Irina is a specialised interpreter, her advanced mental implant allows her to interface with AIs and ascertain their thinking for the companies that use them, and she becomes driven to uncover a secret after seeing something she shouldn’t have. Kern is a thief, street fighter and hit man living in spartan poverty, who goes on the run after stealing some advanced tech. Thales is the son of a Brazilian political family who fled the country after an assassination attempt, and after a chance encounter becomes driven to find the answers to personal questions nagging at him.
Void Star’s story takes some concentration to properly follow, as it’s a while before the three plot threads start to intersect and it becomes clear how they fit together. Each tale is interesting enough on its own, but everything becomes far more compelling once it coalesces into a single narrative as the multiple tendrils weave together.
The setting is a kind of proto-cyberpunk, existing at the point not long after society began the descent that ends in the anarchic hopelessness seen in the likes of Neuromancer, a book of which there are echoes throughout the story. Through the eyes of the three main characters we see the various aspects of the gradually decaying world, from the towers of conglomerate businessmen with more money than they could ever use, to the destitution of the downtrodden who starve forgotten in slums circling the city’s periphery.
Although it may seem intended to evoke dramatic sci-fi ambiguity, the novel’s title actually refers to void*, a computer programming function with mutable potential. In much the same way, the events of the story force the three protagonists to fully realise the extent of what they are capable of, in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. Their specific skills complement and augment those of the others, reinforcing the idea that people are stronger when striving for a common goal rather than working in isolation, like the processes of a computer program operating in tandem to achieve the desired output.
Void Star asks questions about what it truly means to be human, specifically whether we are merely the collective sum of our memories or also something more than that. In an age of technology advancing almost as fast as our ability to comprehend it, the novel’s transhumanist themes become less far-fetched with each passing year, making it a concept that we may soon need to seriously consider.
VOID STAR / AUTHOR: ZACHARY MASON / PUBLISHER: JONATHAN CAPE / RELEASE DATE: 27TH APRIL