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Publisher's Summary

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 2,000 years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war.

"A stone-cold masterpiece." (New Scientist)

The Actual Star takes listeners 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 and 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.

The Actual Star is a feast of ideas 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.

©2021 Monica Byrne (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about The Actual Star

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    5 out of 5 stars

Maybe the best 2012 story

Sometimes I find a book that is so thoroughly researched and logical that it comes across almost as history, the latest book to add to that list is The Actual Star.

It's a novel that takes place in 3 times based on the Mayan long count calendar, 1000 years a part, the middle portion taking place in 2012, the early part takes place 1012 and marks the collapse of the Mayan civilization and the last part takes place in 3012 well conceived probable future sort of utopia from the viewpoint of one.  That's just the basic framework that encompasses a believable tale of reincarnation, a history of Mayan culture and a story that shouldn't be believable as it is.  This book might take my brain a couple of days to unravel after finishing but if you're looking for something totally unique in flavor and mindset, I totally recommend this.

3 people found this helpful

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Too much detailed description of self-cutting

I set this book aside because the cutting made me squeamish. Since the second lifetime also featured cutting, I'm going to make a guess that the third lifetime will also feature cutting so we can identify that it's the same being. After setting this book aside, I've gone to other books. It's become apparent that I won't go back to this book. The rave reviews were the reason I bought this book, and I feel like I'm missing out. But just from this one book I've learned far more about the cutting experience than I wanted to know and definitely don't want to learn any more. I can't erase what I learned about cutting from my mind now. It's horrible. Detailed horrific self-mutilation scenes aren't entertaining for me and not what I want to spend my time and money on. Hope I can return this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Speculative fiction enters a whole new dimension

What this book accomplishes in three separate storylines across 2,000 years is mind blowing. The connectivity of the separate stories is electric, the narrative swims tantalizingly close, like the stories will arc, but they stay true to their pathways. Speculative fiction is rich even without such a solid historical foundation, in layering a world 1,000 years from now on the archeological backbone of what we know of the ancient Maya and the reckless abandon of Capitalism and Populism in the here and now, the author has built an entirely plausible future for humans and the planet and their relationship to it. I would’ve read each of these as a separate book bit together they take speculative fiction to a whole new dimension.

1 person found this helpful

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Five Hours In - I’m Done

I was very excited for this book - the review was wonderful - Octavia Butler!! David Mitchell!!! But no … The droning on and on just made no sense to me. I understand the sociological, psychological, and anthropological questions posed by this work, and find them interesting, but I cannot get invested in these characters - they are flat and unyielding, so unbelievable. Such a same!

1 person found this helpful

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A Masterpiece

I don't have enough words for how impressed I am by this book. The author interweaves three epochs - a Mayan past, a contemporary present set in 2012, and a far future in 3012. Every voice, every character, every detail was so distinct. The world-building of the future was wonderfully done. I wish I could sit down with someone and talk it all through because there was so much to absorb and enjoy. It was a little hard to get into the future sequences at the start because there is a heavy mix of Spanish - which I don't know - and made-up words, which I think all would be easier to understand in print. I let that wash past me and over time I picked up more. I was so glad I didn't let that stop me because the world she envisions offers so much to consider. I marvel at the author's creativity. I'll definitely be re-reading in print so I can pick up what I missed in the audio version and savor all the details. The narrators are fantastic. They each have to voice multiple parts and do it expertly. There's a lot of humor in the book and the narration let that come through in ways I really appreciated. I will say that the book comes with a trigger warning about cutting. There are entire hours of narration where cutting isn't an issue, or at most a passing reference, but there are some scenes that could be upsetting. I had a couple of moments where I had to jump ahead 15 or 30 seconds because it was too much for me to listen, but that was enough. It was the same as though maybe in a written book, there might be a couple of pages a reader has to skim due to personal squeamishness.

Another comment - I think this book is categorized as science fiction, but people who don't usually like science fiction shouldn't let that discourage them. The science fiction element is just the vision of what the future could be. Really the book is a literary masterwork on humanity, spirituality, and the ties that bind us. I hope this review encourages someone to read the book! It truly is extraordinary.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

The story is so strange and yet fairly easy to follow. I read a review before I preordered this that described it as where Cloud Atlas and Parable of the Sower meet. I can definitely see those elements but it’s not doing this book justice. I really enjoyed the world of the uninhibited teen girl, we are given so much room to get to know her and appreciate her. I also enjoyed the detail given in going through the “routine” of the cave tours in Belize. I would have loved more detail about how the future timeline operates but maybe it was just enough information. In conclusion, highly recommended!

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  • Ms S. J. Casey
  • 10-17-21

Do spend a bit of time with the PDF

I didn't, but still got loads of joy out of the audiobook. I have a little Spanish and love the language but again don't believe that to be necessary either. I realised that while listening I may have missed some detail while considering what this or that meant, and those constructions are explained in the PDF.

The performances are excellent especially given the length of the piece. It flattened a little for me about three quarters through, but recovered pace soon enough. There are some surprising character twists and plenty of interesting philosophy, it's one that a week after finishing the book I'm still thinking about.

Overall a highly entertaining read, with a satisfying ending which, heads up, you'll need to make time to read or listen to properly.