Space Opera

Catherynne M. Valente (Six-Gun Snow White) drops a sick beat in this interstellar homage to glamrock and the Eurovision Song Contest.

When extraterrestrial life makes first contact with humanity, the ambassador resembles "a seven-foot-tall ultramarine half-flamingo, half anglerfish thing," and delivers bad news. Earth looks poised to develop technology for interstellar travel, and the pantheon of alien races worries that humans will not play nice with others. Accordingly, "the Warm Fuzzy Galactic Family" plans to eradicate human life unless an earthling musical act can prove humanity's worth by placing better than last in the Metagalactic Grand Prix song competition.

Unfortunately, most of the musicians on the aliens' preapproved list died years ago, leaving the fate of the world in the hands of rock trio Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes. Worse still, drummer Mira Wonderful Star died in a car crash years ago, leaving the Zeroes fractured. Frontman Decibel and "man-of-all-instruments" Oort St. Ultraviolet haven't spoken in years, but the future of humanity now depends on them coming up with a song to rival the orgiastic pyrotechnic spectacles of the vastly more advanced species. Humanity seems doomed.

Packed with Valente's razor-sharp sense of whimsy, Space Opera rhapsodizes on the random beauty and stupidity of life and our helplessness in the face of both. Though she travels in space here, the fantasy genre remains Valente's native country; her descriptions of alien biology, history and music contain faint echoes of her Fairyland series. A wild, weird and witty magnum opus. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, main branch, Dayton Metro Library

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