Hot Best Seller

The Actual Star

Availability: Ready to download

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war. The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —colla David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war. The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —collapsing three separate timelines into one cave in the Belizean jungle. An epic saga of three reincarnated souls, this novel demonstrates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, love and hate. The book jumps forward and backward in time among a pair of twins who ruled a Maya kingdom, a young American on a trip of self-discovery, and two dangerous charismatics in a conflict that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change. In each era, age-old questions about existence and belonging and identity converge deep underground. Because only in complete darkness can one truly see the stars.


Compare

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war. The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —colla David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war. The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —collapsing three separate timelines into one cave in the Belizean jungle. An epic saga of three reincarnated souls, this novel demonstrates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, love and hate. The book jumps forward and backward in time among a pair of twins who ruled a Maya kingdom, a young American on a trip of self-discovery, and two dangerous charismatics in a conflict that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change. In each era, age-old questions about existence and belonging and identity converge deep underground. Because only in complete darkness can one truly see the stars.

30 review for The Actual Star

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Real Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded up because the economy of presentation packs the punch of Dune into the space of Cloud Atlas. Burgoine Review I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. Three timelines, three souls, three moments in Humanity's journey. Author Byrne has made all of them into one beautiful braid, glossy and dark and heavy...crackling with energy...predicting a path that We-the-People must walk to fulfill our personal and communal purpose. I've seen the comparison Real Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded up because the economy of presentation packs the punch of Dune into the space of Cloud Atlas. Burgoine Review I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. Three timelines, three souls, three moments in Humanity's journey. Author Byrne has made all of them into one beautiful braid, glossy and dark and heavy...crackling with energy...predicting a path that We-the-People must walk to fulfill our personal and communal purpose. I've seen the comparisons to Cloud Atlas but to be frank, a better comparison is, to my own mind anyway, what would happen if one gave A Canticle for Leibowitz to David Lynch and said, "...but make everyone queer." There is a Glossary; use it. Xibalbá will no longer just be a weird-looking word to you when you're done with this read, and you'll be much the richer for it. I salute you, Monica Byrne, for risking so much in showing us this beautiful tale and not telling us every last thing. Trusting your readers pays off as they morph into fans, the way I have.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Gird your loins for September because I can't recommend this book highly enough. It spans two millennia from 1012 and the decline of the Maya, to 2012 where a woman visits a cave in Belize, to 3012 with a religion based on some of the previous stories and humanity in an evolved state. Everything intertwines and the ending is glorious. I got a chance to read it early because I've long been a Patreon supporter of the author, and I will be sending this copy on to the next patron and ordering myself Gird your loins for September because I can't recommend this book highly enough. It spans two millennia from 1012 and the decline of the Maya, to 2012 where a woman visits a cave in Belize, to 3012 with a religion based on some of the previous stories and humanity in an evolved state. Everything intertwines and the ending is glorious. I got a chance to read it early because I've long been a Patreon supporter of the author, and I will be sending this copy on to the next patron and ordering myself a hardcover. If you're intrigued, check out her debut novel while you wait, The Girl in the Road.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Randall

    Disclosures and content notes: First, I read this as an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own. Second, I am a patron of Monica Byrne and have been financially supporting her work for at least five years, and part of that has meant that I have known about this book, her writing process, and the journey to publication more deeply than any other book I’ve ever read. (I really value this, and her transparence with her patrons, but I know it has influenced Disclosures and content notes: First, I read this as an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own. Second, I am a patron of Monica Byrne and have been financially supporting her work for at least five years, and part of that has meant that I have known about this book, her writing process, and the journey to publication more deeply than any other book I’ve ever read. (I really value this, and her transparence with her patrons, but I know it has influenced how I approached the book.) Third, for content warnings, there are descriptions of self-cutting, human sacrifice, and other contemplated violence. … So, now that’s out of the way… … The Actual Star is an interwoven single story about three different timelines each separated by a millennia. Taking place across the world and specifically in Belize, we weave through 1012, 2012, and 3012, each moment at the end of an age and on the precipice of a new one. There are 3 central characters in each of the timelines, each distinct and individually voiced. I always was able to find my way in the story, and even when we picked up after a cliffhanger (basically the experience of the second half of the book) I was able to follow directly into the timeline with the writing. Often, in stories where there are multiple narrators or sections of the world to follow (cough The Two Towers cough Song of Ice and Fire cough) I’ll find myself wanting to skip ahead to my favorite characters. I’ll have a story I’m more invested in even as the tale continues elsewhere. This is not the case here. With these interweaving stories, and the way they are related, and the lore that Byrne has built into this world which is so deeply textured it engages all my senses and whole body, I always wanted to know what was next in each of the timelines. I am in awe of how Byrne has created a new religion, with streams of orthodoxy, heresy, and ideals, and so she can speak to how we make foes out of people who are so closely aligned with our own values, but off, only by a margin. Our disputes for life are about the degree of that margin. This book reads like a soft blanket. It reads like an invitation into a new world. It feels nostalgic while also being innovative. Clearly, Byrne has been influenced by writers like JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, NK Jemisin, Octavia Butler, and Kim Stanley Robinson, but this influence is more about scope and the way one is immersed into a story, than narrative directives. Byrne’s writing is clear, beautiful, elegant, and evocative. I frequently found myself reading a description, and thinking, well, I’ve never heard it that way, but now I have a very clear picture in my head. She writes phrases that should become cliches because of how perfect they are. Her writing is clear and consistent throughout. My only space for wonder about style is whether each of the primary characters could have been differentiated by varied voicing, but I don’t think the story needs it. Byrne’s prose is graceful and poetic, deeply detailed, layered, and textured. This is a book the world needs right now. It’s about our imagination for our future, how our past can impact our present in surprising ways, and how perfection isn’t the same as community. This is a story I’ve never heard before, but it felt like coming home.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marcus

    The plot is good, it could have even been great but the book is ruined by SO MUCH cringe. There are so many contemporary social agendas scattered throughout the text it's really hard to stay engaged with the plot at all. Among them: * whiteness, the great evil ("four great evils: capitalism, whiteness, patriarchy, nationalism.") * lotssss of starry-eyed anti-colonialism * the tourist gaze (lol) * fetishization of "other ways of knowing" * lots of anti/post capitalism represented as some type of very The plot is good, it could have even been great but the book is ruined by SO MUCH cringe. There are so many contemporary social agendas scattered throughout the text it's really hard to stay engaged with the plot at all. Among them: * whiteness, the great evil ("four great evils: capitalism, whiteness, patriarchy, nationalism.") * lotssss of starry-eyed anti-colonialism * the tourist gaze (lol) * fetishization of "other ways of knowing" * lots of anti/post capitalism represented as some type of very late stage Marxian utopia (ie. incompatible with human nature) * lots of fat studies influence. "Noticing how her potbelly hung over the hem of her spandex" is said with a straight face and supposed to be sexy... * lots of pro-prostitution in the most naive way imaginable. “I remember what you said in the van,” he said, “that you have many boyfriends.” “Oh sí, soy una puta también,” she said. He was surprised that she referred to herself as such—not as a joke, but with pride" * lots of "fun" new pronouns and not in the cool Le Guin way. * and a genderless future utopia that's basically Brave New World, but glorified instead of cautionary * x endings for Latinos a thousand years in the future (hermanix lol) * over-emphasis on consent in "romantic" scenes. "She reviewed how many she’d made love to before her ai warned her she was unable to consent. Four!" * hyper sex positivity. The main focus of the book is sex. Consensual sex is always good and nobody every gets hurt or jealous no matter what. On top of it all, the sex scenes are... embarrassingly bad. I was going to quote some but I can't bring myself to do it. * strange obsession with justifying and explaining self-cutting * weird incest that almost felt glorified in a Game of Thrones type way. It's not even that I necessarily even oppose most of those agendas. I expected to be "challenged" by it and was hoping to learn from something different from my standard fare. The problem is that they're so overt, so omnipresent, and so distracting. For a book with no aliens, the characters all seem to be human adjacent, but not quite human. I was unable to finish it. It was a 19 hour audiobook and I bailed at 17 hours.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I wasn't sure this was my kind of book. I don't read a lot of the kind of historical fiction or speculative fiction that has this level of deep worldbuilding. And with three separate plots and timelines, each with their own full set of characters, at first I struggled to get my feet under me. I actually spent a few weeks reading this, going back to it for a dose of three chapters inbetween my other books. This can make for a disjointed reading experience, but over time I found myself more invest I wasn't sure this was my kind of book. I don't read a lot of the kind of historical fiction or speculative fiction that has this level of deep worldbuilding. And with three separate plots and timelines, each with their own full set of characters, at first I struggled to get my feet under me. I actually spent a few weeks reading this, going back to it for a dose of three chapters inbetween my other books. This can make for a disjointed reading experience, but over time I found myself more invested, more comfortable, and able to comfortably move between these three stories all 1,000 years apart. What drew me in was the religious connection across the three stories. All of them are rooted in Maya tradition, but all of them have been changed over time. Our protagonists are in drastically different circumstances, but at their center they are all motivated by a search for truth and a deep sense of faith. I am not sure if this actually deserves to be called "fantasy," there are certainly science-fiction elements in the future timeline, but the only fantastical elements are all part of Maya religion. It is immediately clear that this is a book that takes it's characters' beliefs utterly seriously, and I always enjoy books like that. If possible, I would recommend reading this in print. I read an e-book and didn't realize until I was done that there was an extensive glossary which would have been very useful, but also would have been a pain to flip back and forth to in an e-book version. (And you wouldn't have access at all in audio.) That said, I eventually was just fine, I didn't always remember everything about the future society that the glossary is for, but I was okay just relaxing and letting myself go with it, I got everything I needed even if I didn't get every term. But seriously, the future worldbuilding here is extensive and impressive, even without every little detail, I was able to get swept up in it. Because of the way I spread out my reading of it I honestly didn't even realize how long it was. I knew it was long but I was way off in my guess! In 1012 we have Ixul and Ajul, twin rulers of a Maya empire, and their younger sister Ket. In 2012 we have Leah, brought up in small town Minnesota by her white Catholic mother knowing she is the child of a Maya man from her mother's work teaching in Belize when she was young. Leah is determined to go to Belize for reasons she doesn't fully understand. And in 3012 we have Niloux and Tanaaj, both part of a new nomadic society without homes, without social or family structures, where everything is temporary. Our two protagonists are in conflict about their society's beliefs, with Tanaaj clinging to the past and Niloux trying to push into the future. In this time, the entire social order is based on a religion that combines Maya tradition with Leah's 2012 storyline, as Leah is now considered a saint and her trip to Belize is now the stuff of scripture. The three stories have these common threads, but at first feel far apart. But they all come together for a great conclusion that really satisfies. It's a ridiculously ambitious book that clearly involves extensive research and treats the Maya and people of Belize with deep respect. Part of the worldbuilding of the future storyline is all the potential body modifications characters can undergo. Some of this is your usual quick healing but one of the new social norms is that all people use she/her pronouns and that nearly everyone has both sets of reproductive organs. It was a fascinatingly queer and nonmonogamous version of the future, and also felt like a natural outcome of the idea that the climate has so impacted the earth that these types of measures are necessary to keep humanity going. The gender fluidity also works well for the idea of past lives that's incorporated into the religion. It's particularly impressive the way these storylines all run into each other without ruining what will happen next. We know Ixul and Ajul's empire falls, we know Leah disappears in a cave, and yet this never manages to spoil either story, there are so many questions left, so much left to discover. Content warnings here mostly around self-harm (cutting specifically), which is a regular part of the plot. Also (consensual) incest, ritual sacrifice, and a good amount of violence that is often described in detail. There is graphic sex here, though I found it delightful, this is not a book that is coy about bodies or sex.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sage Agee

    Some of the horniest sci-fi I’ve read five stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chad Cunningham

    I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley to read and review. The most common description I've seen of this book is that it's akin to Cloud Atlas and the works of Octavia Butler. I think that's a pretty cool comparison. I would add that there are some elements that Grant Morrison would be comfortable with and that David Lynch might nod his head at. The book takes place in three time periods and explores themes related to change, the impact of environment on human nature, and I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley to read and review. The most common description I've seen of this book is that it's akin to Cloud Atlas and the works of Octavia Butler. I think that's a pretty cool comparison. I would add that there are some elements that Grant Morrison would be comfortable with and that David Lynch might nod his head at. The book takes place in three time periods and explores themes related to change, the impact of environment on human nature, and the power of belief. The stories intertwine and inform one another and all are seen through the lens of Mayan culture and history. The worldbuilding is solid- especially the culture of 3012- and the writing is descriptive without being too heavy. I really loved this book. I spent hours each day reading it over the course of a weekend and it was time well spent. At some point in the future I look forward to re-reading it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    E.

    As my mother's illness deepens, she often doesn't know where she is. Nothing around her is familiar. She remembers better times more clearly. She remembers other houses. She always comes back--but she also always goes away. As my mother's illness deepens, I find myself awake more often than asleep and so it was last night, I was reading the final chapters of this beauty in the wee small hours. It was the perfect time, when the house was quiet and the world dark, and I could imagine myself away in As my mother's illness deepens, she often doesn't know where she is. Nothing around her is familiar. She remembers better times more clearly. She remembers other houses. She always comes back--but she also always goes away. As my mother's illness deepens, I find myself awake more often than asleep and so it was last night, I was reading the final chapters of this beauty in the wee small hours. It was the perfect time, when the house was quiet and the world dark, and I could imagine myself away into the cave. It all felt so familiar, this place I have never been to and probably never will--and yet I was there, because of this book, because of the writing that put me there. I went away, and then I came back. I first met Monica's writing when we bought a story from her for Shimmer. I feel like I've watched her career for a long time now--her first book sale, and the moment her second book didn't sell. Her second book--that's this book--took years more work, and you can feel it in every sentence. The care that went into this one, the love that Monica has for a world her mother traveled to. The Actual Star is glorious; the last section of the book is perhaps some of my favorite writing ever, the way the stories and characters all come together. There's no good way to convey how I felt reading those lines in the middle of the night. It was a little prayer. It was, maybe, the way my mom feels; nothing around me was familiar, I was in another place, but then I came back. I hope you will take this journey, too. This is a book I never could have written, but I'm so pleased to have been able to read it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Geonn Cannon

    I don't... know... This is a weird book, and it's hard to classify. It's a big swing, and I think it was clearly pulled off, but it's definitely not for everyone. Really gory violence and scenes of self-cutting right from the get-go (literally the first scene) will prevent a lot of people from giving it a shot. It's really well written, and the work that had to go into writing this must have been incredible. But there are a lot of reasons it's hard to recommend. For instance, it would be better I don't... know... This is a weird book, and it's hard to classify. It's a big swing, and I think it was clearly pulled off, but it's definitely not for everyone. Really gory violence and scenes of self-cutting right from the get-go (literally the first scene) will prevent a lot of people from giving it a shot. It's really well written, and the work that had to go into writing this must have been incredible. But there are a lot of reasons it's hard to recommend. For instance, it would be better to read the future parts as an ebook, because there are SO MANY WORDS you have to look up in the glossary. A lot of time you can sort of glean from context but it's so much easier if you can just pause and take a peek, and that's not as easy to do with audio. But then the present day has characters who speak in a Creole dialect very similar to the Belter language in The Expanse. The audiobook narrator does a SUPERB job at making it sound natural and authentic. But trying to read it, I felt like I was back in kindergarten sounding out syllables. I went for five stars because of the writing quality, the fact it never really felt overlong or draggy. The research required for this had to be next-level. It's an amazing accomplishment, but definitely not for everyone.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    The Actual Star by Monica Byrne is her second novel since the very good Girl in the Road back in 2014. It's structured into three different timelines - Dec 1012, 2012 and 3012, all primarily set in Belize. 1012 is towards the end of the peak of Mayan civilization, where twins are to be anointed as rulers, but their plans are about to be disrupted. 2012 and Leah, half Mayan, is drawn to Belize and treks to a cave location that was important to the Mayans, and she experiences life changing events. In The Actual Star by Monica Byrne is her second novel since the very good Girl in the Road back in 2014. It's structured into three different timelines - Dec 1012, 2012 and 3012, all primarily set in Belize. 1012 is towards the end of the peak of Mayan civilization, where twins are to be anointed as rulers, but their plans are about to be disrupted. 2012 and Leah, half Mayan, is drawn to Belize and treks to a cave location that was important to the Mayans, and she experiences life changing events. In 3012 the world is a form of Utopia after global Degrowth, post a massive climate change and with a minimal population - and two movements are about to clash in conflict over their beliefs. The author very cleverly pulled together the three timelines, gradually melding them together - and I was wrapped in the story throughout. It's wide in scope, meticulously researched in the way of life of the Mayans, and has great pacing throughout. There were at least five main characters but I never felt the story lost it's way with any of them, something I find rare in novels with multiple character point of views. And the future 3012 was very effective, with a new religion and a whole new set of social rules where there are limited possessions and never staying in one place is the norm. There were many new terms used that needed the glossary at the back to find out their meaning. A warning would be it was quite explicit times, sexually but also with scenes of bloodletting and sacrifice - but not gratuitous. For me this was one of those thought-provoking and unique, intelligent novels that stay with you for a time after you've read it - and would easily be one of my top reads this year.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ash

    the amount of research that went into this book is astounding. and i have no idea how to rate this because i agree with both the positive and negative reviews. i think this may actually be impossible to rate for me, so you just have to read it to understand what i mean.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel van der Merwe

    This is one of the most magical, captivating, and intellectually stimulating novels that I have read. I stayed up past my bedtime just so that I could get to the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    DNF. While it is evident that an incredible amount of research went into this book, unfortunately, it isn’t gripping me. I’m not connecting to any of the three stories and the future timeline is hard for me to keep up with at times with all the different terminology.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kate (monstrouslybookish)

    Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing me with an early copy of The Actual Star, in exchange for an honest review. My receipt of the arc did not in any way influence this review. My mind is blown..... It took me a few days to be able to write a somewhat coherent review...and I know my words won't do this book justice. It's really that good. The story takes place in 1012, 2012, and 3012 and follows 3 souls who continue to be reborn over the years. In 1012, we follow Mayan royal twins and their Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing me with an early copy of The Actual Star, in exchange for an honest review. My receipt of the arc did not in any way influence this review. My mind is blown..... It took me a few days to be able to write a somewhat coherent review...and I know my words won't do this book justice. It's really that good. The story takes place in 1012, 2012, and 3012 and follows 3 souls who continue to be reborn over the years. In 1012, we follow Mayan royal twins and their attempted rise to power. In 2012, we are mostly in Belize and follow another set of twins who are expert guides in a sacred cave that is believed to be an entrance to Xibabla, as well as an American with Mayan ancestry who feels drawn to the cave. Finally, in 3012 we are introduced to two characters who have fundamentally different philosophies about how the new world should operate, which could completely disrupt the entire world. The Actual Star is equal parts historical fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction, and literary fiction. It explores ancient Mayan culture and extrapolates out into a thousand years in the future, when a new government and religious system has been established as the global way of life. Climate change is at the center of the story, and it's done so well without causing me additional existential dread. Entropy is a main focus of the book, and the writing and pacing drives that home. Seriously, the writing is top notch. I have not felt this connected to a book in quite some time. The only way I can describe this book is a web of interconnected timelines, with characters and settings that feel absolutely real. This is one of those books that you get so enveloped within that you forget you're not actually there with the characters. I did not want to put this book down and ended up reading it in less than 3 days. This book gave me a similar reading experience to (THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE BOOKS ARE SIMILAR) The Starless Sea, the Maddaddam series, and House of Leaves. It also gave off similar vibes as the Netflix show Dark (which is my favorite show). Again, that's not to say the story or the writing is similar...it just made me feel a similar way (which is a very good thing). TLDR: Basically, what I'm trying to say in this word soup of a review is that I can't wait to display this book on my all time favorites shelf of my bookcase. This book is exceptional and I'm so thankful I was able to read it. This book broke my brain and I thank it for that. TW: cutting (on page), psychedelic usage as part of rituals, incest (on page, royal family members), claustrophobia (portion of the book takes place in a cave), ritual sacrifices (pretty graphic), spiders, racism, mentions of colonization, cultural genocide (off page, but part of the historical record), famine, drought, mutilation.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Simonds

    For those who read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas* and thought, "I like the ideas but the execution kinda stinks," The Actual Star attempts to accomplish a generational/resurrection story, and does so rather more successfully. I've been trying to write my own generational/resurrection story for 30 years, so I appreciate the problems and challenges inherent in such storytelling. Byrne alternates her tale between 3 time periods: that of the ancient Maya, present day (2012), and a thousand years hence For those who read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas* and thought, "I like the ideas but the execution kinda stinks," The Actual Star attempts to accomplish a generational/resurrection story, and does so rather more successfully. I've been trying to write my own generational/resurrection story for 30 years, so I appreciate the problems and challenges inherent in such storytelling. Byrne alternates her tale between 3 time periods: that of the ancient Maya, present day (2012), and a thousand years hence. Events in each time period echo into the next forward. These repercussions are sometimes subtle, and sometimes earthquake-sized to the character, who do not realize their lives are shaped by the previous one. The amount of research that went into writing the Mayan section is quite astonishing. Byrne goes into quite a lot of detail - everything from rituals to "long counts" (which serves as the through-point for the book). Less successful is the Dune-level new vocabulary one has to learn to comprehend the society of the 3rd millennia. One would expect language and society to be changed in 1000 years - and it has in this book, drastically, spurred by the events in the "present" time. However, the attempt to mirror the complexity of the Mayan research with an equally complex Viajara society sometimes obscures the intent of the action. I liked the resolution to the 3rd millennia crisis. The Mayan story felt somewhat scattered until the end. And the "present day" story might have pulled together just a bit better had we known the MC's medical condition earlier. All in all, an enjoyable, if challenging, read. Recommended to those who will apply a little patience to let the story unfold in its own pace. Warning: Scenes of self-cutting. These are not gratuitous, and serve as another character through-point. *Cloud Atlas is one of the few books I can say the movie was better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maya

    This book is simply brilliant. Byrne does the impossible. She weaves a coherent, spiritually rich novel spanning three millenia that never, ever drags. She creates two fully realized cultures in addition to United States in 20th century. The world of 3012 is a post-apocalyptic vision of continuity, renewal, and adaptation. (A much needed glossary helps the reader navigate this future world.) The Mayan world of 1012 is heavily researched and both unfamiliar and deeply human. There were some parts This book is simply brilliant. Byrne does the impossible. She weaves a coherent, spiritually rich novel spanning three millenia that never, ever drags. She creates two fully realized cultures in addition to United States in 20th century. The world of 3012 is a post-apocalyptic vision of continuity, renewal, and adaptation. (A much needed glossary helps the reader navigate this future world.) The Mayan world of 1012 is heavily researched and both unfamiliar and deeply human. There were some parts that made me squirm. In particular, the 1012 world includes violence and intense pain which, although hard to read, also seems true to the era. My other challenge was struggling with the Belizean Kriol, which I had to read aloud in order to understand. My experience of this book was unnerving, jittery, obsessive. I read too late into the night, turned over plot points in my head, and dreamed of The Actual Star. I'll be thinking about these characters and what the book means for a long time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Konstantinos Georgokitsos

    I must admit that the whole urban legend/magic realism/religious side of the book went all against my usual likes. Despite that I did not struggle to finish a well written and engaging story and well researched *and* constructed worlds (which, once again, solidified my absolute belief that I don’t want to live in the distant - or recent, for that matter - past). All the nods left and right to legendary authors and books were visible as Byrne has a lot of respect for literary and SF tradition. Re I must admit that the whole urban legend/magic realism/religious side of the book went all against my usual likes. Despite that I did not struggle to finish a well written and engaging story and well researched *and* constructed worlds (which, once again, solidified my absolute belief that I don’t want to live in the distant - or recent, for that matter - past). All the nods left and right to legendary authors and books were visible as Byrne has a lot of respect for literary and SF tradition. Read it if the urban legend thingy is ok with you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    I am not good at DNFing, which is what I wanted to do a few times as I progressed through this book. I think the author's inventiveness and writing were worth 5 stars because of -the three complex storylines, set 1000 years apart -the complicated characters -the beliefs and attitudes of each set of characters in each storyline were well developed -the writing was really good My enjoyment, however, of this long book was in the 2.5-3 star range. I am not good at DNFing, which is what I wanted to do a few times as I progressed through this book. I think the author's inventiveness and writing were worth 5 stars because of -the three complex storylines, set 1000 years apart -the complicated characters -the beliefs and attitudes of each set of characters in each storyline were well developed -the writing was really good My enjoyment, however, of this long book was in the 2.5-3 star range.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Boldon

    The blurb is right; it is like David Mitchell crossed with Butler's Earthseed novels. And what a wild ride it is, set in 3 eras, 1012, 2012, and 3012 imagining a post-climate crisis society and how that might work. The details are fascinating and inclusive. This is a jaw dropping work, one that made me resent putting it down, and stay up late to finish. Religion, history, gender, myth, reincarnation and so much more. I flat out loved it. The blurb is right; it is like David Mitchell crossed with Butler's Earthseed novels. And what a wild ride it is, set in 3 eras, 1012, 2012, and 3012 imagining a post-climate crisis society and how that might work. The details are fascinating and inclusive. This is a jaw dropping work, one that made me resent putting it down, and stay up late to finish. Religion, history, gender, myth, reincarnation and so much more. I flat out loved it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    agata

    The Actual Star is a sweeping story spanning two millennia and three timelines. In the first one, set in 1012, royal twins begin the preparations to rule over their Maya kingdom. The second one is set in 2012 and it takes us on a journey of self-discovery with Leah, a half-American, half-Maya teenager, who becomes an icon of worship in the third timeline, set in 3012. All three timelines are connected and interwoven, and they all grapple with the themes of society, identity, and existence itself The Actual Star is a sweeping story spanning two millennia and three timelines. In the first one, set in 1012, royal twins begin the preparations to rule over their Maya kingdom. The second one is set in 2012 and it takes us on a journey of self-discovery with Leah, a half-American, half-Maya teenager, who becomes an icon of worship in the third timeline, set in 3012. All three timelines are connected and interwoven, and they all grapple with the themes of society, identity, and existence itself. Rating this novel was not easy. Usually, it's pretty early on in the book when I can tell which end of the rating system I lean towards, but this time I constantly kept going from love to hate, and finally landed on liked--but wouldn't recommend to everyone. The pace is slow and I would categorize the book's genre as skewing more towards literary fiction, so future readers should keep in mind that there aren't many fast and snappy plot twists. Each of the timelines had its own flaws and positives, but I enjoyed the ones set in 1012 and 3012 the most. The latter impressed me with how complex and imaginative the world-building was, although in the very beginning I was getting annoyed with how often I had to switch to the glossary in the back. Once I got used to all the names and concepts, I was truly excited to keep reading. The 2012 timeline was underwhelming, especially when compared to the 1012 one. Here, Byrne truly shines with the hours of research it must have taken to write about Mayan history and culture. I was sucked into the story immediately and ended up deep in some Wikipedia rabbit holes to learn more about certain aspects of Mayan culture that I didn't know much about before reaching for this book. Overall, The Actual Star was an ambitious read that took me a while to truly get into, but I think that anyone who gets past the few initial hurdles (mainly the complexity and the language), will end up very satisfied.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tsipi Erann

    4.5 ⭐️ This one has everything on my wish list -- it's queer, it's feminist, it's sex positive, it has a feminist utopia, gender is obliterated (but in a good way, TERFs need not bother), it treats the native culture at it's core respectfully, it's informative, it's challenging. This novel is extraordinarily ambitious, and it delivers. It's well researched, broad-spanning, immersive, eventful, philosophical, emotional... It challenges social and sexual taboos, religion, gender, time, and even geo 4.5 ⭐️ This one has everything on my wish list -- it's queer, it's feminist, it's sex positive, it has a feminist utopia, gender is obliterated (but in a good way, TERFs need not bother), it treats the native culture at it's core respectfully, it's informative, it's challenging. This novel is extraordinarily ambitious, and it delivers. It's well researched, broad-spanning, immersive, eventful, philosophical, emotional... It challenges social and sexual taboos, religion, gender, time, and even geography. It should be an easy five stars, and yet I'm feeling held back. The difference between four and five stars, for me, is not quantifiable. It's that ineffable something that blows my mind, makes me feel connected or validated or gives me an epiphany or changes my outlook, or simply satisfies me -- but also maybe none of these, and something entirely other. The difference might just be down to me being tired, or annoyed, or dealing with a crisis. How focused I am while listening to an audio book.... Nothing to do with the book itself. So that's the delta here. I think this is a great book. I might even change my mind and add a star. I definitely recommend it, strongly. My nitpicks: I don't know if I found Leah's sexuality believable. Or if so, I was a bit disturbed by it. Not in a judgy way, I loved her basic attitude. But there was this feeling that for all her enthusiasm she wasn't at all pleasure oriented. It didn't seem that she was experiencing any level of sensuality at all, which isn't the unbelievable part -- what I had trouble with was that she seemingly also didn't feel any lack or dissatisfaction. And that for all her experience (and her very expressive and unabashed personality characterized by always un-self-consciously being herself) she apparently had trouble asking for what she wants. The second thing that didn't jibe [spoilery] was Tanaaj's sudden embrace of the vast significance of blood-family, to the extent of completely reversing every single thing she believes in within minutes. I didn't buy it. I didn't care that much, because at that point in the story something had to happen to bring the dramatic arc to a close, and Byrne chose this. So okay. The main point was that the current era was going to give way to a new one, and that isn't a surprise because it is the entire significance of the date, across the millennia. It fit. That's just about it, though. Given the scope of this novel, no biggie.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maya

    This book has layers and depth. There is a lot going on from fantastic far-future world-building to jumping into the past as a fully realized tangible setting. The story loops and intertwines future, close present, and past in delightful and meaningful ways and explores connection. Connection to family, to place, to ourselves and our desires, to our communities, to our impact on the world, to our beliefs, to the past, and to the future. It was an engrossing and through provoking read. I'm so hon This book has layers and depth. There is a lot going on from fantastic far-future world-building to jumping into the past as a fully realized tangible setting. The story loops and intertwines future, close present, and past in delightful and meaningful ways and explores connection. Connection to family, to place, to ourselves and our desires, to our communities, to our impact on the world, to our beliefs, to the past, and to the future. It was an engrossing and through provoking read. I'm so honored that I got to read an early copy. After it was released, I did a re-read via the audiobook. The audiobook narration was FANTASTIC and I highly recommend experiencing this book both ways. Each epoch is read by a different narrator and all 3 are wonderful. Listening to the Kriol was very helpful and hearing the 3 different voices helped me experience the story in a new way. I caught so many things the second time through. This is definitely a story to experience more than once!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Jones

    Engrossing, riveting, emotionally engaging, fascinating. The first book I could not put down in over a year. I read a lot of books during 2020. I had the time. None grabbed me like this one did. Not only did I love this book, I was relieved to know that I could still love a book after the year we all went through. Three intertwined stories thousands of years apart tell a incredible story that grabbed my attention right from the start. I couldn't wait to start reading the next chapter to learn jus Engrossing, riveting, emotionally engaging, fascinating. The first book I could not put down in over a year. I read a lot of books during 2020. I had the time. None grabbed me like this one did. Not only did I love this book, I was relieved to know that I could still love a book after the year we all went through. Three intertwined stories thousands of years apart tell a incredible story that grabbed my attention right from the start. I couldn't wait to start reading the next chapter to learn just a little bit more about how the stories come together. The book gains significant momentum and by the end I found myself reading at a frantic pace just to finally know the end. Loved it. Just fantastic. I cannot recommend this book enough.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deedi Brown (DeediReads)

    All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. TL;DR REVIEW: Oh my gosh, I loved The Acutal Star so much. It’s so creative and smart and well-written. Every chapter was a puzzle. This is one to savor and enjoy! For you if: You like books with multiple timelines that have intersecting plotlines. FULL REVIEW: “The Cortada The cave began as nothing more than a softness. As the water pooled, the softness became a depression, the depression a cut, the cut a passage, the passage a cavern, and All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. TL;DR REVIEW: Oh my gosh, I loved The Acutal Star so much. It’s so creative and smart and well-written. Every chapter was a puzzle. This is one to savor and enjoy! For you if: You like books with multiple timelines that have intersecting plotlines. FULL REVIEW: “The Cortada The cave began as nothing more than a softness. As the water pooled, the softness became a depression, the depression a cut, the cut a passage, the passage a cavern, and the cavern a world. In the time of the Maya, that world was the realm of the gods. In the time of Saint Leah, that world was a tourist attraction. In our time, I propose, that world may be most rightly understood as a theatre of the soul.” Hi there. I’d like to introduce you to the next book I’ll be recommending to anyone who will listen: The Actual Star by Monica Byrne. It’s creative and smart, with intricate (but not overwhelming) world-building. It’s a standalone soft sci-fi novel, perfect for people who love to read fantasy too. The story takes place in three timelines: the year 1012, focusing on the ruling siblings of the final great Maya empire; 2012, with a girl named Leah who travels to Belize in search of Xibalba, transcendence; and 3012, focusing on two members of the nomadic society that now worships Leah and evolved out of climate change, each urging a certain direction for the world’s next age. This is a book that’s easy to read quickly but rewards you for reading slowly and paying close attention; I read it over the course of nearly three weeks (a very long time for me) and loved every minute. Each chapter is a puzzle, a treasure hunt. The three timelines and plots intersect early and often, and we as readers delight in every moment of overlap. You sense that you’re spiraling toward an epic conclusion, and Byrne absolutely delivers. All three timelines are also carefully considered; Byrne carefully researched Maya history and traditions, and that part of the story is rich. I also appreciated the way she presented languages from Spanish to Kriol without direct translation, but in a way that allowed you to follow along. And I was fascinated by the future she imagined: one in which biological sex does not exist, pronouns are universal, and people’s identities (gender, sexuality, etc) are self-chosen and -communicated. ANYWAY, I loved this book a whole heck of a lot and you should read it!! CONTENT AND TRIGGER WARNINGS: Self-harm; Incest; Sexual content; Graphic violence

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I'm going to start of saying that I highly enjoyed this book. This is not something I probably would have read on my own unless it was highly recommend in other book groups that I am involved, so I am thankful for winning a copy of this book on Goodreads from the publisher. I am very impressed with this book taking place over 3,000 years - 1012, 2012, and 3012 and how the stories were all intertwined. Looking back it is fascinating thinking about how much things change over 1,000 years. The writ I'm going to start of saying that I highly enjoyed this book. This is not something I probably would have read on my own unless it was highly recommend in other book groups that I am involved, so I am thankful for winning a copy of this book on Goodreads from the publisher. I am very impressed with this book taking place over 3,000 years - 1012, 2012, and 3012 and how the stories were all intertwined. Looking back it is fascinating thinking about how much things change over 1,000 years. The writing, thoughts behind the work, and the intertwining of 3,000 years was very well done. There are some good discussions on religion and climate change. Characters were interesting. Not really best friend material, but I could see some of the thought process based on upbringing and background plays into decision making. I did have a hard time seeing how Leah could possibly become a saint. How did I find this book? I won an Advanced Reader's Copy though a Goodreads.com giveaway.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Trash Panzer

    [I was given access to an advance review copy.] I'm not quite sure where to begin, talking about this book. I'm kinda still processing it, and I'm going to reread later this year when I get a mass-market copy of my own. The resonances between the three time-periods the story takes place in are well-timed/placed, and build on each other with each cycle, and the revelations that occur as the book progresses echo across all three of them. It was probably the most emotionally-impactful novel I've rea [I was given access to an advance review copy.] I'm not quite sure where to begin, talking about this book. I'm kinda still processing it, and I'm going to reread later this year when I get a mass-market copy of my own. The resonances between the three time-periods the story takes place in are well-timed/placed, and build on each other with each cycle, and the revelations that occur as the book progresses echo across all three of them. It was probably the most emotionally-impactful novel I've read this year, and I think that kinda took me by surprise, after the other stuff I've been reading lately. Reading it also inspired me to dig out Byrne's previous book, The Girl In The Road, and put it back into my TBR stack for a reread.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peter F. Delaney

    We picked The Actual Star for book club and it was one of my favorites of 2021. Originally a three-book trilogy, a wise editor told the author to turn it into one book, and that decision was on the money. It’s highly intellectual and you won’t get all the answers spelled out for you. There are some big surprises that some readers missed along the way; it’s fairly subtle in its clues and almost no one spotted all of the clever connections between the three time points depicted in the novel (me in We picked The Actual Star for book club and it was one of my favorites of 2021. Originally a three-book trilogy, a wise editor told the author to turn it into one book, and that decision was on the money. It’s highly intellectual and you won’t get all the answers spelled out for you. There are some big surprises that some readers missed along the way; it’s fairly subtle in its clues and almost no one spotted all of the clever connections between the three time points depicted in the novel (me included). If that’s your kind of story, you’ll likely enjoy Byrne’s sweeping and imaginative future history of the world. There’s also a heavy dose of mysticism and magical realism that runs throughout. The characters have some major flaws and problems to deal with, but are mostly interesting and sympathetic. Fair warning that bad things happen to basically good but imperfect people, kind of like in real life. It’s a great book club pick that generated a lot of discussion. The author kindly has a standing offer to come to book clubs, and so one of our members invited her into the lion’s den. She was a terrific guest — so smart and interesting to talk to. If you get a chance to talk about the book with her, definitely do it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    4.5 stars!! This book has three beautifully woven timelines that take place exactly 1000 years apart from each other. They were all equally interesting and the twists were all revealed perfectly, sometimes within their own timeline, and sometimes in a later timeline. I also loved each and every character! Something that I loved was how the nomadic society was presented as futuristic and civilized. This really flips the most common scifi tropes on their heads. For example, it is very common for sci 4.5 stars!! This book has three beautifully woven timelines that take place exactly 1000 years apart from each other. They were all equally interesting and the twists were all revealed perfectly, sometimes within their own timeline, and sometimes in a later timeline. I also loved each and every character! Something that I loved was how the nomadic society was presented as futuristic and civilized. This really flips the most common scifi tropes on their heads. For example, it is very common for scifi-futures to take place in a high-tech city, with flying cars and people living high in the sky. However, it takes a way of life (nomadic) that is sometimes portrayed as less civilized, and gives them incredibly complicated technology and a complex society structure. Thank you to the publisher for a gifted copy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bill Gauthier

    Monica Byrne’s THE ACTUAL STAR is an explosion of talent. The beautiful writing enhances a story that is huge but flows as quickly as the rivers and streams that make up parts of the story’s landscape(s). It feels like three novels in one with a surprising ending that I’ll be thinking about for days to come. The characters are amazing and never once did I mistake one for the other, as they are so well drawn out. This novel is destined to be a science fiction classic, and I’m glad to be here at t Monica Byrne’s THE ACTUAL STAR is an explosion of talent. The beautiful writing enhances a story that is huge but flows as quickly as the rivers and streams that make up parts of the story’s landscape(s). It feels like three novels in one with a surprising ending that I’ll be thinking about for days to come. The characters are amazing and never once did I mistake one for the other, as they are so well drawn out. This novel is destined to be a science fiction classic, and I’m glad to be here at the beginning. HIGHLY recommended!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wren

    "In a long strange moment that seemed to draw away from her in all directions, she became aware of the separation of her thoughts like dewdrops on a spider’s thread: the impulse, the act, the memory, the meaning, and the imposition of the meaning upon the memory. There’d been a moment when they were all one and the same, she felt sure; but it was already past." "In a long strange moment that seemed to draw away from her in all directions, she became aware of the separation of her thoughts like dewdrops on a spider’s thread: the impulse, the act, the memory, the meaning, and the imposition of the meaning upon the memory. There’d been a moment when they were all one and the same, she felt sure; but it was already past."

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...