A Thumbscrew Review: A Star Curiously Singing, by Kerry Nietz

I suppose the first thing you noticed is that I’ve decided to give a title to my reviews. Why not? Diane has her Anvil Reviews. My title does have some significance though. I tend to be hyper-critical when reviewing. It’s a mixture of OCD, perfectionism, and honesty. I’ve been that way for years…and I don’t really mean to be hyper-critical. It just comes out. I’m working on that. Especially now that my book’s about to be out to the world for other reviewers like me to chew up and spit out.

And so, I’ve dubbed my reviews the Thumbscrew Reviews, in honor of a humorously named medieval torture device.

Now, for the review. It shouldn’t be too torturous.

A Star Curiously Singing, by Kerry Nietz

Very. Cool. This book is not only stunning and thought provoking, but it is also intense and sometimes scary. I flew through the digital pages of my Kindle. This book is like Wall-E meets Event Horizon meets The Mummy meets the Matrix. Seriously, if you’ve read it that’ll make complete sense to you. And if you haven’t read it, but like those movies…then you’re sure to like this book. Well done, Mr. Nietz. The sequel is on my “to read” list

There’s much to praise about this book. This is the story of Sandfly, an indentured servant of sorts who gets an assignment to investigate the destruction of a robot on a state-of-the-art starship. The plot is skillfully constructed and artfully paced, taking you places you don’t expect and putting you on the edge of your seat. The characters are vivid and believable, both lovable and slapable. Descriptors are perfectly timed and do not take away from the story flow. And there’s a detail to the cultural changes one might expect in a future setting, but are often neglected in favor of transporting our own culture to another time…such as future catch phrases and lingo. This detail gives it the small nudge to push this book away from other sci-fi wanna-be’s.

Now for the critique. There really isn’t much to be critiqued here, but a few nit-picky things should be mentioned just so potential readers will know what they’re getting into. First, you should know that this book is written in first person present tense. Whereas Kerry weaves this POV perfectly, it’s not a POV I’m comfortable reading. I got over though, because Kerry uses this POV like butter. He succeeds where many people fall flat on their faces. But it’s still not a POV I prefer.

Lastly, there’s the issue of the Muslim/Sharia Law content. I didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see where others might. This story takes place in a future world won over and dominated by Muslim society. It’s a unique “what if” spin on a futuristic sci-fi. But I’m sure many politically correct fanatics would blow steam from their ears over this. There is some legitimacy to the complaint. The story could have been told without the Muslim content. Kerry could have just made up some fictional pagan society and the story wouldn’t have suffered. Why take a chance on alienating so many potential readers? But like I said, this really doesn’t bother me. However, if you’re reading this and you consider yourself sympathetic to the Muslim belief system…don’t read the book.

This book is sci-fi greatness. Every word transports you to the future, and even the POV style separates you from our temporal normalcy. I highly recommend it to any sci-fi or thriller fan. Thank you Kerry for giving me a great read while I was on vacation.

And I hope the thumbscrews weren’t too tight.


Also on NAF…

About Keven Newsome

Keven Newsome is an musician, theologian, and a bit of a nerd. He enjoys a variety of musical genres, from Christian rock to movie soundtracks to KPop. A former band director, he plays about a dozen instruments, given a couple of weeks to practice up. His theological work has included a book on multi-generational ministry and a thesis on the theology of communicating with the dead. As for his nerd-card, he enjoys the fandoms of The Legend of Zelda, Doctor Who, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Lord of the Rings. With a music degree from William Carey University and a theology degree from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Keven actively serves in ministry as both pastor and worship leader.

7 comments on “A Thumbscrew Review: A Star Curiously Singing, by Kerry Nietz

  1. Ha! I knew you would love it when you finally got to read it. Kerry has a way of pulling you right there with Sandfly…without being irritating like a lot of first person writers do. Glad you loved it, Iguana. 😀

  2. Also one of my top favourite books of recent years. This bodes well 😉

  3. Ew, first person present tense? I’m not in it’s audience, then. Thanks for a heads up on that sad disservice to what sounds like would have otherwise been a great read.

  4. I recently read a secular sci fi blog (can’t remember how I got there) discussing “useful” applications of religion in hard sci fi, which apparently boiled down to stretching Protestant and Catholic religious systems into ridiculous extremes of tyranny or stupidity. Seemed odd to me they wouldn’t include other religious systems in the fun.
    I say bravo, Kerry, for pushing the speculative boundary.
    I don’t like first person narrative myself, but I’m learning to cope. This is on my “to be read” list.

  5. To all who are worried about the first-person present view point: I myself often don’t like this POV because of the same reasons Keven doesn’t, namely, because you must actually be a good writer for it to work. It’s much safer to write in past third person. But in A Star Curiously Singing, I almost forgot about the POV a couple of pages in because of how well Nietz writes. Really, the book is that good. Also, once you get farther into the book, you realize that this POV is really the only correct one for the narrative being told. The story of Sandfly just wouldn’t have been as marevously told if Nietz had used a third person perspective, and the present tense actually makes perfect sense.

    I love this book. I love its sequel. I am in dire suspense for the third book. I would rank it alongside almost any secular science fiction book in terms of plotting, world-building, and really imaginative risk-taking. Nietz does not coddle his readers with long explanations about the world he writers in: he pulls the reader along in a story that gradually reveals the truth. The reader is left to actually think and figure out what’s going on.

    As the grandfather says in The Princess Bride, there’s “Fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” This is a book that has it all, and then goes that much farther in the sequel. Please do not be put off by any preconceptions you have about this book: it is definitely worth the read.

  6. Thanks for the review, Keven. Glad I could be a part of your vacation. (Not quite as good as enjoying the sand and sea myself…but I’ll take it. 🙂 )

    And thanks to everyone else who commented!

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