Author: Kameron Hurley
Genre: science fiction
Published: expected February 7 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution. As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.
Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation - the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan's new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion's gravity well to the very belly of the world.
Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion's destruction - and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?
In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune, The Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre's most celebrated new writers.
There are a couple science fiction writers out there that reviewers and fans liked to call "the New Weird" in the nineties and early 2000s. Though that term's fallen out of use, author Kameron Hurley is a surefire fit into that niche with her new nonfantasy novel due to come out in early February. The Stars Are Legion is a book that's wildly creative, completely unique, and unarguably very, very weird in a genre often known for just those attributes. There are a lot of cool, fun, or just plain odd ideas permeating every layer and culture of this totally, 100% all-female space opera, and while some of those new concepts are better explained and thus easier to grasp than others, it's a pretty well envisioned and developed universe.
The depth of the world and its many unique cultures is impressive, especially considering that The Stars Are Legion is a standalone effort. Hurley builds her universe and its imperiled tentacled worlds (see? Already weird) with both intricacy and inventiveness; she uses the entire four hundred available pages to expand and show the imagination and originality behind Zan and Jayd's world and their own entangled history. There's a lot of background information that helps to illustrate how everything functions or how the families operate in this mad universe, but some of the story's finer points can have clarity issues during the big scenes. And honestly, some of the novel is just so weirdly described it's hard to wrap your head around it, (The whole... women giving birth to whatever part [???] the ship needs? ARE THE SHIPS ALIVE? What's the substance covering the metal? I still have so many questions....) even for readers with a very agile suspension of disbelief.
The secret at the heart of Zan and Jay'd intertwined tale is intricate and hard to predict; it also provides most of the motivation for both of the POV characters. I loved the unforeseeable nature of how their plot developed, though it hinged on one of my least favorite plot points: characters acting secretively about pivotal information because it's "better" for the main character to not know. I will say despite that, Hurley pulls that narrative angle off rather well. She keeps her characters complicated enough to compel interest; there's more to all of these women, even the antagonists, than what is immediately seen. Zan may not know her own history to start and everyone else is keeping their secrets, but the action and mystery keep the plot moving, as does Zan's own irrepressible drive to figure out the truth for herself.
The lingering questions left by the novel's end are small issues by themselves, but there are a few too many to not mention. The sheer amount of creativity and imagination at work is obvious and two of the best elements about The Stars Are Legion, but the lack of clarity or explanation does detract from the novel's overall appeal. The adventure level is high (Space battles! Planetary exploration! Trash monsters!) but the pacing is a bit uneven -- Zan's plotline just after about midway stalls for several chapters. Some of Jayd's storyline is redundant and unnecessarily drawn out. Still, these are small issues in the face of so much more awesome (did I say there's no men? None. Zero. Not. Even. An. Offhand. Mention.) A unique and strange, fun book, I can say that The Stars Are Legion is definitely one I won't forget.