Leo Walsh's Reviews > Void Star

Void Star by Zachary Mason
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really liked it

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.
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Reading Progress

November 16, 2017 – Shelved
November 16, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
August 4, 2018 – Started Reading
August 9, 2018 – Finished Reading

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