PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 1, 2009
andfly, GrimJack, and HardCandy are debuggers. What’s a debugger? On Kerry Nietz’s Earth, debuggers are the best tools you can own. They have full access to the shared information of the stream, they are fabulous problem solvers, they can repair just about any bot or ship that malfunctions, and best of all they are more adaptable than bots and able to think on their feet. Debuggers, are human slaves, and they wear their chains inside their heads nestled atop their gray matter.
Their teardrop shaped implants that connect them to each other, and to all the glorious information contained in the stream, are also the iron fist that squeezes them into the shape their Masters wish. They are not allowed to think too widely or too long. Their will is held loosely in the invisible fingers of their Masters. One stray thought, one wrong religious attitude, one rebellious flash and intense and inescapable pain is the result. If they press too far outside the limits, then they are fully taken over and made to say things they don’t mean after the appropriate punishments are meted out.
Debuggers have one purpose, to serve their Masters. Sandfly is a level twelve debugger and remarkably adept at what he does. At the beginning of the story, he’s awakened and sent down to deal with his master’s barges that have gotten tangled up in one another due to the storm. The dialogue between debuggers quickly fills in the blanks as to what kind of world Sandfly lives in; one ruled by sheri law and religiosity. While the god invoked is never named, only referred to by a letter, very quickly I understood who was being referenced. Even the bots make religious references, which I found rather fascinating, and it’s a great foreshadowing of what is to come later in the story.
The next assignment Sandfly is given, is to go up to the station orbiting earth and help the team there learn the reason a bot beat itself to a pulp. Sandfly’s master has been asked to help with a problem; a ship called Dark Trench has traveled through space using dark matter as a way to “go back to go forward” to the star Betelgeuse. While the crew of humans seems to be unfazed by this first journey there, one of the bots encountered something which made it tear itself apart. Sandfly’s skills are needed to solve this mystery. As he works to uncover the truth in the claustrophobic world of the station, traps begin to close around him at an increasing rate. There is a tremendous secret that the crew of the Dark Trench found, one that if it is let loose, would radically alter their world.
It’s in the fishbowl world of the station where the pacing begins to pick up, and point after point is clarified and revealed as Sandfly draws closer to the heart of the mystery. The roller coaster of plot has reached the top of the run, and it is all action, heart pounding drops, and hair pin turns until the end of the book, from here.
The only “off” note that sounded for me here, was Sandfly’s relationship with HardCandy. It just didn’t seem right, that they would care about each other with so little interaction.
Throughout the book Sandfly breaks the fourth wall; he speaks directly to the reader in first person present tense. This is a colossal risk to take for any writer, and while I admire Nietz for taking it, when Sandfly spoke to me it was jarring and broke my ‘willful suspension of disbelief’, pushing me out of the book world and back into my own.
These are small things when weighed against the originality of the plot, and the masterful writing that Kerry Nietz delivers in A Star Curiously Singing. It followed me through the week, and in a fantastic way, the story has become part of me. It’s nestled down between the joint and the marrow of my bones. I can hardly wait to continue my adventure with Sandfly in The Superlative Stream and Freeheads.