A Mind Imprisoned Is The Greatest Of Hells.
1853. South China Sea. While on patrol between the Opium Wars, the crew of the steam frigate HMS Charger pursues a fleet of pirates that have been terrorizing the waters surrounding Hong Kong.
But now the hunters have become the hunted. Something else has come to the South China Sea, something ancient and powerful and malevolent.
Now, the crew of the Charger must face their worst nightmares in order to survive the terrible creature they come to know as the Darkstar.
A Song for The Void is a haunting, terrifying historical horror novel that will keep you turning the pages and jumping at the shadows.
I put this book on my to-read list last fall after seeing an SPFBO review for it. I love fantasy and horror both, so this book seemed like a good fit.
I enjoyed the story and the writing very much, but I was at the 30% mark of the book before any shred of otherworldliness came into the story. And even then, it still took a significant portion of the book to fully reveal itself. This isn’t a story about “magic” or “fantasy” as we think about it in modern terms, but more of an encounter with the supernatural—a force beyond our human perception, one we aren’t prepared to deal with and can’t fully comprehend.
The narrator of the story, the ship’s surgeon, felt very real—and very in touch with the era being portrayed. I can’t claim to know that much about the Royal Navy or how a warship of the time operated, but the phrasing and the essence of the narration reminded me of other books I’ve read which were written about the same era. I felt that aspect of the storytelling was done very well.
I don’t often mention this, but my job outside of writing and reviewing is with a company focused on addiction treatments. I have heard stories from patients on occasion regarding their struggle with addiction, and the doctor’s portrayal of his own struggle in this book was pretty spot-on. I really empathized with his story and wished there was something to be done to help him and some of the others with their trials.
Given that it was set in the 1850s, we didn’t know much about addiction or how to treat it—it was considered a weakness, something shameful to be hidden away from the rest of society. (We know better now, but that’s irrelevant to this book.)
My one main issue with the story was the Darkstar itself. It’s a premise that has been told countless times in countless novels and is found is most mythologies. It’s not by any means a new idea. But, I felt the writing itself made up for that, and as I said, I empathized with the main character.
I think this book fits more in line with its synopsis—that it’s a horror novel, rather than fantasy. The crew of the Charger is faced with terrible delusions and distortions of their reality that result in many of them doing horrific things to themselves and others, and some of it is described in gory detail. If you’re a reader who doesn’t like the thought of blood, gore, mutilation, self-harm, rape/attempted rape, or child harm, you may want to steer clear of this book. There is a lot of horror packed into its pages.
If you enjoy historical settings and horror, definitely check out A Song for the Void.
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