Space Opera

Space Opera

IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SINGA 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 civiliza...

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Title:Space Opera
Author:Catherynne M. Valente
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Space Opera Reviews

  • Trish

    Once upon a time on a small, watery, exciteable planet called Earth ... we find out that we are indeed not alone in the universe. On the contrary. The universe is teeming with all kinds of life (including the most improbable forms of FTL transportation) and after a horrible intergalactic war, every sentient species has agreed on a form of contest with which to entertain but also combat one another. And it is a way of discerning if a species is sentient or

    Once upon a time on a small, watery, exciteable planet called Earth ... we find out that we are indeed not alone in the universe. On the contrary. The universe is teeming with all kinds of life (including the most improbable forms of FTL transportation) and after a horrible intergalactic war, every sentient species has agreed on a form of contest with which to entertain but also combat one another. And it is a way of discerning if a species is sentient or shall be annihilated. The contest? Well ... basically it is like the Eurovision Song Contest. The performance on stage is at least as important as how well you can sing. The different standards for beauty and talent the different galactic races have aren't helping any more than the bloodthirstiness of most of them.

    After humanity has been brought up to speed about not being alone and having to participate in this year's contest if we want to survive, we are given a list of potential contestants ... the problem being that all but one are either dead or incapacitated. *lol*

    Thus, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroe(s) travel through space (with a freshly talking cat and at least two well-meaning aliens) and try to prevent humanity from being wiped out by at least not coming in last in Galactovision. Because while we might be indredibly stupid, we've also done some pretty cool things one should not forget about.

    Magic is real. As is evident every time Valente uses it to bind words onto the page, arranging those words so perfectly, I want to weep. Seriously, while this book is as silly as any of Douglas Adams' work (I really think he and Sir Pratchett would be proud to welcome this author in their midst), the author never fails to convey profound truths about life, being human and everything else wrapped up in glitter and laughs.

    There is trivia, there are some side-stabs at certain performers *coughs*TaylorSwift*coughs* and enough snark to fill three books.

    The concept had already been wonderful but the execution is simply brilliant.

    Also noteworthy is the narrator of the audio version and how he brings to life so much of the humour by the different voices he gives the aliens (and the man can sing!). The book will always be perfect but I truly believe that the audio version gives it an additional level of greatness.

  • Bradley

    Life is beautiful. Life is stupid.

    This book was all kinds of freaking wonderful, packed to the gills with glam and snark and a buttload of heart-wrenching brutal honesty wrapped up with a bow of sex, aliens, and rock and roll.

    A lot of people are equating this with Hitchhiker's Guide, but in a lot of ways, it's better. And worse. The sheer amount of delightful rock-and-roll trivia and snark made me think of Rob Reid's Year Zero, but this was better. Think about all the aging Glam Rock stars who h

    Life is beautiful. Life is stupid.

    This book was all kinds of freaking wonderful, packed to the gills with glam and snark and a buttload of heart-wrenching brutal honesty wrapped up with a bow of sex, aliens, and rock and roll.

    A lot of people are equating this with Hitchhiker's Guide, but in a lot of ways, it's better. And worse. The sheer amount of delightful rock-and-roll trivia and snark made me think of Rob Reid's Year Zero, but this was better. Think about all the aging Glam Rock stars who have had their best days long ago being catapulted into galactic society in a sing-off with the stakes being the fate of the race.

    You know, time lag. Can't use the recent stuff and most of the old stuff is either hopeless or dead. Who's left? The Absolute Zeroes. :) One is dead and the others are impoverished, and yet they have to sing for their lives against all the biggest stars in the galaxy. Because, after all, Life is Beautiful, Life is Stupid.

    It just happens to be better than most of the alternatives. :)

    Great concept, even BETTER execution. Every page is full of awesomeness, glam, and utter despair. Meeting all these poor alien saps and their quirky f***ed up lives and kinks is half the fun, but I happen to LOVE Decibel Jones. He's so early Bowie and aging rock star and a whole ball of f***ed up, himself. :) I swear I can hear all the songs playing in my head, adding several soundtracks to this novel as I read it. :)

    And the end? MY GOD that's a lightshow-and-a-half. :) Ziggy Stardust has NOTHING on this. :)

    I think I may have found my absolute favorite Valente novel out of a TON of favorite Valente novels. I mean, I'm always super excited to read Valente, but this has got to be the one that tops them all. :)

  • Lindsay

    Humorous writing is not for everyone; senses of humor just tend to be too different and/or incompatible. This one hits my sense of humor square on: absurdist, wry and with a core of profundity that works very well with the lush writing that the author has on display elsewhere.

    After the Sentience Wars interstellar civilization has implemented the Metagalactic Grand Prix song contest which all prospective sentient species must compete in and not come last. A new species that comes last is deemed t

    Humorous writing is not for everyone; senses of humor just tend to be too different and/or incompatible. This one hits my sense of humor square on: absurdist, wry and with a core of profundity that works very well with the lush writing that the author has on display elsewhere.

    After the Sentience Wars interstellar civilization has implemented the Metagalactic Grand Prix song contest which all prospective sentient species must compete in and not come last. A new species that comes last is deemed to be not-sentient, a danger to interstellar civilization and is exterminated. It's Earth's turn, and representing us we have washed-up glampunk band Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes.

    The author explicitly calls out the link to

    in the afterword as being the godfather of all SF humor writing, and she doesn't attempt to dodge that here, instead leaning in to the classic Hitchhikers-like bizarre digressions into humorous exposition. The comparison to Hitchhikers is very apt. Still, this book is definitely Valente's own, as Decibel Jones's regret for what happened to the band and his willingness to aggressively embrace the alien and bizarre help strengthen humanity's case. Oort's journey is no less interesting as the ostensible sellout punk musician reaching for the youth that he's left behind. And there's plenty of humor and comment on the the current state of humanity by the various and well-characterized alien species.

    Superb, but maybe not for everyone, much like the Hitchhikers Guide novels.

  • Hannah Greendale

    to watch a video review of this book on my channel,

    .

    is Eurovision in space! The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the washed up lead singer of a band notorious for inventing "

    ."

    With puns, pop-culture references, and some unapologetic observations about the human race, Valente escorts readers through the cosmos to the glittering, psychedelic, bizarre Metagalactic Grand Prix where alien races compet

    to watch a video review of this book on my channel,

    .

    is Eurovision in space! The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the washed up lead singer of a band notorious for inventing "

    ."

    With puns, pop-culture references, and some unapologetic observations about the human race, Valente escorts readers through the cosmos to the glittering, psychedelic, bizarre Metagalactic Grand Prix where alien races compete for notoriety, resources, and to avoid having their planet incinerated.

    Fair warning: This book will only appeal to a niche audience. Be sure to read the opening pages, to ensure its singular structure appeals to you, before making a purchase.

  • Maria

    I’M GETTING HIGH JUST FROM READING THIS BLURB

  • Jenne

    So, one time I bought a bottle of Miracle-Gro for my houseplants. I used it once or twice and then stuck it in the back of a cupboard and forgot about it.

    Years later, when I was moving house, I cleared out the cupboard and found the bottle, which had leaked somehow and the Miracle-Gro had actually *made the bottle itself grow*! There were all these baroque sort of globules growing fractally off the side of it. It was magical and also a bit disturbing.

    This book reminded me of my miraculous Mira

    So, one time I bought a bottle of Miracle-Gro for my houseplants. I used it once or twice and then stuck it in the back of a cupboard and forgot about it.

    Years later, when I was moving house, I cleared out the cupboard and found the bottle, which had leaked somehow and the Miracle-Gro had actually *made the bottle itself grow*! There were all these baroque sort of globules growing fractally off the side of it. It was magical and also a bit disturbing.

    This book reminded me of my miraculous Miracle-Gro bottle, except that it was more like if you took a Douglas Adams novel and spilled some David Bowie on it (use your imagination) and left it in a dark cupboard for an astronomical time unit or several, this is what you would get.

    I would say any random five or ten pages of this book is quite enjoyable, but taken all together I’m not sure it really adds up to anything.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    2.5 stars. Review first posted on

    (along with my co-reviewer Jana's review). It took me nearly two months to read this Eurovision in space/

    mashup, start to finish. My journey began with Anticipation, shifted to Befuddlement and Boredom, passed through Dismay, flirted with DNF, picked up again a few weeks later with Resolution, and ended with an overdose of Whimsy and Zaniness.

    Oort St. Ultraviolet and his old bandmate Decibel Jones, the two rema

    2.5 stars. Review first posted on

    (along with my co-reviewer Jana's review). It took me nearly two months to read this Eurovision in space/

    mashup, start to finish. My journey began with Anticipation, shifted to Befuddlement and Boredom, passed through Dismay, flirted with DNF, picked up again a few weeks later with Resolution, and ended with an overdose of Whimsy and Zaniness.

    Oort St. Ultraviolet and his old bandmate Decibel Jones, the two remaining members of a defunct glam rock band called Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, are tapped on the shoulders by a seven-foot-tall ultramarine roadrunner-type alien to represent humanity in the periodic Metagalactic Grand Prix, a musical contest that the various races of the galaxy have settled on as an alternative to their massively destructive Sentience Wars. Newly space-faring races ― like humanity ― are required to participate in the Grand Prix to prove their sentience. If they come in last place in the contest, the entire race will be promptly and summarily executed, perhaps by a passing Vogon ship.

    Even though all they have to do is not come in last, the odds are against humanity and the Absolute Zeroes. Jungle rules apply to the Grand Prix contest and, frankly, the Absolute Zeroes are out of practice, out of inspiration, and missing the third member of their group, Mira Wonderful Star, who was the glue that held the group together and made it function. Still, there’s nothing for Decibel to do but try to write a new song, and perhaps enjoy a little partying and alien strange along the way.

    had its moments, and parts of it really did tickle my funny bone. Catherynne M. Valente slings a lot of humor around, and some of it is bound to stick. I think my favorite bits were about Capo, Oort’s cat who for no particular reason (the way most events in this novel occur) accompanies the two humans on their trip through space on an interstellar ship called Cake in the Rain, to the planet where the Grand Prix event will be held. The roadrunner alien gives Capo the power of speech (“Just a little strobe lighting in the hippocampus”) to prove to the humans that speech isn’t the determining factor in proving sentience. But Capo still thinks and acts pretty much like most cats do.

    I frequently came across parts like this that made me snicker or even laugh out loud. But the slight plot of

    is surrounded by just SO MUCH glitter and wordplay and absurd humor and wandering off on tangents and then meandering casually back again, that it’s hard not to get lost in the forest of fanciful details. Pretty much every single sentence includes some kind of in-joke or off-beat humor or just plain silliness. After a while it just became mentally exhausting to wade through.

    I’m a lifelong fan of the HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY series, and

    has a marked similarity to Douglas Adams’s work, both in the abundance of screwball, often deadpan humor and in the slightness of the plot. But

    just didn’t create the same magic for me. In particular, its length works against it, especially with all of the distracting, at most semi-relevant, digressions. But this is clearly one of those “your mileage may vary” books. If you adore Douglas Adams, Eurovision and/or glam rock, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll like Space Opera.

    Content notes: A lot of F-bombs. Also, um, alien sex, but it's so esoteric that it's hard to imagine it offending anyone.

    I dunno, people. I’m having a tough time getting through this book. Its Hitchhiker-type of humor can be very funny, but too often I find it just silly and exhausting. It’s going on hiatus for a week or so; I’m on vacation* and I’ve got lots of other things to read and do rather than force myself to power through to the end of this book.

    * I have three large, tough sons - two in their early twenties and one an older teen - holding down the home fort against any intruders. No lie. So I don’t feel like I’m being reckless in sharing my vacation status here. :) Meanwhile, my husband and I are having a nice time celebrating our 25th anniversary in Cabo San Lucas!

    The hardcover ARC just appeared on my doorstep yesterday, and this looks like so much fun! Sort of a glam rock twist on

    -type humor.

    Stay tuned!

  • Gary

    In the setup for Catherynne M. Valente’s new “Eurovision in space” novel Space Opera, a has-been, burned-out, Bowie-wannabe rock star called Decibel Jones is inexplicably chosen to sing in an intergalactic competition for humanity’s right to exist. Unfortunately, after the amusingly gonzo kickoff, the subsequent two-thirds of the book is the most epic filler of all time – a plotless pile of twisty-worded tangents about everything on Earth the author can think of, packed with in-jokes and puns an

    In the setup for Catherynne M. Valente’s new “Eurovision in space” novel Space Opera, a has-been, burned-out, Bowie-wannabe rock star called Decibel Jones is inexplicably chosen to sing in an intergalactic competition for humanity’s right to exist. Unfortunately, after the amusingly gonzo kickoff, the subsequent two-thirds of the book is the most epic filler of all time – a plotless pile of twisty-worded tangents about everything on Earth the author can think of, packed with in-jokes and puns and double-entendres and tonal shifts from slapstick to droll to burlesque to self-deprecating to farcical and my god it’s way more exhausting than funny and I’m not kidding it goes on FOREVER before anything resembling a story returns and it almost gets good again until it contrives a flimsy solution to the main problem, then cuts off mid-climax and goes straight to the denouement. I normally like Valente’s writing; how she managed to write a novel without a single interesting character and stretch about 5000 words of story into 80,000 words is, admittedly, an impressive feat, and also completely mystifying and frustrating and disappointing.

  • Matthew

    If I were to give this book a one word review, it would be:

    Overwritten

    This book, in my opinion tries WAY too hard. What it tries way too hard to do, I am not quite sure, but I was starting to get a headache trying to keep up with all the stuff it was throwing my way. It seemed like every sentence had to have a punchline. Every description came with a built in footnote story. It was delivered under what seemed like the influence of 1000 energy drinks. The fact that the content was so out there an

    If I were to give this book a one word review, it would be:

    Overwritten

    This book, in my opinion tries WAY too hard. What it tries way too hard to do, I am not quite sure, but I was starting to get a headache trying to keep up with all the stuff it was throwing my way. It seemed like every sentence had to have a punchline. Every description came with a built in footnote story. It was delivered under what seemed like the influence of 1000 energy drinks. The fact that the content was so out there and bizarre did not help.

    In reading some other reviews, I see several mentions of this book trying to be like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – and that is exactly right. But, it takes the spirit and delivery of that book and raises it to the millionth degree. All I felt with every sentence was the author winking at me and saying “Goodness me, aren’t I creative and witty!?”

    I do give it some props for creativity. It is a very unique and original concept and the author spent a lot of time fleshing out the details. While this came out as stream of consciousness drivel, it still had some pretty interesting ideas.

    I am not quite sure who I recommend it to. If you like the works of Douglas Adams, you may like this or be appalled at the attempt to be like Adams. If you like your sci-fi straight forward, this is not for you. If you like your comedy extremely outlandish and have the patience to deal with hundreds of pages of non-sensical dialogue, this might just be the book for you!

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