The Actual Star

by Monica Byrne

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.

My take

Wow. Just wow. So glad someone talked her into combining everything into one book rather than three separate ones because I think it was much better as all one book. Fascinating. I think it helped understand the book having been to Belize even if we didn’t go to the part of the country where the book was set. I also wonder how someone with no knowledge of Spanish would do with the books since it seems like there is a fair amount of Spanish sprinkled around without any translation. Same with Belizean Creole although as an English speaker it is understandable if you focus hard enough.

Anyway, another one of those books that I may want to reread. And interesting to see the idea of tourism not only applauded but turned into the only way to live. (I read this while on vacation in Costa Rica.)

This book also featured Xibalba heavily though a radically different version of it from Gods of Jade and Shadow. In fact the difference between heaven and hell.