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. 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 ( ) 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’.

Emery Robin

This is American author Emery Robin’s ( )  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.



rendezvous-with-rama-book-coverThe first weeks of January are rather like embarking on a journey. According to Lao Tsu “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” and so this brings me to this month’s book club read, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

Clarke along with Isaac Asimov were the leading science fiction writers of there time; still today they are held in high regard for their ground breaking insights into the future development of space travel. Clarke alone wrote 62 books on the subject. He’s best known for his book 2001 a Space Odyssey and is also seen as the person responsible for the modern communication satellite.

Originally written in 1973 Rendezvous with Rama is set in future, 2131 to be precise. Space travel is quite advanced, so much so that we have colonized the Moon as well as Mars and have discovered life on other planets in the solar system, along with developing working relationships with them. When a radar station on Mars detects a large object entering our solar system a probe is sent to investigate; what it finds is a large cylindrical ship. Due to having exhausted the Greek and Roman mythologies for names of celestial bodies the astronomers name this visitor Rama after the Hindu god of courage. Commander Norton and the crew of the space ship Endeavour are sent to investigate, what they find inside is a world with cities, oceans and seasons, but no life. Where are the crew, where has it come from and where is it going? The answers to these questions will have repercussions for both mankind and the other inhabitants of the galaxy.


This is the first book in a quadrilogy, it was meant to be a one off but in 1989 Clarke wrote Rama II with Gentry Lee, then in 1991 and 1993 they wrote Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed. Lee subsequently wrote two further Rama books. The descriptive writing in Rendezvous with Rama is brilliant, you do struggle to get your minds eye around the size of a vessel which is somewhere in range of 50 – 60 miles long by 30 miles wide.  At the start you’re filled with anticipation at a possible first contact with visitors from another world and I was galloping through numerous scenarios as to what the crew of the Endeavour would find inside. The story of what they might find in this mysterious vessel is intriguing. But that’s where it ends because nothing happens, until the end when the ship continues on its merry way having done nothing more threatening then recharge it’s engines with solar energy from the sun….

The book is short at 246 pages and the chapters are never more then 2 – 8 pages long, theoretically it could be read in one or two sittings. But overall I found it showed its 40 years, in the storytelling and plotting, one of the crew is seemingly able to disarm a guided long range missile with a pair of wire cutters !!!! (I Think there’d be a bit more to it then that, even one hundred years in the future).

There’s no real drama, when they do encounter machines inside Rama they pose no real threat and take no real notice of the crew; readers of this generation would probably find it boring and tame, why? Well for one reason no one dies, someone dies in any film or TV programme of this genre now a days. Star Trek which had been up and running on television for seven years before Clarke wrote Rama, had some un-named member of the crew die in almost every episode.


As for the characters, they are nondescript. We get to know very little about them bar some minor back story. Only Commander Norton has some sort of history and is an almost exact replica of Captain James T. Kirk, being portrayed as a sort of womanizer, with two wives and families one on Earth and the other on Mars (Not exactly out of the ordinary back in the seventies).

When Rama was originally written, we’d been to the moon, but further space exploration and whether there was life out there beyond the stars was still a fantasy. We’ve since had the explosion of science fiction on the big and small screen as well as in computer gaming and it’s this that has sated and fueled our hunger for space adventures and drama of which this book has none.

But before you pass on a Rendezvous with Rama. Remember it AAJV001052was intended as a stand alone, possibly to leave you wondering. But now it’s the first in a series and as you read the final pages, where the crew of Endeavour watch Rama round the sun and disappear off into space, you do ask yourself where is it going? This has made me and should hopefully make you want to read the other books. Because from what I’ve read online and heard from various sources they are more plot and character driven, as well as exciting and do hopefully answer these questions.

(First Published 2013)