A Song for a New Day: Celebrates the thrill of live rock music

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinskerscience fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

Luce Cannon was a rising rock star, traveling with a new band and doing live shows all over the country, until a rash of deadly terrorist attacks, and the threat of more to come, caused the American government to criminalize large public gatherings.

Now, instead of live concerts, musicians and their fans meet virtually, with the fans wearing hoodies equipped with technology that allows them to safely experience the perception of being with others at a show. But Luce and like-minded artists never bought into this concept and aren’t willing to sell their souls to StageHoloLive, the big corporation that produces these events in “Hoodspace.”

Working out of her parents’ home, Rosemary Laws provides customer service for Superwally, an internet superstore that sells StageHoloLive (SHL) merchandise. Rosemary’s job isn’t bad — it’s secure and appealingly gamified — but she doesn’t make enough money to afford the expensive hoodies that give the best SHL user experiences. Then, one day after giving excellent Superwally service to SHL, she is rewarded with a new hoodie and a virtual ticket to a popular band’s concert.

After attending the live concert with hundreds of other fans, even though none of them are actually there in person, Rosemary is hooked. When Rosemary becomes a talent scout for SHL and is sent to recruit rogue musicians, she visits underground music clubs and meets serious but now unrenowned artists, including Luce Cannon. For the first time in her life, Rosemary’s ideas and ethics are challenged by someone who sees things a lot differently.

A Song for a New Day (2019) celebrates the thrilling experience of listening and dancing to live music that you love with thousands of strangers who feel the same way. You could translate this to any event where unrelated people gather to share an emotional experience together — a pep rally, a football game, a church service, a protest, a strike.

I never quite believed that the US government would outlaw large public gatherings — Americans just aren’t the type to give up this right, or at least to legislate it in such an extreme manner. Also, I thought it unlikely that Rosemary, after attending her first concert, would be hired as a talent scout. But these are minor quibbles.

Sarah Pinsker made me feel the magical sensation of being connected to other humans. Though she demonstrates some of the advantages of virtual reality, she warns us about the isolation that comes from moving more and more of our social experiences online. She shows us how it’s in their interest for internet companies to keep us home alone and happily plugged in. She asks us to consider online privacy issues and to think about how we can balance the need to feel safe with the need to feel free.

Musicians and fans who enjoy attending live concerts are most likely to appreciate A Song for a New Day. (And they should also read Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls.) Penguin Audio has produced the 12.5-hour long audiobook edition of A Song for a New Day. The narration by Dylan Moore and Nicol Zanzarella is very nice.

Published in September 2019. In this captivating science fiction novel from an award-winning author, public gatherings are illegal making concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music, and for one chance at human connection. In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law. Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I loved her story “Our Lady of the Open Road,” which had a lot of the same themes. She was on a couple of panels I attended at ReaderCon; she’s impressive.

    I agree about the outlawing large gatherings. Strip down to our undies to get on a plane? Sure. Skip the Superbowl? I think NOT!

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