Book Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente [Audiobook]


🌟One of my faves!🌟

After an intergalactic war, the various sentient species in the galaxy decided to host a singing contest once every cycle in order to determine which species will be eliminated. When humans are forced to join, it's "electro-funk glamgrind" rockstar Decibel Jones who's chosen to perform and whisked away, along with bandmate Oort St. Ultraviolet, to meet aliens, avoid assassination attempts, and compete on a faraway planet.

Book Cover - Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Title: Space Opera
Pages: 220
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads // Amazon // Publisher


This book was wild and weird, heavy on winding tangents with super creative descriptions of alien species and light on plot, but I loved the weirdness and creativity and writing style, and then the ending was absolutely incredible!

Seriously, right off the bat I have to say, this might be the greatest ending of any book I’ve ever read. Everything culminated so perfectly into just the wildest, most amazing performance (and then a lovely little wrap-up after). So many little things explained and mentioned throughout the book led to this ending without me even realizing those things would be important. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to anything in a book as genius before, but this was genius.

Now, the rest of the book.

This is a writing style that I love. I never know quite how to explain it when I come across it, but it was funny in a sort of ridiculous way, but there was also some beautiful writing that sort of blew me away. This author really can write. She even managed to describe a character who was totally, completely, average and normal in an entertaining, memorable way. Also, this was true omniscient narration, and it was done so well—not head-hopping, but an actual all-knowing narrator with their own entertaining voice telling the story of all these characters and species and everything.

“What in blazes is a ‘boyfrack’ other than an insult to the language?”

“Oort St. Ultraviolet shook loose all my combustibles,” Dess answered with the gentle smile of having lost something wonderful. He picked at a loose stitch in the leather of the door handle. “And every time we touched, it was an endless earthquake in a faultless land.”

And there was sooooooooo much creativity about alien species! I love when authors really get weird with aliens, because why would they all be basically just like us? One species was a sort of combo flamingo and angler fish that could read the memories of others. One looked like a red panda, but they could time travel and see all the different outcomes and timelines. One was a virus that would take over bodies or corpses and animate them. One species was a shaft of moonlight. For one species, insults and self-deprecation were considered good, and compliments were bad. And all their ways of doing performances for the show were so unique too.

There wasn’t a whole lot of plot, more just a lot of winding tangents to talk about a character or a species or an event. There was some plot, just, I would’ve liked a bit more, a bit more of a chance to get to know and spend time with Decibel and Oort. But even so, I enjoyed the time I did spend with them and feel like the author still managed to convey their characters well and make me care about them and love them. Just some glamorous (or not so glamorous, in Oort’s case) aging former rockstars making mistakes but doing their best.

. . . a leggy psychedelic ambidextrous omnisexual gendersplat glitterpunk financially punch-drunk ethnically ambitious glamrock messiah by the name of Danesh Jalo.

Also, just a note, even though the first quote I shared sounds romantic, I would not say there is romance in this book. Especially not between Decibel and Oort. But there is love or some sort of feelings between some characters, at least in the past, and, well… it’s complicated? But nothing that I would call a romance subplot or anything like that.

I’m gonna be honest, for at least the first half of this book, I was situated at 3.5 stars. I was enjoying it, but not super into it. As I got further, I decided it deserved to be bumped to 4 stars for the sheer amount of creativity and the wonderful writing. Then I finished, and the amazing ending tinted my feelings about the rest of the book in the best way, making me retroactively enjoy the whole thing more. And I feel like this is going to a book I remember for a long time, one that will stand out in my mind. When I think about it now, I feel so much fondness, and it feels like it deserves 4.5 stars.

The narrator for the audiobook, Heath Miller, did a great job, really brought to life the weirdness and absurdity. My only complaint is that he didn’t differentiate Decibel’s and Oort’s voices enough, so when the two of them were talking to each other or in the same scene, I couldn’t figure out who was speaking.

Overall, this was so unique and memorable, and I loved the weirdness, the creativity, the fun and beautiful writing, and the lovable characters!

*Rating: 4.5 Stars // Date Read: 2022 // Format: Audiobook*


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  1. Greg

    “a shaft of moonlight”

    I love SF that goes out there with th creativity! I mean, the universe is so vast, why NOT have all the weirdness? This totally makes me want to try this.

  2. Roberta R.

    “electro-funk glamgrind”
    “a leggy psychedelic ambidextrous omnisexual gendersplat glitterpunk financially punch-drunk ethnically ambitious glamrock messiah”
    WTF?!? 😂

    I read Valente’s story The Difference Between Love and Time (where the love interest is the space-time continuum, whose pronouns are “it/everything”) in the Someone in Time anthology, so I got a small taste of her writing style and creativity, which is why it doesn’t surprise me that she would write a book like this. Probably too comedic for me, but you got me curious about that ending now…

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      He’s a very interesting character lol. Ooh I don’t read a lot of time travel, but sometimes the stories sound good, and that one sounds interesting! Idk, the comedy isn’t one-liners, it’s more just the overall weirdness, so maybe you’d like it? But I think I need to try more of her books or stories.