhaps this will improve on a reread, but this feels like a real letdown, especially because he was able to be so creative with almost literally the most played-out material in history in his last book. I hope he takes more risks in his next book.
3 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2017
An excellent story, well executed

Void Star posits a future based on our present where divisions between wealth and poverty are extreme but humanity's core attributes, encoded in memory, emerge to smooth the glide slope to better future. The entanglements between hardware, software and wetware are blended into a well told tale.
Profile Image for D.
206 reviews14 followers
March 13, 2018
A friend gave this to me, which doesn't happen as often as you might think. I didn't know anything about the book, or the author, but I trust my friend and so I began it early this year. The prose often read like poetry, dense and infused with symbolism and meaning and all that stuff that you rarely see in a genre like sci-fi. Because of that, I could not speed-read this book as I can for so many others, especially thrillers, fantasies, and (unfortunately) a lot of literary fiction.

And that's refreshing, if not a little annoying in regards to a book count goal or something stupid like that. (I've given up on numerical goals per year; who really cares in a world where things like Infinite Jest exist?)

Anyway, the book. It good. I think you would enjoy it if you like competently-written and plotted adventure stories that don't fall into the same predictable narrative. There was one plot point that I guessed would happen well before it did, but in a book so dense AND expansive, that's pretty impressive, and I give that bit a pass. The shape of the world and society in the future (I figure about 150-200 years out) is so expertly described and fleshed out, and I love books that take the reader to all kinds of interesting and diverse places throughout the real world.

A brief list of the things I loved that I'd like to remember fondly years down the line: the favela construction drones, the space elevator, the graffiti far below the city, "you mad bitch" (freakin lmao), Kern's fifth fight, the bootleg automobile laser, Thales figuring shit out, the magician scene, the themes of aging and memory, and Irina as a whole and at all times. I even liked Phillip, though I was suspicious of him the whole time.

All in all, it's a rewarding book full of things that make you think. I wish more sci-fi was this well written.
Profile Image for Yzabel Ginsberg.
Author 3 books101 followers
July 8, 2017
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This story takes us on the paths followed by three characters very different from each other: Irina, carrying a brain implant that gives her perfect memory and access to AIs; Kern, a young refugee from the San Francisco favelas, who taught himself through books and martial arts thanks to a laptop found in a dump; and Thales, son of a murdered Brazilian politician, whose life hangs by a thread only because his body may reject the implant that saved his life at any moment.

The world depicted in the novel is not exactly cyberpunk, not exactly transhumanistic, not exactly dystopian, but a blend of all three? Life-prolonging and youth treatments exist... only for those who can afford them. The implant in both Irina and Thales’s brains is exceptional... but. Large corporations dominate everyday life, but the protagonists are different from their more usual cyberpunk counterparts. Earth is going through climate changes and places like Singapore are gradually going underwater, and many people don’t have access to basic necessities... but at the same time, a sense of wonder still permeates the story, if only because of the way the characters are confronted to various threats and obstacles, yet also to hopes and openings towards new paths. Kern’s laptop, for instance, because of what it represents, or could represent, for a young boy living in the streets. Or the inhuman and fascinating beauty of the AIs introduced here, the destructive Cloudbreaker and the elusive Mathematician.

This is both close to us, making it possible to grasp it, with its technologies that we can understand (tablets and phones, albeit somewhat obsolete for the wealthier characters), and at the same time deeply alien and full of mysteries (what would it be like to live with a perfect, artificial memory you can access just whenever, yet that may send you into seizure and kill you?).

‘Void Star’ reads well, although for some reason I felt like taking my sweet time with it, perhaps because unconsciously I didn’t want to finish it too fast? It may sometimes be a wee difficult to follow, since it doesn’t rely on detailed explanations, instead taking its readers through its characters’ travels; I quite liked that, though—I like that in general in SF/F, even though I know I can’t read such stories when I’m too tired, for fear of losing my pace and missing important hints. While some events appeared, as a result, a little confusing, in the end I could still piece everything together. The three main narratives are well interwoven—chapter Y actually holds the missing answers to what happened in chapter X, and so on—and even when I didn’t have all the information to understand their world in the beginning, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Conclusion: Not the easiest read around, due to its (beautiful but sometimes complex) descriptive language and concepts; however, if one is ready to tackle that, this book can be positively fascinating.
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