The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Well, Kameron Hurley certainly doesn’t play by anyone else’s rules. The Stars Are Legion is a space opera with a flavor that’s all its own. The Legion is a group of worlds, or spaceships, (the word for both is the same) traveling through space and filled with warring groups.
The worlds are organic constructs, many of which are dying and cannibalizing each other for materials with which to regrow. The worlds are in fixed orbit, except for the Mokshi which is a world capable of independent movement. Zan awakes with no memory. Jayd tells her she is a great general and has a crucial role to play in a plan they both conceived which involves conquering Mokshi. Zan feels a powerful attraction for Jayd but also a great deal of mistrust. Jayd is promised to a rival and Zan ends up dropped in a “recycler” where she falls to the center of the world. Climbing back to the top she discovers new civilizations even as she struggles to regain her own memory. Zan questions if she truly wants to remember who she was previously yet remains determined to be reunited with Jayd and to complete their plan.
Hurley has fascinating world-building at work here. Organic ships, odd symbiotic relationships between world-ships and the people who live on them, and intriguing politics and relationships. Hurley’s books are filled with blood and guts, quite literally, and there is no shortage of that here. As brutal as some of the action is, there is also a hopefulness to it as well. The story is told through Zan and Jayd’s eyes, and while they are interesting, they are a little hard to get to know. They sometimes lie to themselves and they know themselves to be untrustworthy. Zan is more of a blank slate, even as some of her memories return.
Much is made about the fact that there are no men in this book, or this world or this universe. That’s perhaps a little overblown. There are plenty of books that are predominantly or exclusively populated by male characters and that are unremarkable for that fact. Much like I don’t need to see characters going to the bathroom on TV or in books to assume that they do. I can accept a civilization made up only of women that manages to continue to propagate the species, particularly in science fiction, without fretting about the how. That’s kind of the point here.
There is a lot to like here, even if it is all hard to digest, no pun intended. Complicated world-building, interesting relationships, and thought-provoking concepts. Hurley continues to push the boundaries of science fiction, and that’s a good thing. This book may not be for the squeamish, but it is for everyone who likes their science fiction to stretch their minds a little bit.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Description: 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.Here in the darkness, a war for control of the Legion has been waged for generations, 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 the band of cast-off followers she has gathered survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?