How many Space Operas can you name? … In literary terms… err. In a film and TV context? Ditto. Well after doing a bit of research (I googled or hollered at Alexa), I assumed that if something is described as an “Opera”, there’s going to be a lot singing, along with large-framed men and women in the cast (Jabba the Hutt is close). But I was quite surprised to see that most of the leading film and TV programmes, set in space, are listed as “Space Operas”. So that’s, Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, 2001 a Space Odyssey, which also puts it into the literary “Space Opera” genre. Along with anything fictional written by Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl, et al. BarnesandNoble.com has a list of fifty-five essential Space Operas you must read, from the last 70 years.
In Television, there’s Dr. Who, Firefly, Dark Matter, Blake 7, the list goes on. But again, there’s very little singing in any of them. They’re more commonly known for their musical scores, but no real operatic endeavours. So, when this month’s second book review landed on my doorstep with a thump, I was surprised to see it described as a “Space Opera”. The book is The Stars Undying by Emery Robin and published by Orbit Books ( www.orbitbooks.net ) on the 10th November.
The interstellar empire of Ceiao has turned its eye towards the independent planet of Szayet, and its leader Princess Altagracia. After a bloody civil war, her sister has claimed not just Szayet’s crown, but the Pearl of its prophecy, a supercomputer that contains the immortal soul of their god. Just as Altagracia prepares to flee the planet, the Ceiao commander Mattheus Ceirran arrives. Seeing an opportunity to win back all she has lost; Altagracia attempts win over Mattheus and his righthand woman Anita. But getting into the commander’s good graces and his bed, puts her at odds with her machine god who whispers in her ear. For her planet’s sake and her own, Altagracia will have to become more than a leader, but a queen no history has seen before.
I’m a sci fi fan and have been a Trekkie most of my life. But watching space operas, is easier than reading them and the last one I read was Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, when it was presented to us as a book club choice a number of years ago. Yes, I loved it and devoured it, but again it was about two hundred and fifty pages long. I also read the literary versions of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back when they were published ahead of the films. But again, they were around three hundred pages long. Emery’s book is five hundred and sixteen pages in length, not a novella by any stretch of the imagination and with time pressures of reading it for review, my most valiant efforts at chunking my way through it were no match for this.
The book is inspired by the roman and Egyptian empires and again some people could draw comparisons to another space opera, that features a princess taking on a large well-armed force, intent on wiping out all resistance. Although you don’t have to go to space to find examples of that. Emery herself describes it as a ‘spectacular queer space opera, recasting the fates of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Anthony’.
This is American author Emery Robin’s ( www.emeryrobin.carrd.co ) debut novel. She describes herself as a recovering Californian, and sometime student of propaganda and art history. She lives in New York City, where her day job is working as a paralegal.
I didn’t, not enjoy this book. Its just it was quite in-depth in its description of the story, it was akin to the lord of the Rings, but in Space. This maybe something that regular space opera literary aficionados will love and hungrily await her next book, especially with a month of out of sync world cup soccer ahead of us. But for ad hoc sci-readers, not put off by its length. I suggest beam down to your local book shop and grab a copy, otherwise order one online or download a copy and wait for it to magical materialise on your eReader or doorstep.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This review is part of a blog Tour organized by Compulsive Readers. To what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.