Title: A Star Curiously Singing
Author: Kerry Neitz
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “In a future ruled by sharia law, machines are managed by debuggers, who in turn are owned by masters. Sandfly is a level 12 debugger. He is sent into Earth orbit to repair a robot – a robot that went on an experimental flight into deep space… and tore itself apart. As Sandfly digs into the mystery aboard the space station, he discovers what the bot heard around that distant star. He discovers that the bot heard…singing. As Sandfly pieces together the clues, the masters spread the trap before his feet. Everyone is racing to the same conclusion, but only one side welcomes what the singing represents.”
Thoughts: This was another novel selected for the INSPY speculative fiction shortlist. Rather than focus the idea of eternal life, A Star Curiously Singing focuses on God’s message and doing what’s right versus eternal life, like in Eternity Falls or The Last Christian. Sandfly’s struggles to do what is right within his capabilities and without alerting the Abduls was fascinating. The debugger back story is quite intriguing and well-developed. One truly cares about Sandfly and his problems.
The issue is the implied message about the Abduls. They are the masters and can inflict pain on the debuggers any time they want. They control everything. Everyone must “believe” in Allah, and they have found a way to incorporate their belief system into everything they do, from greetings to inspirational quotes and other phrases. Prayer rugs are in corners in every room. Yet, they are quite simply the bad guys. They do everything to circumvent Sandfly’s ability to solve the mystery, and the constant threat they present to debuggers everywhere creates an insidious tension that never truly ends.
The tension adds to the story, but I absolutely have a problem with the idea that Muslims are the bad guys. I do not appreciate this same message when any religion is portrayed as better than any other and think the implications behind this message are extremely dangerous. To me, any religious faith should promote tolerance – of all people and of all religions. This is A Star Curiously Singing‘s biggest fault.
The message that the Muslim faith is not just wrong but evil truly detracts from a great story. Character development is strong, and the world created by Kerry Nietz is vivid. The mystery behind the malfunctioning robot is intense and intriguing. Sandfly’s curiosity and his caution are palpable. Unfortunately, the discussion on faith, both overt and hidden, left quite a bit to be desired. However, A Star Curiously Singing keeps one thinking – about science, about possibilities, about staying true to one’s self. It is one novel where my true feelings are hopelessly divided between admiration for a well-written story and disgust at some of the lessons to be learned.