SPFBO 8 Finalist: A Song for the Void by Andrew C. Piazza

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Hey guys! Here’s a link to my youtube video or if you want to read the written version I will ahve an abbreviated summary at the bottom. I can’t possibly transcribe 9 minutes of gushing into a review, it would be like 5k words long.

I was so stoked when this got announced because the premise sounded amazing and unlike things I’ve read before. Also, congrats to what I *believe* to be the first horror-fantasy finalist for SPFBO. That only took eight years!

The introduction let’s you know that the main character is going to tell you a story from his life, it sets the tone in that his intro is ominous and you know the story is going to potentially have a lot of fucked up shit in it. I think this was smart because it gives the reader anticipation while also writing a slow burn introduction that’s character focused and not as much plot focused. It’s like a promise that things will be nuts, just sit and be patient while I line this up for you.

The MC, Edward Pearce, is a British doctor who serves on the Royal Fleet during the time of the Opium Wars. I personally found this is a really interesting time period and location to pick for a fantasy story and I can’t say I’ve read anything else in that location/time zone paring from this perspective.

Edward is fairly even tempered, well intentioned, but battling some serious demons and hardships. He lost his wife and son during childbirth and escaped to a life in the military, a life he never really wanted. He suffered more trauma there and turned to opium. At the start of the book, he’s just getting back on his feet after battling an addiction with opium and going back into the military service to try and bring meaning to his life. The military back then was a way to avoid jail, financial debts, and other social failings and so the people he’s in charge of can be “colorful”, and gross, to be honest. However, Edward himself is a foil to these other less savory characters, usually having contrary thoughts and opinions to the misogyny and racism around him. I found this to be a good way to explore jarring topics so that it’s not so overwhelming and negative that it’s no longer an engaging reading experience. It exposes the past for what it is while also acknowledging people who wanted to make it better. Not only in racism and thoughts about addiction, but the late 1800s were changing times in Britain with child labor laws and other civilian rights being gained and supported. It was a bit wild to keep reading from this characters perspective, about how advanced technology was and how fast social winds were changing, albeit not fast enough for his liking.

So, while he’s going and hunting pirates and opium dealers a strange “comet” appears in the sky, and Edward is immediately skeeved out. He feels like it’s hateful, the longer he looks at it the more disquieted he becomes, and the more convinced he is that it’s unnatural. He’s on a ship in the 1800s, so the navigators are super certain that star shouldn’t be there, and it’s too bright, it’s got to be a comet with no tail visible, which is odd, but he seems to be the only one who’s consistently worried about it.

They take on a prisoner, a Chinese woman, who says that pirates were holding her captive, and she’s a mystery unto herself, but she’s also an addict and that’s bad news bears. The opium may be tainted, or maybe it’s the star, but people start hallucinating on the ship. People are seeing things that aren’t there, murdering each other, and it seems like chaos is on the horizon if they don’t figure out what to do about the hallucinations and this unknown object in the sky.

This book can be really brutal, but I never felt like it was “gore porn” where more detail than necessary were flooded all over the page. You knew what was happening, there were amputations on conscious people, there were kids who were seriously harmed/murdered, there were thoughts of suicide, there were horrific things people did to each other when the hallucinations really ramped up. But, all the while I felt like it served a purpose, and was detailed enough for the reader to know what was going on, but not so detailed it felt like it was rubbing it in your face for shock value. But don’t get me wrong, all the content warnings apply to this book. However, every single one of those issues I felt was handled extremely well.

This was a very emotional book, it relied heavily on themes in philosophy like Descartes, “I think therefore I am”. If we are all we can perceive, and those perceptions can be altered against our will, who are we? Are we real? Does life matter if all we are is meat and chemicals that live and die and wink out of existence? Like, some very deep topics were touched on here and I don’t see it so directly addressed in fantasy all that often.

The writing was fantastic, I can’t think of any complaints I have, and the pacing was just glorious. There was a slow and ominous start that slowly fed you creepier and creepier information and building up the violence with one murder, then a few more, and chaos and more chaos until it crescendos into madness.

For the first 95% of this book I thought I was going to drop my first ever 9.5/10. But there’s a thing at the end that I really can’t talk about that didn’t quite work for me, it relates into the plotting and some of the character development and overall tone and feel of the story was changed a bit and I didn’t totally shift with it. If you read the book you’ll know what I mean, but I still very much encourage you to pick it up. What a wild and intense ride. This is exactly the kind of book I got into SPFBO to find.


  • Plot: 12/15
  • Characters: 13.5/15
  • World Building: 13.5/15
  • Writing: 14/15
  • Pacing: 15/15
  • Originality: 13/15
  • Enjoyment: 9/10

Final Score: 90/100