The Stars Are Legion
by Kameron Hurley
Review by Sam Lubell
Saga Press Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781481447935
Date: 07 February 2017 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley combines features of a space opera, family saga, and Rama-style exploration of a strange living world. The result is an intriguing, unpredictable science fiction novel that forges a unique story out of subverting these several different SF elements.
The book opens with the still serviceable trope of a character with no memory. Zan wakes up remember nothing other than that she had once thrown away a child. Jayd, who claims to be her sister, tells her that she has commanded a great army to conquer the Mokshi world-ship. She has done this many times and always returns alone, with no memory. Anat, the Lord Katazyrna, who claims to be the mother of both Zan and Jayd, is in conflict with the Bhavajas, the people of another world-ship. Each ship is a living organism with different creatures on different levels. They are part of a legion of world ships, many of which, including the Katazyrna's own, are dying.
Zan is not sure how much of this is true and has non-sisterly desires for Jayd. She learns that Jayd has her own agenda that does not match what she tells Anat and that her own pre-amnesia self has left messages with others about what to tell and hide from her present memoryless self.
Reluctantly, Zan agrees to take a squad of nearly 200 Katazyrnas for another assault on Mokshi, the only worldship to have left the Core. But her squad is attacked by the Bhavajas, leaving Zan once again the only survivor. Meanwhile, Jayd has her own plan to end the fighting to save Katazyrna and the entire Legion. She tricks Anat into forcing her to marry the enemy's general, Rasida Bhavaja, who has been obsessed with acquiring her.
But something goes wrong with Jayd's scheme leaving her trapped on Bhavaja, a virtual prisoner of Rasida, and Zan stuck on the lowest level of Katazyrna, determined to fight her way back to the upper levels. So while Zan explores the different levels of the worldship, encountering strange creatures and learning the truth about the ship and herself, Jayd struggles to recoup her losses and get her plan back on track.
One element that makes this book special is its treatment of gender. Not only are all the characters female, but there also is no indication that males even exist. Characters become pregnant and birth creatures or equipment that the ship needs. Indeed one character is mentioned as being able to birth other worldships. One of the things that make Jayd desirable to the Bhavajas is that her womb can birth other people.
The Stars are Legion is an exciting, somewhat strange book that has its roots in classic SF concepts but modifies them in unusual ways. Like Zan, the reader is not sure about what Jayd is planning for most of the novel and whether she is really on Zan's side, really trying to save the worldships, or manipulating people (including Zan) for her own purposes.
This book stands well on its own, resolving the key plot points, although, with such an interesting setting there is enormous potential for more books in this universe.
Readers who enjoy space opera with a difference, stories exploring weird and strange settings, and characters whose agendas are hidden from the reader will enjoy The Stars are Legion. Those who prefer conventional settings and clear distinctions between good and evil may wish to look elsewhere.