Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Shallow Space Stuff Can Be Fun

Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars is an odd and interesting book. It may, though, be more ambitious than successful: while it attempts to express a deeply meaningful environmentalist message (I think) and to discuss the nature of free will and of the soul by means of the very human-like “mech” character, but ultimately it comes across as a shallow and didactic parable.

For me, at least. On the other hand, it’s a fun and readable journey on its way to didactic-parable-land, so there is that.

Noemi comes from the planet Genesis, one of the few colonies environmentally-devastated Earth has been able to establish. But Genesis has been at war with Earth for decades, to prevent the people of Earth from ruining Genesis’s biosphere through overdevelopment and overpopulation. The humans of Genesis fight Earth’s mechanical armies, the “mechs.” Noemi’s a soldier, one who’s volunteered to be one of thousands undertaking a suicide mission to disrupt the gate that allows interstellar travel between Earth and Genesis, buying Genesis months or years more time to ramp up their war effort.

When a training run for the mission is attacked, she finds herself on an abandoned hulk of a ship. The only other surviving being on that hulk is Abel. Abel’s a mech, the most advanced mech ever made, and one who, over more than twenty years of utter solitude, has learned to dream. His programming puts him under Noemi’s command. And he knows how to destroy the Genesis gate without the sacrifice of lives that Genesis’s current plan requires. Thus begins Noemi and Abel’s galaxy-spanning road trip, to find the tech that will allow Abel to destroy the gate. It’s not a smooth ride…

Defy the Stars is fun and fast, but ultimately shallower than it wants to be.

Also fast, fun, and shallow is Barbara Ann Wright’s House of Fate, a science fantasy romance involving women who love women, the fate of the galaxy, and prophecies about peace between warring houses. It’s not a particularly good book (my hopes that Wright’s prose would mature to match her ideas and characters have not been fulfilled) but it’s entertaining.

Judit has been raised as a bodyguard and companion to her cousin Noal, heir to House Meridian, and the ostensible subject of a prophecy regarding peace between Meridian and its longtime rival, House Nocturna. Noal is supposed to marry the heir to House Meridian, Annika—who’s been raised in accordance with her House’s traditions, and trained as an assassin and a spy. Annika, on the other hand, has been instructed by her grandmother, the current head of House Nocturna, to marry Noal and then use mind-controlling biotech on him in order to take over and destroy Meridian. But Annika actually likes Noal—and she’s been attracted to Judit for years.

When Annika and Noal are abducted together shortly after their official engagement, everyone’s plans are thrown into disarray. Judit is informed that she is actually the real Meridian heir and subject of prophecy, and the leader of her House expects her to lead a fleet to destroy House Nocturna in retribution for the abduction—the abduction for which no one knows yet who holds responsibility. But Judit rejects the role her House has laid out for her. Instead, she sets out to rescue Annika and Noal. And together, they’re going to (a) have adventures and (b) save the galaxy from the general unrest that’s suddenly erupted.

I miss space opera that’s mainly adventure. And for all its flaws, House of Fate delivers on adventure.

What are you guys reading lately?

Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, is out now from Aqueduct Press. Find her at her blog, where she’s been known to talk about even more books thanks to her Patreon supporters. Or find her at her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign

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