Many authors try comedy in science fiction, but few achieve it. Along with such amusing works as John Scalzi's Redshirts and Terry Pratchett's entire Discworld series, the pinnacle of hilarious science fiction is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, about the misadventures of Arthur Dent while traveling for the universe. But the new novel Space Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente could run you for your money, because it's one of the funniest books I've read in my life.
The title of Space Opera is a play on words. Valente said recently that the story came from a challenge on Twitter after a conversation about Eurovision, and the novel lovingly catches the long-running science fiction tropes, and brings the humor home with each sentence. In Space Opera, humanity is living happily unaware of alien life, until extraterrestrials appear and invite them into an advanced intergalactic civilization. But there is a catch: humans have to demonstrate their sensitivity in a talent show called MegaGalactic Grand Prize, instituted after a galaxy conflict known as The Sentience Wars. If the Earth finally arrives dead, humanity will be eliminated, and the biosphere will be re-planted so that the planet can try again later.
Image: Saga Press
The extraterrestrial envoy, a birdlike creature with an unpronounceable name that passes through Esca, suggests some possible human contenders, including Yoko Ono; the Spice Girls; Skrillex; Kraftwerk; and the fictional singer Brian Slade from the movie Velvet Goldmine. But, ultimately, the honor rests with a defunct glam rock band called Decibel Jones and Absolute Zeros, who recorded a single album called Spacetrumpet in the mid-2000s. Decibel (real name Danesh Jalo) and his bandmate Omar Çalışkan (also known as Oort St. Ultraviolet) has been estranged for years, following the death of his third bandmate, Mira Wonderful Star. But they gather to save the planet, working through their insecurities as they shoot to compete at the Grand Prix.
Valente has forged a career in deconstructing fantasy and science fiction tropes in books like The Refrigerator Monologues and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Here, he suggests that ridiculous ideas such as a Space Eurovision are not intrinsically more absurd than "realistic" science fiction conventions such as hyperspace units or genocidal robots. (Actually, extraterrestrials explain it, it's more practical to settle disputes with a talent show than with an intergalactic war.) When Douglas Adams projected the comical incompetence of impersonal bureaucracies in outer space, Valente introduces whimsical quirks like a bear multidimensional panda called Quantum. Tufted domesticated Wormhole, which is the only feasible means of interstellar travel.
Each of Valente's prayers could be a complete story, and I found myself absorbed in each one
But the real point of sale is the elaborate prose of Valente, dense with descriptions and metaphors. I have bounced this style in some of his books, but here it works very well, with sentences like:
"Once upon a small, watery and excitable planet called Earth, in a small, aquatic and excitable country called Italy, a soft-spoken, quite attractive gentleman, by the name of Enrico Fermi, was born into such an overprotective family that he He felt compelled to invent the atomic bomb. "
The style takes a while getting used to, but once you get the rhythm of your writing, everything fits into place. Each of Valente's sentences could be a complete story, and I found myself absorbed in each of them, visualizing his chaotic, strange and delicious universe. This beautiful writing adds to the humor as it relates incredible and incredible battles in sentences of a long and breathless paragraph as complicated as the conflicts they are describing, or the Surrealist Grand Prix bands:
"Being a group intelligence composed of strong pink algae genetically fused with nanocomputation spores, the Sziv never formed rock bands per se They sent the same supergroup to the Grand Prix each year, around 60 percent of their species, they opted in ingenious vases and they simply called us in. They sang with pheromones, a crescendo of infectious hormones that maddened the mating instincts of all species in the Dirty Ruuutu Flophouse and Grill: a vast, bright and avant-garde performance area with capacity for more than one hundred Thousands of people, even the slightest whisper, sounded like a techno-erotic laser light show of the soul, at which moment We left their vases in a wavy pink wave, we turned in a very high spiral of velvety life, and sang an ancient Sziv folkloric ballad called "Love" It's easy when you're a hive mind, along with a thumping, onslaught, hit Subwoofer teo, it disperses in strong weather, hits back to its magenta needle in the optimistic rhythm and takes the house down. "
Yes, the intergalactic talent show that determines the fate of entire worlds takes place at a place called Dirty Ruuutu Flophouse and Grill.
I enjoyed every minute I spent reading Space Opera: first for the story of Decibel Jones and Absolute Zeros and their performance to save the Earth, and then for the fantastic worlds that Valente put on paper.