After quite the queue of more serious stuff this year, I wanted something fun to romp through that still may help me keep up to date with my preferred genre. Space Opera was billed as a sci-fi comedy filled with aliens and a sing-along disco ball. I was in.
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
First published in April 2018
Published by Simon and Shuster
Did you enjoy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? If so, this spiritual successor is right up your alley. Filled with the driest of British sci-fi humor ever penned by a damn Yank, Space Opera is an interesting read. Is it great? I dunno, I didn’t like the Douglas Adams classic, myself, and random humor with entirely too many adjectives may not be up my alley. I think it will be made into a gorgeous movie (movie rights have already been sold, as I’m told), but the plot was stretched really thin to become a book this size.
I thought the premise was fantastic. A singing contest in the form of Eurovision that takes place in outer space? A potentially sentient disco ball species? Wow.
But that was where the book’s glory began, and also where it ended. It was never especially dull, and it was packed with one-liners that cracked me up, but no additional substance to the book really showed up. It tried to be symbolic and filled with wit and introspection, but I thought that part fell flat.
What the book was about, mostly, was introducing a universe filled with sentient aliens. Many, many chapters were predicated on the sole premise of introducing a new species or two. A lot of it was about the history of the non-human universe. I would say a good 50% of the words were adjectives or adverbs. The style was definitely intended to mimic Douglas Adams, and I was just ‘ok’ with that.
There was a disappointing lack of singing throughout the vast majority of the book. If/when they make a movie, most of it will have to be invented by someone else.
Overall, I’d say read the book if you’re an Adams fan. If not, stay away from this. If you don’t know, I can honestly say you could read Space Opera and know if you should try the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide from there.
2/5 Discoball Snowcones
I’m rarely a big fan of Deus ex Machina type endings. The resurrection/time travel of Mira Wonderful Star was somewhat hinted at throughout the entire book, but the interference of Oo in order to get there dulled the moment. The humans lived in the end (I think?), but they did so by essentially cheating. It was… lame.
The characters, however, were rich and deep. They were simultaneously diverse and inexpressibly English, and they were definitely flawed. They have everything you’d want out of a classic ‘good character.’ They’re textbook great. I’d take a look at this book if you want to know how to make tragic characters deep, diverse, and comical.
Next week, it’ll be a brand new month. I’m going to stick with the sci-fi bent, but hopefully we’ll have a nice new set of books to explore.