Review ~ A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

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.




About Diane Graham

Diane Graham lives in the mountains of eastern Oklahoma with her husband, children and many dogs. She is an avid reader and lover of all art forms that encapsulate imagination and goodness. Her debut novel I Am Ocilla was released in March 2012.

44 comments on “Review ~ A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

  1. Good review, Diane! As one who has been enjoying the adventures of Sandfly too, I thought you touched on some of the right things about this book, as well as being good about not revealing the important twists to the reader who hasn’t read it yet. Well done! 🙂

  2. LOL The NAF space anvil is destined to be a classic feature of this blog, it appears. Y’all are goofs.

  3. Well done, Diane. I guess I’ll have to hold off on my “Diane as a Zombie,#5” masterpiece I’ve been working on. A pity.

    • Haha…Thank you. You can still have fun with zombies. As long as everyone laughs with me and not at me in my head. 😀

  4. As to the shortness, look at it this way:

    It is cheaper!

  5. Looking forward to reading this if I win a copy. Sounds excellent!

  6. I want so bad to give a good glowing review to an MLP book! Now I’m kind of dreading reviewing Star. 1st person present POV has never worked for me. Maybe this book will change my mind, though.

  7. I’ve heard so much about this book—really dying to read it :).

  8. I need only one word to describe why Sandfly is such an appealing protagonist: snark. Why do I use this term? Because although I love the hero’s nobility in Shaw’s Saint Joan and Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, and I can admire the innocence, perseverance, and child-like faith of Lucy in Narnia (or arguably even Sam and Frodo in LOTR), there’s been a decided lack of wholesome snark in Christian speculative fiction. You know, that good feeling you had when you heard the playful banter of Star Wars, or even the “arguments” between McCoy and Spock in Star Trek (or Data’s reactions to humans in TNG). That idea that in the middle of tension there’s some humor or joie de vire to be found.

    That doesn’t mean the tension doesn’t exist: in fact, snark can make the tension even worse, because we care about the characters! These people are intelligent and witty: don’t destroy them, and leave us only with morose antiheros or spritely pixies who makes great acts of faith look insanely easy. I want a snarky hero who can be afraid for his life and still quip insults with his captor, who doesn’t take himself or others too seriously, who makes me forget that I don’t normally like present tense, or that first person can be difficult. Sandfly doesn’t just make you travel with him to the stars and beyond, he makes it fun. I loved both books in the Deep Trench Saga, and would heartily recommend them to anyone, Christian or not. That’s the halmark of a truly transformational novel to me.

    • Excellent post, Michelle and I agree. I definitely had a smile on my face while reading. Kerry manages to make you fall in love with Sandfly within a few chapters.
      Would you like to be entered in the drawing? If you do not respond, I will automatically enter you. Thank you for stopping by today. 😀

      • I already own a copy (though it’s leant to a friend at the moment), so I’ll pass in favor of another more deserving reader. Of course, with two books, I could loan the book out twice as often …. 😉

      • Haha…that is very true. So in or out, my lady? It is a signed copy. 😀

      • Ah, decisions, decisions: well since you mention it’s a signed copy, I’ll have to request to be entered. After all, doing so doesn’t guarantee a win, now does it? No comments on self-serving justification from the peanut gallery, please.

      • You are in! Post a link on Facebook and that gives you two. Come again tomorrow and get two more entries. Like you can’t read. Sorry! 😀

    • Michelle — I’ve seen your comments on blogs before. They are always very thoughtful and kind. Words can’t express, so I’ll just say: I really appreciate your remarks! Thanks for stopping by.

      And thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far!

      • Aren’t they wonderful? Are you going to get to hang here a while tomorrow? There may be questions asked. 🙂

      • You’re quite welcome Kerry, and thank you for this ongoing story. It’s so nice to be pleasantly surprised by a good yarn….

        My goodness, I must interrupt this regularly written comment for an important announcement: after clicking on Kerry’s website, I have discovered that legendary Firebird authoress Kathy Tyres is teaming up with Marcher Lord Press, and may in fact release never-before-seen stories from that universe. Exciting times, ladies and gents, exciting times!

  9. There are some people who were born to write. It wouldn’t matter if they had the worst English, (Or whatever their birth language) couldn’t spell, wrote it on a brown paper bag with a piece of slate, in twenty different POV’s. It would still be like heroin to the first time addict. This is yet another confirmation that, if God wants it, it will happen. It is like the child who is born with the gift of singing. They have never been, (professionally) trained.Yet any fool can hear that gift from God’s own angels. I have not had the privilege of reading this book but, If it is anything like it is portrayed in this review,then you can be most assured that I will.

  10. I’ll be checking in from time to time, Diane. No problem. (Though I’ve got some writing to do today too. Like to stick to my quota.)

    Yes, the Kathy news is big. So cool to be in the same group with someone whose novels I admired before I had even a single book in a cover. As for what’s in store, I know Jeff likes to spring those things on people in newsletters and whatnot, so I won’t spoil his fun. I will say, I’ve seen the publishing schedule for the next year or so…and it is awesome. Lots to be excited about. Lots.

  11. Kerry Nietz had me as a fan the first time I saw the title of A STAR CURIOUSLY SINGING.
    I thought I knew where that was going to lead the story, but I was totally mistaken.
    I applaud his coined scientific language, which, as another person commented, was not so technical as to turn us off. I, too, have never been a fan of 1st person POV, but that’s probably because it has been poorly done. Not so, here – we hardly notice it, so engrossing is the story. And it fits. Since the debuggers are hardly allowed to speak, we must get into their minds. I loved the term “freehead” too. My copy is all marked up with the great phrases and smiley figures.
    Write on, Kerry Nietz, write on.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Lois. You are now entered for a signed copy of A Star Curiously Singing. Being that your copy is all marked up, this could win you a replacement. 😀

  12. Are you quite sure that this is not a non-fiction glimpse into the future world that we call earth? Thank you for giving us just enough to tease and tantalize us….yes I want to read this book, you know this is a whole new gendre for me, but I love it! It is funny that you write down phrases and sentences that take on a life form , I do the same to your book. I see that this gifted writer knows how to write just as dimensionally as you , Lady Di ! For the first time too, I would like to have the whole darn series! Geez, what are you writers doing to me? HeHeHe

    Kerry, I am interested in how you arrive on your subject in your novels. You have fleshed out characters that we want to see again and again but how did you arrive at this Sharia Law and bondage to religion theme? Are you really into politics and current events? You will bring people to the lord that no one else can with these wonderful reads. It hasn’t been that long ago that we never heard even heard about the term Sharia Law. My son in law is English and Sharia Law is even infiltrating the British Parliment and their court systems are allowing Sharia Law to be used in divorces and the like. It is not a stretch of the imagination to know that with the light of current events we will have Sharia Law seep into our court system also. We are going to allow Muslim terrorists to represent themselves in America’s courtroom and they do not have to swear on the Christian Bible either…off soap box…As you can see, can’t wait to read this book!

    • Thanks, Eagle.

      I’ll let Kerry answer your questions. You should really love the interview that goes live later tonight.

    • Good questions, Eagle7!

      Short answer: I read alot. Books, internet articles, you name it.

      Long answer: At the time A Star Curiously Singing was born I had read a series of books about sharia law and its intervention into the West, along with a number of memoirs of people (mostly women) who had lived under, and escaped from, its rule. (Some examples: America Alone by Mark Steyn, Stealth Jihad by Robert Spencer, Because They Hate by Brigette Gabriel, Now They Call Me Infidel by Nonie Darwish, among others.) So I had a pretty fair understanding of the issues and what is at stake. Along with that I was a fairly new father (still am) and so had this, let’s say “enhanced” perspective on the future my children may inhabit.

      So, one day, sitting in an airport, I had this burst of future angst and thought “OK, what say shara wins. How would that look…say 500 years from now?” I also had this idea about a future man and a little problem he was called into solve. Next thing you know, I was writing.

      As Diane said, more on that tomorrow….

      • Avid reader of Mark Steyn and post several of his articles on my Facebook…I have read this book (America Alone) and Because They Hate. Must check out the other ones but maybe just reading your book will do it. To think of 500 years into the future…wow…do you remember Solent Green? You are probably too young to remember that one, actually I saw it on television myself. Read the book long time ago and that was one that stuck with me forever too…and there was that scene in Planet of the Apes….the Statue of Liberty broken, only lady liberty and the torch laying on a beach…and we could only wonder what happened to our beautiful country? The symbol of freedom and liberty broken…glad you wrote this, I believe it will touch many people and open eyes. Sometimes people find it easier not to deal but if we don’t, we will be marching to the rice paddies before we know it…and our children too! Thanks for honoring me with a reply, you really won’t be an elitist when you become rich and famous, eh? LOL

      • I’ve seen Soylent Green twice. Once in a class in high school, and once on TV not that long ago. Never read the book, though. Hmm… Really enjoyed the book Planet of the Apes was based on . In fact, that one should be required reading for any budding sci-fi writer as well. Epic. And with twists equally as satisfying as those in the movies.

        The honor was all mine, Eagle7. One of the things I most enjoy about being a published writer is all the interesting people I’ve been able to meet and dialog with.

        Elitist? That’s funny. I live about a quarter mile from the farmhouse that I grew up in. There’s a hay field right across the road…

  13. […] Filter Posts ← Review ~ A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz […]

  14. Thanks Diane and Kerry for the informative review! I can’t wait to read the book! I mentioned this on FB, but I can’t believe the timing of Kerry’s novel with sharia law and current events. Sean Hannity speaks daily of his concerns with these very issues…birkas, mosques, etc. It would be cool if Sean interviewed Kerry too! Great job guys.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Matt. You are now entered in the drawing. 😀

      You are right. This book does come at a time when Christian need to have their eyes open. This kind of future is very possible. Scary and possible.

  15. I want a free book.

  16. I meant it to be funny , Kerry…Lady Di will tell you of my quirky sense of snarky humor. I am not part of the elitist crowd either but I do like Arugula though I just know you got that one, eh? Geez, it is refreshing to talk to someone on the same page of life also. I see that God has blessed one of his Chosen …you have only begun to be highly favored. We will probably be reading about a fragmented statue of Liberty in your next book…that is …if it is not already in there. Can’t wait to read all of your books. I just got a solicitation to purchase an interesting book that you might be interested in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers.” But for now I will hope to win a copy of yours and make it a mission. I always do this…Lady Di I am forever in your debt for opening me up to this new world and wonderful authors. This is comfortable place to be.

  17. A Star Curiously Singing has received a number of compliments from bloggers. The best ones come from people who don’t read SF, but still love the story. From the sounds of it, the humanity and vulnerability of Sandfly catch these readers who strongly relate with the character.Good work and the sign of a great writer.

  18. And the winners are…

    Michelle R Wood


    Please email me with your address at dmgraham2001[at]yahoo[dot]com.

  19. […] Graham has spent a good deal of time with Kerry already, reviewing his debut novel A Star Curiously Singing and interviewing Kerry.  Please stop by and read these […]

  20. […] Do not fear. As I’ve mentioned before, God stoops to where we are. <Plug for review on first book> HERE […]

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