Stargun Messenger by Darby Harn Book Review
To save the stars, Astra Idari must outrun her own shadow. Astra Idari is a mess.
She drinks too much, remembers too little, and barely pays for it all as a Stargun Messenger. She hunts down thieves who steal filamentium, the fuel that allows for faster-than-light travel. When Idari meets Gen Emera, she meets the girl of her dreams and the last living star. There’s just one problem.
Filamentium is only found in the blood of living stars.
Everyone wields knives and justifications for butchering the living stars to get around, but once Idari knows the truth, she faces a stark choice. Either she turns Emera over to her employers who control the filamentium monopoly, or risks everything to help Emera fulfill her quest to save her people.
The choice should be simple, but it’s not losing her life that terrifies Idari. It’s finally living. Idari knows she’s human despite outwardly appearing to be an android with a failing memory stitched together by her ship's irascible AI, CR-UX. She’s been just getting by for longer than she remembers, assured in her humanity, but not enough to risk it.
Idari has lived her entire life in darkness. The dark comforts and shields. The dark preserves in its cold, and Idari may not be able to keep her star out of her shadow.
“If James Joyce had grown up reading X-Men comics and obsessively playing Destiny, he would have written this. A breathtakingly imaginative, star-spanning romp that is equal parts swashbuckling galactic adventure and lyrical introspection about love and identity.” - Wayne Santos, author of The Chimera Code
Series: Stargun Messenger | Genre: Space Opera | Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 368 | Published: December 6, 2022 | Publisher: Fair Play Books (Self Published)
Stargun Messenger Book Review
Thank you to Escapist Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book! I voluntarily leave this review!
Idari is an android Stargun Messenger with an AI named CR-UX inhabiting her spaceship. Together they travel the systems chasing down stolen space fuel called filamentium. Until one such heist puts them face to face with a living star named Emera. It’s then they learn the terrible truth about filamentium. It’s made from the blood of stars, and Emera may be the last one. Idari and CR-UX have a choice, turn Emera in and receive the largest reward they’ve ever seen, or help her reach the one place where Emera can save her dying race.
The dynamics between Idari and CR-UX are sure to entertain any reader. CR-UX is like an extension of Idari’s conscience and is constantly urging her to make what it deems are the correct decisions. And Idari is quick to shoot CR-UX down and sarcastically reply to the AI’s logic. And as the story progresses, so too does their relationship to one another. While they create a wonderful atmosphere of sarcastic humor, they’ll also latch onto the reader’s heart as well.
And then there is Idari’s battle with her self-image and humanity. As an android, she’s able to back up copies of herself, but would a copy truly be Idari? Memory space is finite and CR-UX is constantly picking which memories to keep for her. But what truly makes a person human? Is it the memories they carry? Their actions? The body they wear? Emera’s journey forces Idari to confront her inner feelings and identity. The path to Idari’s self-discovery is messy and filled with poor choices, but each choice helps solidify who Idari is as a person.
The backdrop of space travel and visiting distant planets accompanies the characters. And Darby Harn does a fantastic job showing the wide array of settings and races in the universe. My favorites were Gilf and Kibir, brother Kibuts who traveled for a time with Idari and crew. They spoke in their native tongue, but there was no need for a translation. The writing was cleverly built to allow readers to understand them with both dialogue queues and reactions from the characters.
Stargun Messenger is a book for readers who enjoy space heists and exploring the concept of what makes us human. There’s also a dash of romance and complicated relationships, where not everything is entirely as it seems. Space opera sci-fi readers, give this one a try.
About the Author
Darby Harn is the author of the SPSFC quarterfinalist Ever The Hero, which Publisher's Weekly called "an entertaining debut that uses superpowers as a metaphor to delve into class politics in an alternate America." His short fiction appears in Strange Horizons, Interzone, and other venues. Visit www.darbyharn.com for more.