The world of Christian publishing has been knocked for a loop by a few indie publishers. At the front of the line and leading the charge is Jeff Gerke with Marcher Lord Press. Nearly every book his company has released has been at least nominated for some major awards. I am honored this week to present to all of you a shining example of why this company and others like it are having so much success.
As some of you may know, I will be presenting my review of A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz today. I will follow up tomorrow with a special treat. I will pick the brain of the brilliantly imaginative Kerry Nietz. He has agreed to entertain us with some wonderful insight behind the writing of his first book in a series known as the DarkTrench Saga.
I hope you all enjoy my take on this excellent piece of fiction and come back tomorrow for Kerry’s words. I will be giving away two signed copies of A Star Curiously Singing…because I like it that much. To enter your name to win, simply leave a comment today and another tomorrow. That will give you two chances to win. If you want two more, add a link to your Facebook page for each blog post and let me know by posting a link here, sending me a message on Facebook or emailing me (you can find links under my profile). My son Peyton will actually use the time-tested method of pulling the winners’ names out of a hat on August 2nd. All entries must be in by 11:59 eastern time on August 1st to qualify. I will post the names of the winners in the comments section of each blog and on my Facebook wall some time after the sun rises and I have had coffee.
Now, without further ado….
A Star Curiously Singing takes place in some distant future where Sharia Law is the Law of the land. Scary, you say? Well yes, it is. Kerry Nietz creates a future most of us could never truly imagine…a future where some are taken at ten years of age and implanted with a chip. They are made into debuggers and must only serve their masters. Women are property and they must never show their faces. A place where one religion is dictated for all of society and the god of that religion is set beyond the grasps of humanity. Even those not implanted have no choice and are under the highest of society’s rules. Conformity is key in this tightly wound world and the smallest thing could cause the coil to spring. The story focuses around the character Sandfly. He is a debugger but let’s call him what he really is…a slave.
Sandfly has an implant that hooks him to the “stream”, a future version of the internet. It also keeps his thoughts and actions in check by sending a knee-dropping buzz of pain to his head each time they stray from what is considered acceptable. His master also has a controller that can inflict discipline if Sandfly does not respond fast enough to orders. Actually, any master can inflict discipline on any debugger if the mood strikes him. It is against the law but those higher up don’t always follow the laws they created. Sound familiar? Did I mention debuggers are not allowed to touch others? They have no spouses and are all men, save one named HardCandy.
There is a problem though. Sandfly is a hero and heroes do not like being controlled. He doesn’t know he is a hero yet but time and circumstance force him to action when another debugger is about to have an awful fate. Sandfly brilliantly pulls off a rescue without setting his internal shock collar off. For all his trouble, Sandfly is called on an unknown mission by his Master. Sandfly doesn’t want to go but what can a debugger do? He finds himself sent to an orbital space station. His job? Find out why a robot tore itself apart on the way back from deep space.
Kerry tells this story in first person/present tense which has the reader in the middle of the action as it is happening. I am quite fond of this pov because I write in it also. I see a movie playing in my head as I read Sandfly’s story unfold and very early in the book I was rooting him along. I absolutely love when my hero doesn’t know he is a hero.
Kerry manages to tackle some tough issues in this book. I wasn’t really expecting that out of a science fiction novel. It was a pleasant surprise. Issues, I actually wouldn’t expect in a Christian novel at all, like domestic violence and the hypocrisy of religion for religion’s sake. Not sure why but it is perhaps a misconception on my part or it could be the unique way Kerry bundles it all together.
The names Kerry chose for his characters tickled me…Sandfly, Hard Candy, Grim Jack…to name a few. Not sure how he came by them but they add a little whimsy to a story that could definitely be depressing. Another form of comic relief is the dream sequences Kerry peppers throughout the book. I will not go into detail because I do not want to ruin the book for those that have not read it yet but let me tell you it is akin to Alice in Wonderland.
The more I think about A Star Curiously Singing, the more I like it. It does something that most Christian books do not. It breaks away from the mold. Nearly every Christian book I have read follows the same checklist…Sinner needs God…sinner finds God…all is butterflies and rainbows for the new Christian. Don’t get me wrong. That is fine but it is a bit unbelievable. Life doesn’t work like that and neither does God. Our walk is one that is rough and we learn as we go. We have battles each day and just because God is our Father, that does not stop all hell from breaking loose upon us every day. Kerry manages to bring a believable revelation to Sandfly and allows for the growth in his character.
As I read, I found quotes that stood out as funny, beautiful or profound. I’ll list my top five.
1. “He is superlative, true–yet He stoops. He stoops!”
2. “Destroy yourself one day, become a powerful speaker the next. The bot should’ve been a politician.”
3. “I can almost hear the sound in my head, even now. A chorus with every voice part engaged. A roaring symphony. The essence of every melody ever sung.”
4. “How Base-10 of you.”
5. “Complication is always waiting for me to arrive.”
Kerry creates his own terminology for his world that adds originality and shows he has thoroughly thought out his creation. He has a background in technology and it shows in his work. It is not so deep that the average reader can’t follow along though and that adds bonus points in my book. Never did my eyes glaze over and I finished it in record time considering I could only read a few chapters at a time. That actually may be my only complaint. The book weighs in at 308 pages and I thought it was too short. Good thing I have The Superlative Stream waiting or I might have had to drop an anvil in space for Sandfly.
Seriously, the thing about A Star Curiously Singing that will stick with me for years to come is the total message Kerry weaved throughout. No matter where you are, no matter how defeated you feel, no matter who oppresses you, God will stoop down to you and give you strength you didn’t have without Him. He will always release the chains that bind you and set your spirit free. Sandfly calls it freehead. I simply call it freedom.
Please don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win one of two signed copies of A Star Curiously Singing. Come back tomorrow for another chance to win and to read the wonderful interview with Kerry Nietz. You can also read more about Kerry at www.kerrynietz.com
Peace, love and God’s will.