Starlight City by Radford Lee
When Black and his team are sent to investigate a foreign ship orbiting near the Harmonica space port, they’re killed onboard by a humanoid weapon built in the image of a beautiful woman. Several years later, Black is reborn through a miracle of science on an unfamiliar planet called Neon. He’s mysteriously set free and flees to Starlight City…
This was a great science fiction novel that introduces readers to a futuristic world where we can see the effects of major scientific breakthroughs on a society that still retains some semblance of our lives today.
The protagonist is Black. When the story opens, Black is in Starlight City on the planet Neon. Right away it is easy to see Black isn’t a normal human. He wears sunglasses all of the time to hide his unusual yellow- colored eyes that may draw unwanted attention to him. When he gets injured, we learn that his limbs can regenerate. His body has been altered by someone, but he has no memory of it.
Lee does a great job in his vivid depiction of Starlight City controlled by Administrator Nahzier who is heavily involved in scientific human experimentation. So far, Nahzier has created an army of quasi-humans called Alpha Humans who are blend of human and robot.
Their brains have been “reformatted;” in actuality, they have been brainwashed to follow the Nahzier’s mandates.
They are portrayed as “human killing machines” sent to patrol the city in order to keep citizens “safe.” They serve under Nahzier’s rule and follow his commands. I couldn’t help but associate the name Nahzier to “Nazi.” Was this intentional? Hmm…
Griff Hurst is one of these quasi-humans ,and his story describes the process of how he was changed. Griffin died as a result of a government sanctioned virus unleashed upon its citizens. He was taken to Nahir’s laboratory and resurrected in a robotic body. Griffin no longer exists, but Griff does. Whereas, some science fiction writers avoid discussing the afterlife, Lee brings up the existence of a human soul and how it factors in to experimentation on the human body.
I found this concept fascinating and one that I consider when reading science fiction.
Griff is different from other Alpha Humans. He has retained his human memories, and he has a conscience. He is disgusted by his new purpose of killing on command, and he refuses to allow Nahzier to manipulate others for the so-called greater good of society. Citizens are afraid of the Alpha Humans and see them as “heartless humanoids.” I found Griff to be symbolic of how it’s really impossible to completely change a human. When you throw in a soul and human emotions, they interfere with a total reprogramming of the human mind.
As a result, Griff turns rogue and escapes Nahzier’s control. He joins Black and a group of misfits who work together to create an army to overthrow the Nahzier’s Regime. Because of the super abilities of the Alpha Humans, this is a daunting task. However, Griff knows the secret of how to cause these quasi-humans to malfunction.
As the story progresses, Black learns the truth of behind his kidnapping, experimentation, and escape. Black is now a “prized specimen,” and Nahzier desperately wants him back because of his future potential for creating immortality. Even at the end of the book, however, I was not completely clear on how Black is unique after undergoing scientific experimentation. I hope his changes will be expanded upon and clarified in future books.
The plot does not follow a sequential time pattern. Journal entries by Griff’s father, renowned scientist Dr. Hurst, flashbacks from Griff and the back stories of other members of the rebel group provide greater depth and insight into the dynamics of Starlight City’s insulated world.
The journey eventually brings Black back to Earth where his story actually begins.
The conclusion left me to infer that the story would continue. Even though Black was the protagonist, I was drawn to Griff’s character; he played such a major role in the book, and I wish he had been the leading character instead. Griff’s relationship with the Alpha Human Jada is one I hope will continue to develop in future books. There were minor grammatical errors strewn throughout the story, and it could benefit by one more round of proofreading. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this read and look forward to future books by Radford Lee.
I received a copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
About the Author
Radford Lee is a writing tutor and also teaches college composition courses. He has worked as a volunteer tutor for an afterschool Student Fellowship program where he also conducted a Creative Writing workshop for local community students. He hopes to continue building students’ reading and literacy skills and to cultivate talented young writers. Radford lives with his beautiful family in Ohio.
Find out more about Radford Lee and Starlight City in his interview for Sun Mountain Reviews
When and why did you begin to write?
I’ve always marveled at sci-fi films like Star Wars, and storylines in some of my favorite video games especially got my imagination going. But I first felt inclined to actually write fiction as a senior in high school after reading Watchers by Dean Koontz. I liked how he blended sci-fi elements in the storyline without overdoing it, as well as the suspense he was able to create on practically every page. I started to get this crazy idea that I could create something just as cool.
What attracts you to write in the Science Fiction genre?
There’s a lot I love about the genre; the most attractive aspect might be the ability to create an entire world from scratch. As the writer, I can also create all the rules, (as long as they’re fairly logical), beings, and can even make up words as long as I don’t take it too far. I guess as an artist, I just love to create, and Science Fiction gives me a vast canvas to let my imagination run amuck.
What inspired you to write Starlight City?
It’s hard to say exactly. I think the impulse to create a web of storylines around Black, the central character, was influenced by reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The techno-dystopian setting of the city and some of the story concepts were partially inspired by Japanese anime films like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost In The Shell, which could possibly have inspiring roots in films like Blade Runner. As I’ve mentioned, though, some of my favorite video game narratives are a big part of my inspiration. The most influential by far are games in the Final Fantasy series, which I think have the most complex and intriguing storylines with the most interesting characters. In retrospect, I think the world of Starlight City resembles that of Final Fantasy 7 in certain ways.
Briefly describe the fictional world you have created:
This story takes place mostly on the planet Neon in Starlight City, a vast, futuristic metropolis powered by gravity and wrapped in a sterilized bubble called the “Ether Shield.” The city is populated by humans, quasi-humans, and robots. Starlight City is run on citizen law enforcement according to district and patrolled by fully armored Citizen Guards. Much of the action also takes place in “the Forests” surrounding the city. These Forests were created (or altered) by Nahzir’s Life Bomb, a nuclear-scale explosion that spontaneously creates an atmosphere and rapidly evolving life forms. The Forests are beautiful, exotic, and dangerous—inhabited by deadly mutants and contaminated by volatile microorganisms.
Which character in Starlight City is your favorite?
I think my favorite character is probably Griff. Though he’s often the least expressive character, he seems to have the deepest internal conflict, and his actions and decisions have the biggest impact on the story’s events. In my first draft of this novel, Griff was actually the central character. He was the first character I had in mind for this story.
What have been the most enjoyable and challenging experiences for you in writing this book? One fun and challenging aspect was creating a futuristic world that was believable for the reader without letting technobabble drain the life out of the story. Coming up with semi-plausible explanations for certain science fantasy elements, like converting gravity into an unlimited energy source, required lots of inspiration from random “what if” conversations with friends. Still, the most challenging experience by far was coming up with an ending that would leave readers expecting the next offering but still provide some closure to the story. I’m still not quite sure how well I pulled that one off.
Which scene was the most difficult to write?
I’d have to say the hardest scene to write was the one where the main conflict between Black’s side and Nahzir’s Regime reaches its peak. There’s a preliminary battle in the chapter before it, and I didn’t want to overdo it with fighting scenes. I did quite a bit of surgery on this section, cutting it down to the essential parts and ended up pretty satisfied with the end result.
What ideas/concepts do you want readers to take with them after they read Starlight City?
I’d like readers to see the importance of comraderie and friendship shared among these “misfit” characters. They’re brought together by unlikely circumstances but form a bond and come to trust one another, and this is what allows them to stand against impossible odds. I also think readers should grasp the idea that science and spirituality can be connected. Science can attempt to explain phenomena beyond the physical realm rather than denying that such phenomena exists. Finally, readers should see that even in a world so technologically advanced as Starlight City, scientific achievement should never be valued above the souls of humanity.
What did you learn from writing this book?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that as a writer, you must absolutely love what you’re writing. There has to be a high level of excitement about the world and the characters you create which will force you to keep scribbling in the notepad, or sitting in front of the computer screen. The writer has to be addicted to the story and must keep coming back to fine-tune it. Most importantly, you have to love what you’re doing enough to ignore the people who think you’re wasting your time. This can be tough, as these are probably people who love you and think they have your best interest at heart. It’s important not to let outside pressures stop you from realizing and perfecting your vision as a writer.
Have any other authors had a significant influence on your writing?
As a reader, I tend to jump from author to author in search of a good book rather than reading through his/her entire archive. I’m definitely influenced by the classic works of Sci-Fi giants like Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Asimov, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. Samuel R. Delaney is another Sci-Fi author I’ve enjoyed. I’ve already mentioned David Mitchell’s work, which certainly inspired me in terms of style and story structure. Besides these, I also admire much of Jonathan Lethem’s speculative works, and aspire to be as effortlessly entertaining as Kurt Vonnegut. I must add that I’ve long been inspired by some of the Harlem Renaissance writers, particularly Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
What are your current projects?
Right now, I’m working on a theatrical audiobook of Starlight City, which should be completed before the end of this summer. I’m also drafting out ideas for both a prequel and a sequel to the novel, which I hope to release sometime around the fall of 2014.
What is the one piece of technology you can’t live without?
A lot of writers might say their computers, but I’d have to say my iPod, or anything I can use to listen to music. I simply love listening to music and even use it to write sometimes. It often helps me create the mood for a certain scene and get my ideas flowing.