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The Actual Star (2021)

av Monica Byrne

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2831194,155 (3.72)11
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler's Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) crafts an unforgettable piece of speculative fiction about where humanity came from, where we are now, and where we're going--and how, in every age, the same forces that drive us apart also bind us together. "A stone-cold masterpiece."--New Scientist The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over two millennia and six continents--telling three powerful tales a thousand years apart, all of them converging in the same cave in the Belizean jungle. Braided together are the stories of a pair of teenage twins who ascend the throne of a Maya kingdom; a young American woman on a trip of self-discovery in Belize; and two dangerous charismatics vying for the leadership of a new religion, racing toward a confrontation that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change. In each era, a reincarnated trinity of souls navigates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, and love and hate--until all of their age-old questions about the nature of existence converge deep underground, where only in complete darkness can they truly see.… (mer)
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A remarkable book. Byrne casts her imagination over the post-classic Maya, contemporary Belize, and a post-climate change future telling compelling stories about each sharing in common a geographical space. She speculates that the agency of landscapes can determine human activities therein, and further that temporal dimensions can get blurred through ritual activities in special places. Fascinating! ( )
  TomMcGreevy | Mar 19, 2024 |
This is a cleverly constructed tripartite novel with three parallel plots occurring 1000 years apart - all based on the culture of the Mayan civilization. It is well-written with extensive direct and indirect relationships among the characters in the storylines.

I did think that the changes described in the society of the year 3012 were conceivable, but the biological changes described were not. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
I will always be grateful to John Scalzi and his blog "Whatever" and especially for his turning the blog over to other writers frequently so that they can talk about the Big Idea that caused them to write a book. That's how I learned about this book. Monica Byrne's explanation of how a trip to Belize which included visiting a cave that had been used by ancient Mayans affected her was so vibrant that I knew I had to read the book. Fortunately my library got a copy.

There are three timelines in the book: 1012 AD which involves a royal Mayan household, 2012 AD which features a half-Maya, half-American young woman, and 3012 AD in which a near-Utopian global culture based on that 2012 timeline is facing a clash of ideologies. The cave in Belize that Byrne entered is central to all three story arcs. In the first two sisters and a brother seek to rule their state after their parents disappear. Part of the Mayan religion is to have human sacrifices and the plan is to have the royals play a ball game against captives who, of course, are the intended sacrifices. Except things don't quite work out as intended. In 2012 Leah leaves her home in Minnesota to visit Belize where she was conceived. She meets fraternal twins Javier and Xander who both work as guides to the cave. After her first visit Leah is convinced she must return to the cave and visit the area beyond where the tours stop. She has a sexual relationship with both brothers which binds them to her and when she disappears they are profoundly affected. They set up the lifestyle of that the people of 3012 follow (called Laviaja) which involves continuously moving from place to place and meeting new people. Niloux DeCayo is in Persia when she has an epiphany that the Laviaja lifestyle was nearing its end. This heretical notion is opposed, quite strongly, by Tanaaj DeCayo and an encounter between the two is set up to occur at a grand celebration near the Belizean cave.

As the author says in her Big Idea piece "It’s a novel about the cave, yes. But it’s also the story about the origins and destiny of humanity, as told by three brave, vulnerable, fallible people making their way through history, from the collapse of the ancient Maya elites to a far-future utopia. I could never have guessed the full dimensions of what was pushing to come through me, at the time; just that I had to serve it. That feeling became my characters’ feelings: repeatedly, they are overwhelmed by a physical, noetic certainty that they must act upon." Have you ever had that feeling that you just had to do something even though it was outisde your comfort zone and, perhaps, not something you could afford to do? Did you act on it? If there's a takeaway message to this book it is that we should pay more attention to what our body and feelings are telling us and then act on that. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 29, 2022 |
This book has some very interesting gender ideas, in the future people are born with both sets of sexual organs. Most go through life using both at different times, some choose to lean more one way than the other. All are referred to as she. There, I've said every good thing about it, except that it has some interesting information about Mayan culture. The book has three time lines: 1012, 2012 and 3012 - all dominated by religious delusions. I can forgive the 12th-century folk, the rest of it is just ridiculous. We have the usual stupid teenage girl, you know the type - the tour guide says you can go anywhere you want, but whatever you do, don't go to x. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | May 12, 2022 |
This book seemed promising in the beginning, but I lost interest the more I read. I never became invested in the characters or the story.

The story alternates between three different timelines set in the years 1012, 2012, and 3012. There are story threads that tie the three timelines together, and at first it was interesting to me to watch for the links and speculate about exactly how it would all come together. Although the story visits other places, its main focus is on Belize and Mayan mythology. Since I know very little about that culture, that was another aspect that interested me in the beginning.

So… a promising start, but it just seemed to kind of go on and on without offering anything truly substantial and I started to lose interest. I was initially interested in the characters, but I never came to care about them. I kind of understood the motivations of the characters in the 1012 and 2012 timelines, even though I didn’t relate to them, but I never felt like I had a good understanding of the characters in the 3012 timeline at all. And the story just didn’t do much for me.

I felt like the story was more set dressing than substance. It seemed to be a blend of various ideas the author wanted to explore, without much actual exploration. As one example, humans in the 3012 setting have both male and female reproductive organs and everybody is referred to by the gender pronoun “she”. This never had any real impact on the plot. It just seemed like something the author threw in there to try to make it seem “edgy”. A similar concept was explored with much more depth and relevance in The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969, which I read for the first time last year. I had some complaints about that book too, and I don’t always properly appreciate the classics as much as somebody who read them back when they were new, but the way it presented and handled the gender-related aspects of the story was something I thought was done well and it has stuck in my memory. The Actual Star sort of felt like cotton candy to me -- something that looks substantial until you try to sink your teeth into it and realize there’s not much to it.

This book seems to be primarily categorized as science fiction, but I disagree. Yes, there’s some futuristic technology in the 3012 timeline, but none of the science or technology drives the plot. The actual plot is driven by Mayan mythology.

There are several sentences and even full paragraphs in this book that are written in either Spanish or Kriol. The surrounding text hinted at their contents, especially for the more important passages, but they were not translated directly and I thought the surrounding text failed to convey some nuances that a reader would want to catch. The Spanish wasn’t a problem for me because I was reading it on my Kindle. If I couldn’t figure out what it said, I used the translation feature. The Kriol was a much bigger problem for me since there was no translation. It’s very similar to English and if you focus on it and think through how it would sound when spoken out loud, you can usually figure out what it says, but it takes some effort. My problem was that I’m in a phase where work is busy and I don’t have a lot of time or energy for reading. I’m mostly reading at the end of the day before bed when I’m tired and mentally worn out from my day job. There were multiple nights where I got to a Kriol passage, could not figure out what it said, and closed the book in frustration and went to sleep instead. The next morning, if I remembered to take the time to read that passage again before starting work for the day, I could usually figure it out better. Maybe I would have had fun puzzling it out during a less busy phase of life when I was more mentally alert and had more reading time.

I started to get interested in the story again toward the end, wanting to see how the author would tie everything together, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. The answers are vague and I’m not even 100% sure I understood the final chapters. So Ket and Leah apparently met up in Xibalba. And I guess the “woman in the split of the tree” who was waiting for them must have been Tanaaj’s daughter Messe. If they’re all the same reincarnated individual, I’m not sure it makes sense for them to be 3 people in Xibalba, but ok fine. If Messe was the third person, then I guess this means she disappeared in the 3012 timeline when Tanaaj and Niloux let blood, becoming the first disappearance in a long time? Does this mean that the disappearances had stopped because people stopped letting blood? Also, we’re told that the twins’ “very separation had become a third person, binding them together”. That… didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Obviously that’s Ket/Leah/Messe, but are we supposed to believe that in 1012 and 2012, because Ket and Leah disappeared, that’s the real reason one of the twins died in both timelines? And in 3012 Messe apparently disappears, but Niloux and Tanaaj are in the process of reconciling, so they will survive without her since they’re no longer separated? Or is there some other reason she disappears in every timeline? I don’t know, I guess sense can be made out of it all, but it’s one of those ambiguous endings that tend to annoy me. It offers things to think about, but leaves me wondering if even the author understood her story. ( )
  YouKneeK | Mar 21, 2022 |
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David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler's Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) crafts an unforgettable piece of speculative fiction about where humanity came from, where we are now, and where we're going--and how, in every age, the same forces that drive us apart also bind us together. "A stone-cold masterpiece."--New Scientist The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over two millennia and six continents--telling three powerful tales a thousand years apart, all of them converging in the same cave in the Belizean jungle. Braided together are the stories of a pair of teenage twins who ascend the throne of a Maya kingdom; a young American woman on a trip of self-discovery in Belize; and two dangerous charismatics vying for the leadership of a new religion, racing toward a confrontation that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change. In each era, a reincarnated trinity of souls navigates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, and love and hate--until all of their age-old questions about the nature of existence converge deep underground, where only in complete darkness can they truly see.

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