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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
In Mark Bertrand's novel Starzel, Eulǝr, a Syganoid from Planet Forty-Four, investigates First Priority knowledge on Earth. Meeting a woman in black, his transportation contact, he decides to stay on Earth. Eulǝr engages in multiple philosophical discussions and confronts Androps, influenced by his parents' memories. He faces legal trouble, leading to confinement and indoctrination, and is forced into an arena until a daring escape is made, aided by the woman in black and establishing contact with Syganoids. Eulǝr's quest to find Banyan's last book reveals ASI dangers, Syganoid culture, and a mission to access the Tathagata supercomputer. Crucial information from Tathagata uncovers hidden histories, leading to an upgrade operation and further revelations. Eulǝr receives a message about a virus cure for a major political party, propelling him forward in his mission.
Mark Bertrand does a great job moving Eulǝr from one phase of his journey to the next in the speculative fiction novel Starzel, which is part of his Nirvanaing series. Despite being humanoid but not human, Eulǝr is easy to relate to and someone I ultimately found myself rooting for. The descriptions of his experiences are immersive and extremely well depicted, like the vegetable fields with a chemical smell, the lenticular clouds in the blue sky, and the long shadows cast by the sun. I loved the connection to the eerily similar issues of the very real problems of today, amplified by far-right hysteria over suppressing social, gender, and fundamental human rights and political movements under the Trump Nation Confederacy. Overall, this is a thought-provoking and thoughtful novel that will likely delight lovers of intelligent visionary fiction.