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ChrisHepler

Class-Action Vampires

Author of "Civil Blood" (2018), contributor to numerous video games, infrequent blogger at www.christopherhepler.com. I like thrillers, urban fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional thematic point about human nature.

The Stars Are Legion

The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley If you've ever said you wanted a space opera where sex, plotting and politics matter more than long descriptions of technology, you should consider reading The Stars are Legion. With a few skillful decisions of character and pacing, Hurley gives us a protagonist, some emotional investment, and takes us off to the adventure. Zan, our first POV protag, knows what she wants: control of her living world/ship and a life with her lover Jayd. Zan's amnesia masks all the rest -- Zan is familiar with the concepts the reader needs to grasp, and everything else is as weird or new or disgusting to her as it is to us.

The science is reasonably sound (living worldships surrounding an artificial sun traveling through space, massive amounts of genetic engineering to make it as sustainable as possible) but the beauty of the world-building is that it pretty much never comes up. Zan's struggles feel more mythical or allegorical as she fights her way out of the world-under-the-world to reclaim her memory. The "gross-out factor" wasn't a problem for me, since the writing style is rather spare. (Of course, if you get ill from a book that has women declaring their love for other women, yes, go find another book.) The spare style also extends to the characters, who are defined by what they do rather than how they look, much like in a screenplay. If this novel ever spreads to multimedia, its visuals could help distinguish between the minor characters at a glance and really hammer home the alienness of the living worlds.

As for the ending, the book is pretty clear early on that it will deal with the inevitable choice that amnesiac protagonists encounter: reconciling who they were with who they want to be. I wouldn't call this mind-blowing, but then I'm familiar with recent stories in that vein (Knights of the Old Republic, Planescape: Torment, etc.). It would probably seem a lot cooler to a reader who hasn't seen that trick before, but the story is solid enough to stand on its own. Four stars out of five.