Woof, and I thought LIFEL1K3 was gonzo.
The good: I really loved the fact that the two main (human) heroes are both British Muslims tho of vastly different stripes. Catherynne M Valente does a killer job of imagining a future world and, particularly, a future England capable of producing a band as genre- and gender-bending as Decibel Jones and the (unfortunately named) Absolute Zeros. I really enjoyed the ending, even if I felt it a tad under-baked and deserving of further exploration. And I definitely enjoyed this book about a billion times more than the awful Deathless, most likely because the relationships were a billion times healthier. I could speculate that this might have something to do with the ending of her relationship with her Ukrainian ex-husband, but I’m an incorrigible gossip, so what do I know. I’m just glad I wasn’t grossed out by this book’s portrayal of romance and sex and compatibility the way I was with Deathless’.
The bad: this book is A Lot. And if you enjoy Ms Valente, then you will enjoy this surfeit of her style: long, witty ramblings that come to a sharp point, so long as you don’t let your mind drift off along one of the many, many tangents. It is very much a disco ball of a book: glittery and illuminating but do you really want to stare at it for too long? It is a bit too brittle and bright for me, alas, but it’s the kind of things lots of other people (including Doug: hi, Doug!) really go for.
I actually recommended this to a friend of mine who loves Eurovision as much as Ms Valente does. It’s a fun take on an intergalactic competition that could end in humanity’s extermination, and I greatly enjoyed the characters, but it was just So Much crammed into a small space with uneven pacing and emphasis. Like everything at the party that didn’t involve Dess should have maybe been more relevant? I loved that there were heaps of imaginatively created alien species, but some were definitely created better than others: nothing about the Lummuti, for example, stood up to scrutiny, tho I really wanted it to.
Space Opera was fun, I didn’t hate it, but the chances of me going back for more are vanishingly slim. Thank goodness this is a standalone: the book gets extra points for that alone.