"King Space Void" Book Review
Written by Matt E. Lewis
Published by Eraserhead Press
Written by Anthony Trevino
2015, 104 pages, Fiction
Released on October 5th, 2015
Working for a large corporation is, in many ways, like feeding an endlessly hungry, psychopathic monster. I've worked for fast-food chains, grocery stores, hospital systems, and electronics giants. At all these places, two facts of life are drilled into your head over and over again. One: you don't matter. Two: work hard enough, and we may be benevolent enough to slightly ease your miserable existence. Far from empowering work, the entity only glorifies your tiny contribution to the higher cause, which is always earning more profit for them. Sure, there might be cosmetic gestures to show something other than total greed. But at the end of the day, any food drive or charity run is a drop in the bucket compared to their true earnings. The only true goal is profit, at the expense of people, animals, the environment – really the entire planet. When this is taken into account, Anthony Trevino's King Space Void is a pretty apt metaphor for what seems to be our inevitable corporate future.
Dane Shipps is, as far as he knows, a typical worker on King Space Void. He works in the gut, monitors the 'grynder as it processes vast chunks of planets and their inhabitants, and exudes pride in being a part of the great journey to the edge. He gives what he can to the cause and his life is filled with highs and lows – drug-fueled visits to pleasure centers where the denizens of the mechanized god exert their sexual frustrations on each other, and bearing the painful punishment when the Master suspects anything but total loyalty to the cause. He bears painful internal examinations by snake-bots with a stoic resolve, knowing to his core that his toil will be rewarded. But then, of course, someone arrives from the outside and changes everything.
A crashed pod in the gut is disrupting things and Dane is assigned to a team to dislodge it. Instead, he watches his fellow drones splattered against the metal wall by a beautiful woman named Scarlet, who has been sent by her planet to destroy King Space Void from the inside. After being subdued, she reveals the horrors that the god-ship has been wrecking across the universe to Dane through a transmission embedded in a kiss. She escapes and her missing partner is publically executed, but not before melting into a special substance to disrupt the inner workings of the monstrous vessel. Still unflappable in his faith, Dane disregards Scarlet's warning and knows that he will be rewarded for his continued loyalty. The Master doesn't see things this way and decides that Dane's fate is sealed. When he narrowly survives his betrayal thanks to Scarlet's help, he grudgingly decides to help her face the ruler of all he's ever known.
This is where the story takes off, becoming a kind of half-Wizard of Oz, half-Event Horizon gore fest journey to the god-brain. After watching his fellow gut workers become sex-crazed zombies, Scarlet and Dane take on and lose a number of odd travelers as they make their way through King Space Void's unique systems, each a little world unto itself. They encounter the different species which have also merged with the vessel rather than face extinction. They encounter trials with Dane's wavering doubt about his actions and the relentless pursuit of Dane's former co-worker, Grier. It is through this journey that we see the author's expansion of the metaphor: the actions of the characters can tell us a lot about corporate coercion, loss of faith, and the strange emotional conflicts that arise when so many innocent people are enmeshed with an inherently evil system.
Whether or not the message of King Space Void is optimistic or pessimistic is irrelevant, to borrow a phrase from the Borg of Star Trek. Regardless of the outcome, the destruction or survival of the mecha-god both ensure a future of death and destruction. Selfless sacrifice or selfish survival are issues that we all deal with. It could even be said that the decisions we make, either against all others or against ourselves, are the ones which define our lives. The author takes care to drape these messages in beautiful descriptions of carnage and otherworldly characters, and the text is thankfully absent of any kind of shoehorned love story trope. Instead, the story reaches to a deeper human desire – something that may be shared by all species, sentient or not. In the face of torment and bloated greed, we can still envision a vision of the future in which we all strive for freedom, or at the very least, some kind of peace.