Kevin Kelsey's Reviews > Void Star

Void Star by Zachary Mason
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it was amazing
bookshelves: read-2017, read-it-again, highly-recommended

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.
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Reading Progress

April 13, 2017 – Shelved
May 15, 2017 – Started Reading
May 19, 2017 –
page 63
16.36%
May 21, 2017 –
page 112
29.09%
May 27, 2017 –
page 242
62.86%
May 29, 2017 –
page 242
62.86%
May 29, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Berko I've been debating with myself on if I should buy this or not. There's so much coming out these days it's hard identifying the standouts so thanks for the stellar review and heads up, I'll be checking this out very soon.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Great review, Kevin. Void Star is one of my favorite recent SF reads.


message 3: by Michel (new) - added it

Michel Meijer Thanks for the review. Based on your positive story I will pick this one up


message 4: by Jeffrey (new) - added it

Jeffrey Wow. Kevin, I must say, this is one of the best book reviews I have ever read. You are a gifted writer yourself.


message 5: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben Brown This sounds amazing. I'm so in.


Kevin Kelsey Jeffrey wrote: "Wow. Kevin, I must say, this is one of the best book reviews I have ever read. You are a gifted writer yourself."

Thanks Jeffrey!


Kevin Kelsey Chris wrote: "I've been debating with myself on if I should buy this or not. There's so much coming out these days it's hard identifying the standouts so thanks for the stellar review and heads up, I'll be check..."

I usually try to read the SF that non SF publishers put out, because it usually means that it'll be something really special.


Lukas yep. Exactly what I would have to say too. Perfect review. Being picky about the same factors, often disappointed, - this one hits the pot. Btw. Kevin, if you missed "Cash, Crash, Jubilee" by Eli K. P. William,-- give this a try. Highly recommended, same level to me. Although by prose a little less inherent beauty, still good overall package.


Kevin Kelsey Lukas wrote: "yep. Exactly what I would have to say too. Perfect review. Being picky about the same factors, often disappointed, - this one hits the pot. Btw. Kevin, if you missed "Cash, Crash, Jubilee" by Eli K..."

Added it to my TBR, that sounds really cool!


Randy French I'm currently reading. ...and the reason I checked in now is that it is so good so far! really enjoying it...the Heradas review is spot on


Kevin Kelsey Randy wrote: "I'm currently reading. ...and the reason I checked in now is that it is so good so far! really enjoying it...the Heradas review is spot on"

Awesome, glad you're enjoying it!


Bon Tom Man, that was fantastic review. If I ever write a book, I want you to review it, like it or not. Something tells me even your negative reviews are high quality feedbacks, if they're anything similar to this level of involvement you demonstrated here :)


message 13: by Will (new) - rated it 1 star

Will Tung Thanks for your detailed review. I want to really like this book as I love the world building, but I got so lost in the second half or last third of the book. Would you mind explaining what happened exactly? I followed everything up to the point that Irina was escaping via helicopter. Everything after that went over my head. I couldn’t find an explanation online and I really want some help understanding the plot/ending.


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