Space Opera. A book title, not necessarily a genre, although Space Opera is definitely space opera. I popped it on my list as I read the blurb when it came out. Then I saw it in my library… and brought it home along with five others I wanted to read. I’ve had to renew those 🙂

This one completes my Spacetime Reading Challenge for 2021. If you’d like to join in next year, the sign up post is here. Or just go to my SpaceTime Reading Challenge page.

space opera

Space Opera

by Catherynne M Valente


A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented-something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix – part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny – they must sing.

A one-hit-wonder band of human musicians, dancers and roadies from London – Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes – have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.(goodreads)

My Review

The idea of the sentient universe being governed on the basis of who wins the galactic equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest (Australia is in it now) made me laugh so much I immediately popped this book on my TBR. And it’s a great idea.

In fact, it’s a mind-blowingly good idea, along with several other ideas and concepts in Ms Valente’s extraordinary novel. Any dithering I had was swept away by the mechanism she uses for explaining to Earthlings that it’s time for them to meet the aliens. It’s brilliant. And even more brilliant is her conversation with the President of the USA. This exactly matches everything I’d like to say to anyone in power, whether voted, dictated, or plutocratic. (p40 of the hardback, in case you’re interested) After that I could not put it down.

Well, that’s not quite true. Apart from that chapter, Space Opera reads like Hitch-hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by James Joyce. It’s funny, but dense. Reading it is hard work. But my ‘reading brain’ was using the Hitch-hikers’ narrator, the fantastic and much missed Peter Jones. It helped with the rhythm and flow of the author”s compounded words–not just compound but squashed together to make words you’ve never heard of but somehow make sense. And long sentences.

I could only take two chapters, three at the most, at a time. That made for slow progress, by my standards. But it was worth it. Zany, crackers, bizarre and brilliant, but I’m not sure I like it. Just like Eurovision, I suppose.

Book Review | Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente 'reads like Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy by James Joyce' and it's 'Zany, crackers, bizarre and brilliant.' Just like Eurovision, but for aliens. #scifi #punk @catvalente Share on X

Book Review | Space Opera @catvalente #spacetimereads

3 thoughts on “Book Review | Space Opera @catvalente #spacetimereads

  • 18 December, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    Hmm… I think I’ll have to take a look. I’m not doing well with dense and difficult these days, but the premise is just too good! At the very least I need to make it to p. 40!

    • 18 December, 2021 at 10:34 pm

      You’ll enjoy page 40. I’ll see what you think of the preceding chapter 🙂
      I’ve bought Tigers of the Snows, btw. It arrived today.

      • 29 December, 2021 at 2:37 am

        Cool! I am still enjoying the book. Page 40 was spot-on. But I agree about small doses.

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