Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrator: Michael Lesley
Length: 10 hours, 22 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Phex is a refugee from the Wheel, a xenophobic society that genetically engineers all their offspring for perfection in utero. He wasn’t perfect enough, however, so he was relegated to cleaning air ducts on the space station at the age of six. Crudrats, like Phex, don’t generally live very long, but he was able to escape and claimed amnesty on a moon where he works as a barista in a coffee shop where Godsong is broadcast. Godsong is a multi-media experience that includes vocalists, dancers, and visual effects.

The Dyesi have created a series of Pantheons, groups of six performers who travel the galaxy to spread the Godsong. Performers in young Pantheons are called demigods, and mature Pantheons have Gods. Each Pantheon has two Cantors (vocalists), two Graces (dancers), and two skin sifters. Skin sifters are Dyesi persons whose skin responds to the Cantors voices to create colors and patterns, which are then cast onto the performance Dome to generate immersive visual effects during performance. Godsong is known to create a thrall in listeners, though some people are affected in a more acute way to become Fixed: toxic-fans who will attack the “Gods”–sometimes lethally.

Phex is selected by a traveling Dyesi to audition to become Cantor of a newly developing Pantheon. He’s obligated to audition, even though he has no interest in becoming a god. He’s eighteen, but hasn’t reached majority in his refugee society because he hasn’t completed the required schooling. The Dyesi offer to grant him citizenhood if he is accepted to a Pantheon, and without any choice, Phex is transported to Divinity 36, a moon orbiting Dyesid Prime, to begin the Pantheon selection process.

Phex has been an individual entity for most of his natural life. It’s confusing to him that some of the potentials wish to develop friendships with him. His talent is clear, but the other Cantors dislike him–he’s too aloof, in their opinion. And others cannot tolerate that he’s been genetically enhanced, even as it was forced on him preconception. But some of the Grace contenders and even some Dyesi skin-sifting hopefuls have found his caretaking to be very soothing in this foreign environment. Phex spends a good bit of the downtime making drinks and even food that comforts these anxious beings.

Phex has somehow become a magnet for an actual god, Misset, from the galaxy’s most popular Pantheon, Tillem. Misset’s an enigma, but Phex feels compelled to appease the beautiful Cantor as Misset’s suffering grief over the terminal illness of his dearest friend. Fraternization isn’t allowed between demigods or gods, though, which could become an issue if Phex’s comfort grows into attachment or (gasp!) adoration.

Divinity 36 is the first book in the Tinkered Starsong sci-fi trilogy, which reads like a K-Pop docudrama in the way that fans of such things relish them. All of the characters in this book are in some way humanoid, though some are more human-ish than others. As I am only listening to this story, I will likely have spelling errors in some of these names.

This was a fantastic audiobook, and the narrator is amazing. So many voices! So many different, non-human characters. I always knew who was who, even with a cast of more than 30 beings having their words in the story. The book is absolutely a romp, making me wish I was a person who fangirled over band-making operations biopics. I felt absolutely absorbed in the machinations of the system that “creates” gods for the masses to worship, especially in the hints that there’s a dark side to the Dyesi’s mission to share Godsong far and wide. I couldn’t wait to sink into the next book and then the finale, even as this book only developed Phex and his nascent Pantheon.

I listened to the book at least three times, and still found it intriguing. I can definitely recommend it for fans of sci-fi with a hint of romance. The relationships in this book are mostly platonic, and even what’s growing between Phex and Misset is only a hint of what’s to come. This is a fantastic start to a series.