I have to admit epic poems like the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aenid, Beowulf, Paradise Lost, and The Divine Comedy have never been my favorite reads. In fact, I pretty much hated them back in my college days. So when I first discovered that Dark Star utilized that same metered writing form, I was concerned. Terrified almost. But, after giving Oliver Langmead’s sci-fi verse a try, I found Dark Star a fresh, and easily readable novel.
The story itself begins as a moody, noir tale focusing on Detective Yorke. This downtrodden and gloomy fellow is a cop in the city of Vox. What makes his life so unusual is that upon his world there is no light. Instead Yorke’s world is covered in perpetual darkness; an all encompassing and smothering blackness of both the senses and the spirit. Naturally, light is treasured above all else: it is money; it is happiness; it is a recreational drug worth dying for!
A fact that Yorke already knows, but which is reinforced when he and his partner arrive at a murder scene, discovering a young woman’s corpse; her cold body on fire with light; her veins pulsing like a human light bulb. Her state announcing to all that a new light drug has hit the streets; one of such power that our detective is both terrified and tantalized by. But as powerful people try to sweep this death under the rug, world weary Detective Yorke doubles down, determined to investigate the crime even if it entangles him in an even bigger conspiracy – one so massive, so unbelievable that he could never have envisioned it!
As other have already observed, Dark Star is an intensely visual experience told in rhythmic language. Yes, it has many characteristics of a cyberpunk noir, but that is not what it is. Rather it is a science fiction story that folds more than one literary genre into its concoction, using the perfect flow of its lyrical narrative to take a reader into the haunted life of Detective Yorke, deep into the grimy alleys of the city, through the halls of the mighty, and ultimately to an ending that asks many deep philosophical questions.
Even with that being said, this isn’t a novel that every sci-fi fan will warm too. Its epic verse narrative will put many off. Its philosophical quandaries will infuriate some. The limits to the characterization will disappoint others. But instead of focusing on the dislikes that I personally had with it, I prefer to recall the positives. For without a doubt, Dark Star is a truly fresh and original science fiction story that is entertaining, visually compelling, and lyrically engaging. Oh, poetry starved fans will love it more than others, but everyone can appreciate the slightly different path that Oliver Langmead traveled with his sci-fi epic in verse. And I for one applaud his herculean effort.