Title: The Stars are Legion
Author: Kameron Hurley
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication Date: Febraury 2017
Hardcover: 400 Pages
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. 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 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 her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?
In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune, The Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most celebrated new writers.
Standalone or Series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Format (e- or p-): Ebook
Hello, let me tell you about this incredible, unique book.
Somewhere out there in the ever expanding universe, the Legion – a group of decaying, biological world-ships orbiting an artificial sun and in constant motion – is at war. It’s been a generational war, a war that most people of the different families from which different world have fought all their lives. It’s all they ever known: a war for control of the Legion itself.
(It’s kinda like The Godfather. In space. But not quite.)
Because the worlds – and effectively, the Legion – are dying. Nobody knows why, because knowledge has been lost. But one particular world, the Mokshi, has somehow managed to break away from its orbit and it’s now potentially on its way to leave the Legion. Needless to say, everybody wants to board it and take control of it. Nobody has succeeded so far.
Until now. Two women put together a desperate plan to change everything. It involves the Mokshi, a wedding, the birthing of a world and the theft of an arm.
(It’s kinda like a heist movie. In space. But not quite.)
One of the women is Jayd, a powerful general and leader, one of the daughters of the Anat, the leader of the Katazyrna family.
The other one is Zan. The book starts with her: waking up with no memory in the midst of the Katazyrna family, being told she is one of them (is she?), learning that she is their salvation because she is the only one capable of getting close enough to the Mokshi. Except every time she does it, she comes back alive (the only one to come back alive) but memoryless. No one knows what happens when Zan boards the Mokshi.
Zan gets ready to go on another mission but she questions everything she is told. She has feelings for Jayd – and Jayd, well. Jayd is protective of Zan just as she is mysterious and foreboding and not exactly forthcoming with the whole truth. But it becomes clear that the two are working together on a plan and that Zan needs to get her part done by boarding the Mokshi one last time. And then Jayd gets married to the leader of another powerful family, someone who is said to have a womb capable of generating worlds.
But then everything goes wrong (or does it). Betrayal happens (again) and Zan gets recycled (again) and it’s in the bowels of the world that Zan will start a journey that will change everything.
The narrative alternates between these two women and their viewpoint narration is as unreliable as it can be. Zan because she has no memory. Jayd, because she is so twisted up inside with guilt that it’s difficult to know what’s true or not. It’s fascinating really, because on top of everything else, we have a novel that is a psychological thriller too. However, despite the two sharing the narrative, I’d call Zan the main character. For starters, due to her lack of memory, Zan is the perfect viewpoint for us, the readers: because everything is new to her just as it is new to us.
The pull and recoil between these two women is incredibly powerful. They are in love with each other and their romance is motivation and fuel. It’s at the core of everything they do. At least, it was until this new memory rodeo for Zan. Here, now, Zan’s journey through the different levels of her worlds, leads her to a new understanding of the world she lives in, of the peoples that live in it, the power of memory and of knowledge. In her journey, she collects a rag tag team of misfits that help her get back to the plan and who became a sort of found family. They traverse their world for months with a mission in mind.
(It’s kinda like Lord of the Rings. In space. But not quite.)
This leads Zan to a better understanding of herself (or The Heroine’s Journey) and to the ultimate choice she makes that breaks a cycle. I’d call it a cycle of emotional abuse which is just another level in which this novel succeeds at being complex as fuck.
Here is another thing about it: the characters are all women. And it’s hard to say when this novel takes place and whether even we are talking about humans as we know them. But if they are humans like us, then something – mutation, evolution, adaptation – happened that make women in the world capable of not only giving birth through parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) but also to give birth to whatever the Legion (and the ships) need. And this means: anything. Women can give birth to babies (but they are so rare) but also to bio-mechanical parts, food and even, worlds (hey, remember the plan! This is important).
And there are many aspects of this novel that are a bit gross (ok, a lot): there is a lot of body horror, biological decay, mutations. But perhaps the fact that women here get pregnant without a choice because their worlds need them to…
Evolutionary oppression, you guys. We are always fucked. But hey listen to these morsels:
we are all servants of the legion, some more so than others. Our power comes in realizing that servitude is not a natural state but a learned one. Our power comes in knowing we can remake it all.
Control of fecundity is something every woman wants, and each believes is her birthright. The worlds have other ideas, and it eventually led to their destruction.
I would be inclined to say that the only male characters in the Legion are the worlds themselves.
I keep thinking about the trappings within the plot though: it features a quest, a journey, objects to be found and a Fellowship of Women, against a terrible environment. I was almost inclined to call it Grimdark Fantasy in Space. But really, no. The Stars are Legion is a book about new beginnings and new hope and change. That’s why I wouldn’t call it grimdark because the hope and the good in people shine through all the gory and blood and guts. I’d still call it a Fantasy novel wrapped in a Science Fiction package though.
And because I am me, I can’t stop thinking about the marketing.
The book has been talked up as a space opera, as “Lesbians in Space!” – and yes, these are cool marketing lines and a direct indication of what to expect from the novel and although it definitely does the job of selling this book to the right audience (and what more could one expect from a good marketing plan), it does somewhat does it a disservice by being slightly reductive. Elevator pitch will pitch, and all that jazz.
I’d say this book is about choice and agency. All kinds of choices: choice over what one gives birth to and when. Choice about how you choose to live and what you choose to believe in. And ultimately, even though the universe is stacked up against her, it’s all about Zan’s choice not to be an asshole. I love it for all that.
This is the Kameron Hurley novel I had truly been waiting for: about a brutal, broken world that is against all odds, fixable. Right now, this is the most powerful thing I can think of.
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect
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