Dark Star by Oliver Langmead is an original sci-fi. The whole book is written in a verse like format. I thought this would be annoying, especially as I used my Kindle app on my Nexus 7 to read my copy, but I was wrong.
As it happens, the verse-like formatting of Dark Star is easy on the eye and doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the book at all. What actually happens is that the whole noir picks up an otherworldly vibe.
Dark Star is set in a world where the local star does not create any light visible to human eyes. The same is true for local fuels – so fire burns invisibly and is suitably dangerous. This is something of a post sci-fi setting where the humans on this strange planet are the descendants of space travellers and most of whom have little knowledge of what came before.
The action focuses on cop called Virgil. If he’s our hero then he’s a flawed one with an addiction to a liquid light drug and a healthy disrespect for other authority figures. Virgil becomes obsessed with a murder case, a pretty young college girl who’s found slaughtered and her blood apparently replaced by light itself. This obsession is poorly timed as he should be investigating the hugely significant disappearance of one of the three power sources that bring artificial light to the world.
It’s no surprise to discover that Oliver Langmead is a roleplayer. Geek Native interviewed him in March as part of a blog tour. Langmead recommends Rogue Trader. Vox, the city at the heart of this story, stood out to me as an incredibly interesting setting for an RPG.
The originality of Dark Star powers it along. You’re left to figure out some of the details yourself when it comes to technology levels, exactly how dark it is and what society is like but that becomes part of the charm. In addition, since the story is focused on Virgil and he’s often on drugs (or suffering the lack of drugs) there are parts which are deliberately unclear.
The core plot, the murder and robbery combo, is strong too. The world might be alien but the detective noir set-up is familiar and safe. We now our cop will need to investigate and will turn up a can of worms as he does. What’s less clear is how successful he’ll be and it is that uncertainty that’ll encourage you to flip through the pages even more quickly.
Overall? I rather liked Dark Star. It was a refreshing blend of the familiar and strange. The book is an easy read, from a new publisher and something to tell friends about.
Disclosure: My copy of Dark Star was provided for review.