****Space Opera by Catherynne 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.

Space Opera is a hell of a read. I will get it out of the way now, it *is* a big of a slog. The book is crammed to the brim with hilarious, complex, run-on sentences in the style of Douglas Adams (I imagine – I haven’t read the Hitchicker’s Guide), which is all well and good unless you’re an ESL reader. Complex words are tossed in a word salad with made-up scifi ones and heavily coated with metaphors and similes, until you don’t know what’s up and what’s down and you’re not sure you got the details of the sentence but you at least got the gist of it, and it was full on dialed-up to 200% fun.

Which is probably why is took me longer than other books to get through, and even an adept of run-on sentences like myself did feel breathless by the end of certain paragraphs. But don’t mistake me, the book is absolutely worth putting in the extra effort of reading it, because it’s just a straight up good time.

It’s eurovision in space, baby. It’s weird-ass funky aliens, which you all know I’m a fan of. It’s glam and glitter and truly deep philosophical observation about life and sentience that come up in between two hilariously absurd paragraphs and punches you in the face. It’s a book that tells you very early on that life is beautiful and stupid, and then spends the rest of it driving that point home in the most entertaining way possible.

I hear that they might make a movie of this, and I hope it will be as full of colours and glitter as the best Jupiter Ascending and The Fifth Element put together, and maybe without the incredible buckwild word-explosion style of the narration getting in the way of my poor second language reading comprehension and jumbling my brain like morning eggs in a pan, the movie will reveal a little bit more of the heartfelt core of the story that’s hiding under a thousand layers of britghly coloured wrapping paper of the book’s voice.

Anyway, here I am late to the party, but it should have won the Hugo.

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