A REVIEW OF
“The Stars Fell”
By Chris Mason
Mason’s debut novel creates Mississippi tribute to fantasy, gaming, family
By JC Patterson
Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger
USA TODAY NETWORK
Chris Mason is a poet, an actor (he even portrayed Rocky Horror), an avid gamer and a proud sci-fi nerd. Mason has always been obsessed by the stars; what’s out there and what might eventually come here. One late evening, while making a 1:00 AM Taco Bell run, Mason spotted a shooting star. The thought of its origins became the genesis of “The Stars Fell.”
“I couldn’t sleep that night,” the Jackson native recalls. “I remember going to work the next day and ranting and raving about this idea, and I scribbled designs and thoughts over every post-it note we had.”
After several attempts, Mason dropped the story idea. Time would pass and he’d work on other projects, acting, writing. “But no matter what, I was always drawn back to that shooting star.”
Then came the first rewrite. Mason felt a bit more influenced by what had inspired him as a kid: games such as “Final Fantasy,” movies like “Stand By Me”and “Star Wars” and his favorite book series, “My Teacher is an Alien.” After several rejections, he stopped again.
The third time was the charm. “I took various parts of my own personality and experiences, as well as what I’ve observed in my friends, and that’s how the cast of ‘The Stars Fell’ was born.”
Set in fictional Clarity, Mississippi, the author introduces us to high school slacker Damen Masche. Winter grades are out, and Damen’s scores are in the F Zone. His best friend Keeba can’t believe Damen’s grades. Neither can buddy V, his girlfriend Erin and Damen’s potential girlfriend Celeska. Guess Damen won’t be attending the meteor shower festival in a few hours.
While the fest rages on, Damen and his Corgi pup Sassy wander through the woods behind their farm to watch the meteor shower. Damen gets more than his money’s worth when a golden star plummets to the earth, exploding near him. A second, darker star lands a few miles outside of Clarity.
That same evening, young Darion, a small, timid and abused student, is bullied into helping some older boys break into a house to steal some cash. Darion never should’ve gone.
When Damen awakens, he’s in a hospital bed with no memory of what happened. But now there are strange markings on his arm. Good thing he didn’t suffer the same fate of the men investigating the dark star.
In the tradition of “War Of The Worlds” and “Lifeforce,” evil has descended upon Clarity. Its citizens are dying; only lifeless husks remain. Strange, mutated creatures, once human, are ravaging the small town.
And that’s when Damen hears “The Voice.” He is Clarity’s (and the Earth’s) only salvation. No pressure for a kid who won’t even do yard work at his Pop’s request. Say the words, commands the Voice, and you will wield Sharvaras, the sword of light.
Damen must become a bonafide Luke Skywalker, complete with light saber, if he has any chance of warding off the soul harvesters invading his town.
Mason’s fight scenes are the stars of the novel, moving an already well-paced read into hyperdrive. Young Damen becomes his own “Final Fantasy” game, enduring demon onslaught at video game ferocity.
And who is odd Dr. Hildegarde, an aging professor who knows much more than he’s letting on? Hildegarde and his two giant bodyguards have plans for Damen and young Darion, who’s now much more than a scared little kid.
“Darion’s story arc is a tragic one,” said Mason. “I experienced bullying during my middle and high school years, and I had lost myself to darkness for a very long time after. I didn’t see the light of day again until very recently. A lot of people fall victim to the pain, and it’s something that I heavily relate to. So writing Darion’s arc, specifically, was very therapeutic for me.”
Can Damen and his friends save Clarity from an unstoppable evil? The answer is in the stars, where hope never dies, where family is everything and radiance rises up.
“The Stars Fell” is a terrific escape vehicle during these uncertain times. Grab a copy and burrow into Chris Mason’s fantastic world of unlikely heroes, cute puppies, and very nasty villains. I can’t wait for more!
JC Patterson the author of the “Big Easy Dreamin’” series. He is retired from WLBT and lives to read and act.