The Stars Are Legion is a very strange and gripping science fiction tale. I can honestly say I’ve never read or seen anything like it. To be honest, you could almost describe it as a magic-less fantasy story set inside of a flesh-and-blood living world that happens to be floating in space along with hundreds of others like it. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but the characters seem to have very little to no understanding of science, at least not like you’d expect in a science fiction story.
When you really get down to it, though, Stars is pretty solidly science fiction. I don’t think there is anything in the book that is even remotely fantastical. Of course, the worlds and people and events are fantastic, but there’s no psychics, magic or Force. The biggest leap is the biological ships, but biological ships are fairly common in science fiction anyway.
The book is told from two perspectives, Zan and Jayd, with Zan being the slightly more prominent character. We start from Zan’s point of view with no knowledge of what the hell is going on. We don’t know who anyone is, where anyone is or what the surrounding world is like, and neither does Zan.
In a sense, this gives us the typical person with amnesia/Jason Bourne setup. But things go sideways really fast. We are shown that this is not a typical science fiction story as soon as Zan is tossed right into an attack in the black of space while riding what is essentially a living space motorcycle beast. What really threw me off, though, was that Zan had done this before. A lot. Over and over again, she’s woken up with no memory, gone out and attacked this other bio-world called the Mokshi and then come back, her memory gone again.
Without getting into spoilers, I’ll just say that this is honestly a hell of a ride. Hurley has an incredible imagination and has put an amazing level of depth into this book. This is not just some simple space opera yarn. Stars is a fully fleshed-out (pun intended) universe through which she takes us on a huge rollercoaster ride. Hurley’s tale tests the limits of what can, and should, be forgiven in the name of love. It takes on issues of womanhood that I don’t think have ever been discussed in science fiction or epic fantasy. It has fantastic battles and fights that leave real, lasting damage to the characters. And it does it all without a single man.
That’s right, this might be one of the biggest and most interesting points about Stars, there are no men. I was worried at first that I would get hung up on the science of how the hell that was possible, but to be honest, after a few chapters in I didn’t give a shit. Even so, while Hurley never says it outright, she hints at the how of this potential plot hole, leaving it as a non-issue. Still, I want to know more about the origin of how things came to be the way they are.
In some ways, this book is feminist without directly addressing a single feminist issue. It shreds the Bechdel Test and does a great job of showing that people are just freakin’ people. Every trope about what a society would be like if it were run by women is destroyed. The universe of Stars is definitely not a Straw or Enlightened Matriarchy. The women are not overly-emotional; they don’t lead a kinder, gentler society; and there’s no wizened great matriarch who leads with an even, motherly hand. No, the Stars is just full of people trying to survive, they make good decisions, they make bad decisions, and they live with the consequences.
As much of a fan of science fiction as I am, I’m not nearly as well-read as I’d like. I haven’t read very many of the sci-fi classics. I am really happy I picked this to be the next book in my queue and I fully believe this will soon be considered one of the modern sci-fi classics. I don’t know if there’s going to be a sequel or not, but I really hope so.
Overall, the Stars Are Legion is a gripping story that takes the reader on a compelling journey through a thoroughly unique world. And in today’s glut of available fiction worlds, that’s a really hard thing to do.