Review: Space Opera

The best way I could describe this book is with a simple math equation: Douglas Adams x 10 + Speed. The book shoots out of the starting gate and shows such startling imagination and speculative depth that it’s nigh impossible to keep up with everything happening. In the face of such originality and inventiveness, it’s hard not to stare in awe of an author able to put so much into 294 pages.


Catherynne M. Valente
Saga Press, 2018

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4 out of 5 Robots


The universe found Earth. They need to sing to stay alive. A washed up glam-rock-pop-everything singer is chosen to lead the way. Hundreds of beings come across his path. Humanity waits to see if he can save them all.



The main theme of this book is a definition of life and what it takes to be considered a thinking, fully coherent being. It’s the primary debate throughout the book, one that humanity must prove itself worthy of (or face annihilation). As a race, we tend to think we’re the only lifeforms capable of feelings and understandings and advanced calculus, but our imaginations as a species are quite limited, as is evidenced by the millions of lifeforms in this version of the universe. Valente has hit on a necessary topic as humanity does its best to wipe out species it considers lesser. This seriousness is sandwiched between the craziest (and one of the most exciting) narratives you’ll ever experience.


I’ve never seen such inventiveness in a novel or short story or anything, for that matter. Valente has literally created an entire universe, complete with every kind of sentient being you could imagine. Floating clouds of gas, beams of moonlight that orgasm in bursts of light, tiny pandas who can time travel, a sentient AI who is essentially flying bits of code becoming various beings and objects. That only scratches the surface of the universe she has created. I would love to see her outlines and character charts because this is world building on a scale I can’t fathom.


Douglas Adams threw comedy into the science fiction mix, leaving us with a handful of hilarious creatures and possibilities for life in the universe besides our boring selves. Valente is most definitely his equal in terms of language, absurdity, and the sheer volume of her creations. It’s a fun romp through the universe, one you’ll definitely need to buckle up for.


There were so many brilliant characters, but the bit part of a main character’s cat is absolutely hilarious. If you’ve been looking for the true personification of an Earth house cat and its thoughts on the world and life in general, this is it. Let’s just say it isn’t positive and leaves at least one race stepping away in horror.


A singing competition pitting the many races of the universe against one another in order to fight for survival? Pure brilliance. It’s also a puzzling conversation on what could be considered music to other beings. From screaming to explosions to ear infections – it’s all here.


Space Opera, Aliens, War, Evolution, Time Travel, Space Travel


Barnes & Noble


Valente, Catherynne M. Space Opera. Saga Press, 2018.

Photo by Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash

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