Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: The Stars Are Legion

Title: The Stars Are Legion
Author: Kameron Hurley
Pages: 396
ISBN: 9780857666611
Publisher: Angry Robot
Published: 2017
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Purchased


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Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is travelling 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 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.

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley is space opera unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Set on, living organic world-ships, the novel is gross, unsettling, unrelenting and utterly glorious. It deals with life in all of its messy glory. Power lies in flesh, the very lifeblood of the Legion is its people who are used, discarded and recycled in an endless cycle of birth and rebirth where every scrap of meat needs to be retained in order to sustain the closed system. But the decaying world-ships are dying; their fate rests in the hands of Zan, a woman who wakes without memory. Thrust into this unfamiliar world, she has to uncover the truth and the path to salvation for both herself and the Legion as a whole.

Told in the first person from the alternating viewpoints of two main characters Zan and Jayd the story manages to pull you in from the start. For the first third of the novel everything is a bewildering confusion as, like the main protagonist, you are thrust into a completely unfamiliar world while slowly being fed bits of information; information that might be less than trustworthy.
“How awful to lose your knowledge of your world, but to lose knowledge of the universe? The loss overwhelms me.” (p 104)
As Zan slowly uncovers parts of her memory the confusion subsides and the pieces slowly slot into place revealing the truly fascinating world-building on display. The worlds of the Legion are complex, many layered things, both in physical structure and in the social and political machinations at play.

While I enjoyed Zan as a character one of the secondary characters, Casimar, just stole the show. I loved her snark and stubborn worldview which provided some much needed comic relief in an unforgiving world.

The plot ends up being a fairly straightforward story of love, betrayal and revenge, but it’s the journey and the far-reaching revelations imparted along the way that ends up being the most important thing. The powerful message that women control their own bodies and have the right to decide their own destiny is the message our society so desperately needs, especially now.
“What is freedom?” Arankadash says. “It is control of the body, and its issue, and one’s place in the world.” (p 318).
“When you understand what the world is, you have two choices: Become part of that world and perpetuate that system forever and ever, unto the next generation. Or fight it, and break it, and build something new." (p 215)
The ending does not provide all the answers, but it’s a satisfying conclusion that leaves you with a smattering of hope for a far better future. I would gladly read more novels set in this universe, but as a standalone novel it works really well. Kameron Hurley has certainly dealt a deathblow to the notion that females are the weaker sex. These lesbians in space are totally badass!

While I thoroughly enjoyed The Stars are Legion there is one thing that bugs me – the magical restoration of one of Zan’s companions after suffering a near fatal accident. The only explanation given is that a jinni saved her. It doesn’t really make much sense and seems to be a contrived deus ex machina solution in an otherwise intricately plotted story.

The Verdict:
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley is space opera unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Set on, living organic world-ships, the novel is gross, unsettling, unrelenting and utterly glorious. It carries a strong social message and deals a deathblow to the notion that females are the weaker sex. These women are brutal, devious and totally badass. Be warned though, this is definitely not a tale for the squeamish.

The Rating: 7.5 / 10 (Very good!)

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