We’re now in the round of semi-finalists for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and I’m reading and reviewing all of the semi-finalists! Check out my SPSFC Hub for all my posts and reviews for the contest.
A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts
Aster Vale loves doing street art, competing in an interplanetary game that ranks the art based on quality, danger of getting caught, and other details. She dreams of moving up the ranks as Wildflower, her screen name in the game. Isaac, a wizard for hacking, is on the same luxury liner she’s on board as they head towards Vega. Rel is a genetically-engineered soldier whose mission is to stop that liner before it can reach Vega. Why? It would mean extinction for his people.
A Star Named Vega is an incredibly fun space adventure story. Aster was immediately compelling to me as a character, and Isaac quickly grew on me. They each had such shenanigans and fun throughout the novel that it was hard to not crack a smile at times. Rel, our erstwhile antagonist/protagonist (question mark) is compelling as well.
The world-building is both narrowly focused and expansively broad, and I liked how focused the plot was to go along with it. The characters live in our far future, largely dominated by AIs who take care of humanity’s every needs. The inevitable dark side can rear its ugly head here, but Roberts balances the setup for a kind of dystopic plot with the many benefits of this near-utopian society. Of course, some of that plays into the main plot, so I don’t want to spoil too much of it. The takeaway here is that Roberts deftly balances questions about ‘What Could Go Wrong’ with ‘What If It’s Worth It’? in ways that I found unexpected and unique. I’d honestly have liked even more along those lines going on.
Roberts also builds some political intrigue and family drama into the book. I thought this was exciting, especially given the hyper-focused setting of the novel. It’s difficult to balance broader possibilities when the story is taking place on a star cruiser, but Roberts does it here and it makes the world feel very lived-in and real despite the narrow focus.
The novel starts as a kind of young adult, perhaps even juvenile fiction feel, but the amount of content going on behind the scenes and the way stakes are raised steadily from the beginning make it an ultimately satisfying read for readers of any age. I ended up hugely enjoying it, and I would think most of my readers here would as well.
Ultimately, A Star Named Vega is a delightful romp. Yes, there are darker things at the fringes, but the characters make the journey fun–and often funny as well.
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