Dark Star by Oliver Langmead

Shortlisted for the Guardian's Not the Booker 2015

The city of Vox survives in darkness, under a sun that burns without light. In Vox’s permanent night, light bulbs are precious, the rich live in radiance and three Hearts beat light into the city. Aquila. Corvus. Cancer.

Hearts that bring power to the light-deprived citizens of the city of Vox whilst ghosts haunt the streets, clawing at headlights. Prometheus, liquid light, is the drug of choice. The body of young Vivian North, her blood shining brightly with unnatural light, has no place on the streets.

When Cancer is stolen, the weaponisation of its raw power threatens to throw Vox into chaos. Vox needs a hero, and it falls to cop Virgil Yorke to investigate.

But Virgil has had a long cycle and he doesn’t feel like a hero. With the ghosts of his last case still haunting his thoughts, he craves justice for the young woman found dead with veins full of glowing. Aided by his partner Dante, Virgil begins to shed light on the dark city’s even darker secrets.

Haunted by the ghosts of his past and chased by his addictions, which will crack first, Virgil or the case?

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'Woven through with the tropes of space opera and hard-boiled crime noir, Dark Star is in fact a subtle meditation on the meaning of light and the reality of darkness, offered up to the reader in beautifully measured epic verse. Featuring a damaged detective named Virgil, battling his own demons as he pursues the stolen source of his lightless city’s energy through an ever more treacherous web of competing factions, Dark Star does something that is both obvious and audacious: recycles an ancient narrative form to lend grandeur and gravitas to a gripping space fantasy. A saga for the galactic age.'
– Stephanie Saulter, author of the ®Evolution trilogy

'I was thrilled by Oliver Langmead’s Dark Star. A sci-fi noir detective story told in verse (think Blade Runner meets Dante’s Inferno), it’s one of the most original novels I’ve read in ages.'
– Sarah Waters, Guardian Best Books of 2015

Oliver Langmead reading from Dark Star. 


Oliver Langmead was born in Edinburgh and now lives in Dundee. He has an LLB in Law, and an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study, with a distinction. In his own words, he is occasionally seen behind a midi keyboard or shouting into a microphone, but mostly behind a regular household keyboard, agonising over word order. Website: oliverlangmead.com


There is simply nothing else like it and that is enough to create a maelstrom of joy and envy as the reader revels in Langmead’s raw and haunting talent whilst simultaneously berating themselves for not having written it. Dark Star is a triumph and Oliver Langmead is a force to be reckoned with.
Disclaimer Magazine

'Full of intrigue, cover-ups and corruption, this is one of the best mash-ups of the science fiction and hard-boiled detective genres that I’ve read.'
British Fantasy Society

'Dark Star is one of those gems that creeps up and takes you by surprise. Beautifully written, masterfully plotted, and built around a character that is at once a complete stranger and an old friend. In short, a masterpiece.'

'Truly fresh and original (at least I have never read such a science fiction story before), Dark Star is an engaging, visual story that forces the reader into a slightly different vein of reading experience—one they will undoubtedly emerge from with neon glowing in their eyes.  Perfectly paced and structured yet in a form virtually unknown to the genre, Dark Star is detective noir for the 21st century.'
– Speculiction

'This is a debut from Langmead and wow what a debut ... It is a remarkable read, and an easy one. The dark city is an eerie backdrop, filled with ghosts (literally) and shadow, a compelling setting richly invoked by the writing. There is a deft world-building at work in here and a riveting story.'
Peter Sutton's BRSBK Blog

'Langmead’s achievement both satisfies starved poetry fans and demonstrates an astonishing facility with words and storytelling. Either way, it’s a kick-ass story.'
Exquisite Corpse

'Noir detective thrillers and science fiction are fairly natural bedfellows; add epic poetry to the mix too, however, and you end up with something far more unusual. Langmead's debut novel combines elements of all three genres into a surprisingly focused whole ... [the poetry] enhances the terse conversational style Langmead's stripped-back style ... it is far from flowery, and the stilted nature of the syllable count suits the style well ... Dark Star might just be a legend of humanity's end, rather than an origin story. It could even be taken as an environmental parable, ending on a warning about the consequences of wanton consumption. Whatever its message, it avoids clumsy directness, making it all the more intriguing.'
Strange Horizons

'I think this one is a possible future cult classic.'
Everyone's favourite NSFW reviewer

'5* An unexpectedly gorgeous story in verse, where darkness and light collide in a gritty, noir future ... Langmead is simply a brilliant writer'
Books, Bones and Buffy

'A refreshing blend of the familiar and strange... something to tell friends about.'
- Geek Native

'Langmead combines the dark essence of classic detective noir with speculative science fiction in an enthralling read. The story makes Dark Star worth reading, but when combined with the elegance of epic verse, it makes the book into a gorgeous and unique work of art.  In a word – WOW!'
– Mutt Cafe

'They say that nothing is original anymore, and oftentimes I am hard pressed to agree. Until now ... it’s something haunting and beautiful. Moving. Without a doubt, Oliver Langmead’s Dark Star is one of the most inventive and interesting debuts I’ve read since starting this blog. In short words, it’s a soon-to-be classic, I’m sure of it.'
Acerbic Writing

'In lesser hands this book would have been difficult, but Langmead expertly pulls all these elements together to create a truly unique and original story. This is the kind of book you want to shout from the roofs about: innovative, gripping and surely a future classic. Now, go read it.'
– Bending Over Bookwards

'Page turning epic f***ing poetry in space.  Need I say more?'
Book Punks

'I loved every single world of this strange epic poem... Do you want to read a wonderful book with a profound story that touches you? That reads like a song, a strange and haunting melody that will stay with you long after you close the book, like the memory of light in a dark room? Then pick up Dark Star. Don’t let the unusual format put you off. This is a must read and re-read in my books.'
Elena Linville's Tower of Winds

'On top of great character exploration, an originally imagined world and an intoxicating and intense mood, Dark Star gives you a beautifully planned conspiracy... and an ending that doesn’t disappoint. Better than simply unique, Oliver Langmead’s debut is brilliant.'
Dave Reviewed It

'A science fiction story that folds more than one literary genre into its concoction, using the perfect flow of its lyrical narrative to take a reader... deep into the grimy alleys of the city, through the halls of the mighty, and ultimately to an ending that asks many deep philosophical questions.'

'One of the most important things that genre writing does is embody mythological truths, psychological scenarios, that cannot be realistically depicted in middle-class living rooms. There is an aversion to genre in certain literary circles, I think, because it can take the reader to places where a lot of people don’t want to go. It takes a certain type of person to want to plunge into a violent, noir-ish space-adventure that might lead to at least a little self-discovery. These readers aren’t usually thought of as the same group of people who purchase books of poetry, and so not very many publishers are willing to try to coax a little overlap. More should. I’m glad that this publisher took the risk.'
Sabotage Reviews

'One of the most interesting books published in 2015 . . . It takes courage and imagination writing something like Dark Star, and even more courage (and vision) to publish it.'
The Earthian Hivemind

'Dark Star was like nothing I’ve ever read before . . . I was amazed by the sheer creativity of the story and the way that the genres blended together. Dark Star gritty, visual, and surreal, and well worth the read.'
– Books Without Any Pictures

'An excellent début, and quite unlike anything else out there.'
Dundee University Review of the Arts

'Easily one of the most unusual novels of the year, Dark Star deserves more attention.'
Barnes & Noble

'Here's another gem from a small press that i'm quite sure isn't being read by enough people...Langmead's evocative prose and addictive noir science fiction tale was riveting.'
Speculative Herald

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Paperback ISBN: 978-1-907389-30-6
ePub ISBN: 978-1-907-389-31-3
Publication date: 20 March 2015
Format: Paperback, ePub and mobi