Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente

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.

Doug was more of a fan. Read his reviews here and here.

Permanent link to this article:


  1. It’s funny you should mention that, because I almost didn’t finish. About a quarter of the way through, I was feeling it was all Too Much, that although Eurovision is a hoot and Eurovision plus Twitter and Facebook commentary is great fun indeed, and although the idea of Eurovision in Spaaaaace was awesome, the actual execution at that point was not doing it for me. What kept me going was having had similar experiences with the Fairyland books, where’s there’s a lot of razzle-dazzle before you get to the emotional core of the story but it’s worth it to get there.

    So I kept going, and I got to the quieter parts on the spaceship where the cat is sleeping through most of the journey and only seeing the important parts between Dess and Oort. And I really liked the ending.

    Thank you also for not adding an s after the possessive form of Deathless.

  2. I should likely try to read the Fairyland series at some point, as I’ve heard very good things about it (but who has the time NOT ME *insert hysterically crying emoji here*.)

    As to the extraneous s, I greatly dislike excessive punctuation and the like, but to each their own, I suppose, since it’s a matter of style not grammar. Try explaining that to one of the multitude of Americans obsessed with the Oxford comma tho. Half of them don’t believe me when I say actual English people think it’s rubbish/shorthand for lazy writers, and the other half are convinced I’m blaspheming when I try to explain the difference between grammar and style. God save us from the pedants.

    Btw, are you on Goodreads/Facebook? We should be friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.