REVIEW: A Song for the Void by Andrew C. Piazza

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

A Song for the Void is Andrew C. Piazza’s masterful cosmic horror set in the South China Sea during the Opium Wars between Great Britain and China in the mid-nineteenth century. This historical setting is the perfect backdrop for Piazza’s exploration of nihilistic philosophies and psychological manipulation.

A Song for the VoidA Song for the Void is told from the first-person perspective of Dr. Edward Pearce, a surgeon on a British naval ship, whose backstory is full of personal tragedy, including the death of his wife and son during childbirth and the subsequent murder of his adopted daughter in Hong Kong. Against his own better judgment, Pearce finds solace in the opium pipe, which numbs his pain and replaces his grim reality with a sense of euphoria. Piazza poignantly conveys Pearce’s struggles with opium addiction throughout A Song for the Void, including detailed descriptions of the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal. I was especially touched by the portrayal of Pearce’s sense of shame about his addiction.

Horror comes in the form of an evil-looking eye in the sky, which the sailors view as a strange stationary comet. The eye is known as the Darkstar and is the physical manifestation of nihilism, manipulating the minds of the crew members to convince them that their lives are meaningless. The power of the Darkstar is especially potent when its victims are high on opium, causing them to question the purpose of life and even the existence of reality itself.

The novel is a page-turner, full of action and deception. The philosophical discussions are perfectly balanced by the novel’s heart pounding action. Grimdark readers will especially enjoy the gruesome scenes in the latter part of the novel.

Beyond Dr. Pearce, there is also a great cast of supporting characters, whose loyalties are not at all clear. My favorite supporting character is the Chinese woman Jiaying, who is underestimated by most of the Western crew members.

From the historical setting to the detailed descriptions of opium abuse, Andrew C. Piazza has put a great deal of careful research into this novel. Altogether, A Song for the Void feels like a marriage between R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War and the classic seafaring novels of Herman Melville. Both Piazza and Kuang explore the potential metaphysical implications of opium use and portray heartbreakingly honest accounts of addiction. Like Melville, Piazza treats an isolated ship as a microcosm for humanity’s place in the universe and explores the consequences of madness at sea. Despite these similarities, Piazza demonstrates tighter storytelling than either Kuang or Melville.

A Song for the Void is cosmic horror at its finest, dripping with existential dread but ultimately leaving the reader with a sense of hope. Piazza’s novel is a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s 8 th Self- Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO8).


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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.