Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Space Opera (Space Opera #1) by Catherynne M. Valente

The third Hugo nominee I have read this year. The book is a strange mix of Hitchhiker’s-Guide-type of science fiction and the Eurovision song contest with a smidgen of Battle Royale thrown in the mix. The intelligent races of the galaxy had a devastating war over what species could be considered sentient. After the war, they established a song contest to create mutual co-operation and trust between all different species (and to divide galactic resources – the winner gets most of them). The newly discovered species (such as humans) must also compete. If they don’t finish last, they will be taken in as full members of the galactic community. If they do finish last, the species will be humanely exterminated as non-sentient and hopeless. So, when humanity is invited to the contest, there is a lot at stake.

The aliens choose a little-known, one-hit-wonder, has-been, glam rockstar to represent the Earth, because, according to them, he has the best hope of all living musicians on Earth to have even the slightest possibility of success.

The book is written in a sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide style with a lot of sidetracks and asides with funny names. However, this book turns that style up to eleven and goes much too far. There is plot enough for about twenty pages, and everything else is longwinded, babbling storytelling with far too many sidetracks and attempts at humor. For the most part, they really were just attempts: I didn’t find funny planet names, implausible alien life forms, and completely impossible planet structures and ecologies to be very amusing, but rather mostly boring and even irritating. The sentences were often very long and convoluted and the book felt almost a chore to read. This was the least favorite of the three nominees in the novel category that I have read so far.

352 pp.

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