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Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

July 8, 2019

About the Book:


A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented-something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for Galactivision – part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny – they must sing.

A one-hit-wonder band of human musicians, dancers and roadies from London – Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes – have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.

My thoughts:

Whoa, if Douglas Adams wrote on speed I think you’d get a sense of this madcap scifi space opera extravaganza. If the scifi world was built on a scifi base of crumpets you could picture the random rocky wavering towers that might be built from it. This is all that and more. Space Opera is a story of what a school Rock Eisteddfod concert smashed against Eurovision might become in book form. It’s a wild and colourful story with alien species galore (Icky and gross, gooey and violent depending on who you talk to).

Poor humans on Earth, finally put forward to prove our sentience and the way it is done is to sing for your life – quite literally. And naturally… what one species finds as brilliant another finds as abhorrent. Which is not surprising when the aliens you are completing against don’t have ears… or mouths… or bodies for that matter. How do you perform? How do you win?

And in this competition… to lose is to die – taking your entire planet’s population with you… well… except the cats. (Is that a surprise?)

Be prepared to concentrate or you might struggle with the bright color cacophony of sound and words that is this book. Conversely, you might skim through and absorb the story through your pores.

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