A Star Curiously Singing
by Kerry Nietz
What makes a robot commit suicide?
Sandfly is a debugger: a human with an implant that allows him to interact directly with the coding in any machine. He serves his masters the Abduls without question. He’s not allowed to. The implant sees to that.
But when his master sends him to space to the first ship capable of interstellar flight through a process called “flipping,” Sandfly is given an impossible mission: He must solve why the robot tore itself limb from limb, bashing its skull against the bulkhead dozens of times. Are robots incapable of “flipping”? Did it encounter some impossible coding virus out around that distant star? Or is something more sinister happening?
Oh, and by the way? Sandfly is incapable of sleeping while on the orbiting platform. And now, the entire station is in quarantine until he can discover the source of the robot’s impossible actions. That’ll help.
And then Sandfly finds the audio stream that the robot heard immediately before going berserk…
…the star… it was… singing?
Kery Nietz’s book reminds me in all the best ways of Moxyland by Lauren Beukes. That novel took place just far enough in the future to be alien, and yet close enough to feel so very possible. Beukes threw readers into the deep end, but crafted a society so accessible that you don’t mind flailing just a little bit. Nietz has achieved a similar effect here: Debugger technology is probably way beyond us, but the vocabulary and concepts are right here and so easy to wrap the imagination around.
Unlike Moxyland, Nietz’s novel doesn’t surround with a hopeless feel, though you never really know how the plot will turn out. The only reason I did is that I was a fool and read the back cover of the next book in the trilogy!
One of the premises of the story is that the earth is now controlled by an Islamic Shariah-law based government. I expected that concept to be front-and-center, similar to Caliphate by Tom Kratman. Here, it’s definitely present, but simply part of the picture, not the center of attention. I enjoyed that; I expected a lot of commentary, but instead got a simple setting.
Nietz’s central conceit captures my attention. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this: I’m very content with what Sandfly knows and doesn’t know by the end of the novel. This is not a “Oh! Christianity RULEZ” book. There’s no sudden conversion or come-to-Jesus moment (at least in book one of the series), but how Nietz introduces some nifty concepts – through an equation no less! – grabbed me. I’m definitely picking up book two.
I highly, highly recommend this one for fans of harder sci-fi. If you’re looking for something like Star Wars, you won’t find it here. However, if you’re looking for Michael Crichton with a Christian bent – this is for you, without a doubt. It’s not the epic that Dune is, but it is masterful, engaging, thought-provoking, and you won’t put it down.