A riveting, beautifully written, fugue-like novel of AIs, memory, violence, and mortality
Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying, but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco, where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor. Irina isn’t rich, not quite, but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall and lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs, which are complex to the point of opacity. It’s a good gig, paying enough for the annual visits to the Mayo Clinic that keep her from aging.
Kern has no such access; he’s one of the many refugees in the sprawling drone-built favelas on the city’s periphery, where he lives like a monk, training relentlessly in martial arts, scraping by as a thief and an enforcer. Thales is from a different world entirely—the mathematically inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, he’s fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead.
A ragged stranger accosts Thales and demands to know how much he can remember. Kern flees for his life after robbing the wrong mark. Irina finds a secret in the reflection of a laptop’s screen in her employer’s eyeglasses. None are safe as they’re pushed together by subtle forces that stay just out of sight.
Vivid, tumultuous, and propulsive, Void Star is Zachary Mason’s mind-bending follow-up to his bestselling debut, The Lost Books of the Odyssey.
Mason portrays late-22nd-century Earth as a dark and desperate world populated by drones, slums, rising tides, longevity treatments, and artificial intelligence. His fleeting images of harsh cityscapes in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Thailand evoke an inhuman coldness. Three characters unwittingly take part in a globe-spanning scheme to stop a powerful AI that hijacks people with memory implants to interpret the world for it. Thales, the son of a Brazilian politician, receives such an implant after surviving an assassination attempt. Irina Sunden uses her implant to link with AIs and learn how they think. Street fighter Kern, from the favelas, steals the wrong phone. When Irina finds computer code in city graffiti, she links with Akemi, a ghost woman trapped in an AI, the voice on the other end of Kern's phone. Together they help Irina contact the powerful Cloudbreaker AI and get revenge on Cromwell, a wealthy recluse who wants Irina's memories. Patient readers who persist through the excessive layers of description will be rewarded with a vivid story, complete with a chilling and satisfying ending.