SPFBO Status: Finalist
Rate: 9 /10
Overview (No Spoilers):
I love when a story captures my imagination to such an extent that I’m left mulling over various aspects of the twisting, turning adventure weeks later. A Song for the Void is one such read, as I continually found myself pondering the different horrors that Piazza dreamed up for the crew of the Charger. Since I always avoid a book’s blurb to prevent even the most minute of spoilers from ruining the adventure the author has in store, I was drawn into this story immediately, reveling in each new mystery that the crew encountered. However, given that this tale is told as a recollection from Doctor Pierce, there is quite a bit of foreshadowing which can either heighten or mitigate pivotal moments, depending on the inkling the reader has as to the outcome.
Taking place on the South China Sea during the 1850s, A Song for the Void is centered upon the British Royal Navy as they carry out a mission targeting opium pirates. As I struggle to recall a book I’ve read with similar connections to this location, time period, and naval occupation, I found much of the worldbuilding to be refreshing and unique. Piazza effortlessly details what it was like on a ship during this era as well as the complicated politics that engulfed this region due to British Imperialism. Considering the historical nature of this story and its rather normal setting, I was curious as to how fantasy would play a role. Interestingly, fantasy elements are introduced almost in passing, in ways that can easily be explained away. This effect grows subtly and mysteriously until it seems to be a natural part of the sailors’ nightmare they’re trapped in.
Piazza infuses his story with imagery that brings these events to life, especially the most horrifying acts that leave the reader with vivid and triggering mental images of the most shocking revelations. It should be said that A Song for the Void is in no way a fun read as these characters are not only haunted by their tragic pasts, but also by the chronic struggles of drug addiction. This is a theme that permeates and escalates in proportion to the bizarre and unexplainable throughout this story.
Overall, A Song for the Void successfully navigates the tricky balancing act of keeping the reader hooked without numbing them to a pace that escalates with each unexplained event. Truly, I couldn’t put this book down, staying up way too late in order to discover the final outcome of the Charger and her crew.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- While the reason to go to the island was to save Jack, there’s no way I would have justified setting foot near that island. Talk about horrifying.
- What happens when someone in the future stumbles upon this island and views the aftermath?
- The officers had all been extremely honorable up until the end when they easily decided to lie. This seemed reasonable, but so out of character.
- Meiling’s story was so tragically sad, especially when you find out West’s role in it.
- West seemed way too connected to every bad or unexplainable aspect of this story, even with the Dark Star involved.
- Anderson’s fate was another sad aspect of this story. What would have happened had the doctor come to him sooner?
- Will the Dark Star return?
- Several vivid and horrifying scenes from this book are trapped in my memory, from the men on the island skinning each other to the burned men on the boat.
- This story highlights the struggles of drug addiction (primarily opium abuse), before (withstanding effects resulting from withdrawal), during (hallucinations, decrease in inhibitions), and after (repercussions, shame, potential memory loss). All of these offer valid ways to explain the increasingly weird occurrences that arise as the horror starts to unfold. Honestly, at one point I wondered if this whole story would turn out to be a drug-induced dream.