Never was a book so contrasted by its protagonist.
The world of Virga: Sun of Suns Volume One is fascinating. Maybe steampunk has become so vague and trendy that it’s verging on meaningless, but the steam-powered dystopic future in Virga is anything but. Possibly that’s because, unlike a picture frame with gears randomly super-glued on at your local art fair or flea market, Virga has reasons for its technological choices. Without going into too much detail about the exact mechanisms, its use of engineering and tech is both logical and explicable. The constructed reality of this world necessitates the kinds of adaptations that reference an era that is technologically simpler in order to cope with an era that is significantly more complicated. This is the same kind of creator’s strategy projecting a possible future as the popular TV series Firefly, a reasonable and logical prediction that also seems completely different from the ones that have come before it. And, also like Firefly, this piece examines constant resistance, revolution, and the nature of tyranny.
Hayden Griffen (our protagonist– let’s not call him our hero), on the other hand, is boring and abrasive. At no point in the story does he seem able to do the right thing, but at every possible opportunity he does whine about it. When he should have stayed in safety instead of running into battle, he didn’t. When he should have battled instead of seeking safety, he didn’t. And through his probably legitimately unfortunate life, he seems to always find time to give up on the revolution or complain that everyone he loves gets taken away from him. He’s like the whiny Luke Skywalker of the otherwise epic overall Star Wars narrative.
This book is filled with characters who have fascinating and engaging backstories– on every side of this world’s political spectrum. Aubri, an armorer, hints at the world outside of Virga, in which artificial nature constructs reality for its occupants. Venera Fanning, the Admiral’s wife, runs an as-yet-unnamed society and has a mysterious scar that the reader can’t help but find intriguing. Even the go’fer, Martor, is endearing, with a blond mustache that will remind the reader of every 14 year old who was overly excited about his ability to grow facial hair for the first time.
Virga is an adaptation of a prose novel, but does not seem derivative. Without knowledge of the source material, a new reader can easily fall into this world, almost literally– in Virga, gravity only exists if you create it. The narrative is well-woven, spending a proportionate amount of time developing characters, building the world, and furthering the plot without focusing on any one of those things too pointedly. This book is completely fascinating and absorbing, and does a phenomenal job of overcoming a lackluster and annoying protagonist to keep the reader wanting more.
Check it out here!