CATHERYNNE M VALENTE
REPRESENTATION: Queer Indian-British MC, Queer Pakistani-British MC
IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SING
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.
Space Opera is a really weird book. But like… weird it a glam-rock, quirky, looking-at-the-new-shiny-thing-over-there way? I don’t even know. It’s a strange combination of political discussion and ruminations on the definition and purpose of life itself right alongside Bowie, glitter lipstick and talking flamingos. It’s hard to describe but it’s really good fun.
The writing style reminded me a lot of Douglas Adams but updated for a 2018 audience. The actual plot of the book (Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes singing for the survival of the human race) doesn’t actually take up that much of the book. There’s a good bit of self-reflection on the parts of both Dess and Oort but mostly there’s lots of tangents, asides and gloriously — seemingly unrelated — world-building and snark.
This style of writing definitely isn’t for everyone. If you like plot-driven narratives or a story that travels from A-B in the most efficient way possible, you might be disappointed. If you want to immerse yourself in a whole galaxy of spinning disco lights, coated in a layer of purple glitter, while you and watch the Eurovision as performed by some of the most ‘alienish’ aliens you’ll ever read, then give Space Opera a go.