A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J Roberts

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Goodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Self-published

Publish Date: 20 June 2021

Page Count: 256 pages

A Star Named Vega is a criminally underrated sci-fi adventure novel, having six Goodreads ratings at the time of writing. It involves far-future technology, spaceship battles, car chases, plot twists, and new friendships, perfect for fans of series’ like Megan O’Keefe’s The Protectorate or Alex White’s The Salvagers. I devoured it in one sitting and enjoyed myself immensely. 

The story follows Aster, a young graffiti artist who spends most of her spare time competing on Vocks, an app that rates artistic acts of civil disobedience. 

In the first chapter, Aster is travelling with her father, as scientist who has been summoned to a mysterious research project in the Vega System. During a space station stopover, Aster meets a boy named Isaac, who turns out to be the infamous hacker Fuzon, also travelling to the Vega System for Project Outlander. 

Aster and Isaac’s mischief aboard the luxury starship Bright Horizon is interrupted when a trio of Skarids, a warrior race from another star system, intercept the ship. The Skarids seem to know all about Project Outlander and target members of the research team aboard the ship for information.

After a brief encounter with one of the Skarids, Aster is pulled into unfolding events with interstellar consequences and must decide what cause she will fight for. 

For me, the most exciting aspect of A Star Named Vega is Roberts’ vision of what the 30th century might look like politically, socially, and theologically. I don’t want to provide more detail since he does such a fantastic job of developing his setting naturally as the story unfolds, but it’s an intriguing premise, with more consideration than that of some adult space operas I’ve read.

Roberts provides a unique take on humanity’s relationship with advanced technology, with a sort of AI-led socialist society. He uses this setting to raise questions about freedom and the value of life–human or other. I felt that there were no real villains in this book, just different parties with opposing beliefs and different experiences. I enjoyed this aspect of the story, though I was left with some unanswered questions in the end. 

Despite all this far-future worldbuilding, A Star Named Vega is not so technical that it would scare away prospective science fiction readers. As Roberts explained in a recent tweet, his writing is not ‘hard sci-fi’ or ‘soft sci-fi’ so much as ‘chewy sci-fi’. After all, the protagonist is a 14-year old, and the book is for readers 11+ (though I would pitch both protagonist and readership as slightly older). 

I started reading a widely praised adult sci-fi series immediately after this book, and I already find myself missing the worlds of the Thirteen Suns, which is far more fun and, in my opinion, far more thought-provoking. Luckily for us all, A Star Named Vega is currently free on Kindle Unlimited.

I’m so happy I decided to check out this book, and I wish Roberts all the best in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition!

Trigger warnings: Body horror/injury, death of family, suicide

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