The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The fuck was that?!

And I don’t mean that in a bad way either, it was just weird as hell and kinda gross. Pulling my professional pants on, I’m pretty sure the greatest part of my disorientation is the fact that, while this is billed as an outer space opera, I couldn’t shake the impression that this was all inner space and that these women were really anthropomorphized cell structures within a greater biological organism, of which the world/ships were also a component. I would love to see what an actual biologist would have to say about this (and don’t think I haven’t trawled the Internet looking.)

Anyway, there’s this character, Zan, who wakes up with amnesia after coming back from a failed raid on the world/ship Mokshi. Apparently, she keeps going in and keeps getting shot back out, the sole survivor, to return to her war-like people, the Katazyrna. At least, she thinks they’re her people, as Jayd, the beautiful woman she instinctively knows she loves, keeps telling her when she returns. But there’s something rotten in the state of Katazyrna, and when Jayd leaves Zan to form a political alliance with the world/ship Bhajava, whose warriors are ostensibly the reason Zan keeps failing to complete her raids on the Mokshi, Zan finds herself adrift and unsure who to trust, especially after all hell breaks loose and she finds herself facing a fate worse than death.

So far so space opera, and Kameron Hurley hits all the notes, even the ones that feel perfunctory (see: the climax, of a sort, in the Mokshi control room.) The emotions felt less than inhabited, particularly as the book wore on. Jayd wasn’t a terribly convincing character emotionally and while I enjoyed the idea of the change in her relationship with Zan by the end, I didn’t care about the actuality. Maybe it’s because I didn’t at all feel the impact of her earlier and greatest betrayal, and so I didn’t really understand the need for change viscerally. Like, I get it intellectually but there were also a lot of intellectual reasons for their relationship to continue as it was so idk.

Definitely a wild ride of a book and recommended for anyone wanting something entirely fresh in science fiction. It’s still tough for me to think of this setting as the future of outer space, tho, instead of a clever retelling of biological processes at the cellular level.

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