The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley. ★★★★
The Stars Are Legion is quintessentially Kameron Hurley: violent and feminist. This stand-alone science fiction novel is as dark as I’ve come to expect from Hurley, but it has an optimistic heart.
Zan wakes with no memory of who she is. She’s told that she’s a great general and the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, the mysterious world ship that’s capable of leaving the legion of artificial planets. She knows there’s a lot she’s not being told, especially by Jyn, a woman who claims to be her sister.
The Stars Are Legion has one of the most creative science fiction settings I’ve ever read. The Legion is a fleet of planet-sized, organic bio-ships that surround an artificial sun. However, the Legion is dying and the world ships are at war with each other, cannibalizing other worlds for the parts they need to survive. All of the technology is organic in nature, and all of the people aboard the ships are women. These women are actually a part of the ship’s ecosystem, giving birth to ship parts and organic tech whenever deemed necessary by the ship. Obviously, this means that the cast of The Stars Are Legion is all female, making it a modern entry into the All-Female Planet subgenre.
Of course, The Stars Are Legion brings in feminist issues. It’s fascinating how even in an all-female book, you can still see the patriarchy in the background of the worldbuilding. Whoever originally built these world ships treated the women as no more than objects in the construction of the ships, not as people with autonomy over their own bodies.
While I think The Stars Are Legion is probably the most successful of the three All Female Planet books I’ve read, it didn’t update the subgenre in the ways I’d hoped. I don’t think this should be a criticism specifically of The Stars Are Legion, but I would have liked to see gender treated with more complexity. Even if all the inhabitants of a planet have similar biology (uteri and XX chromosomes for instance), they wouldn’t all necessarily identify as women, and someday I want to read a story that doesn’t exclude the existence of transgender identities. However, as I said, I think this is more a criticism of the subgenre as a whole rather than just The Stars Are Legion.
As I mentioned at the start of the review, you should expect a Kameron Hurley novel to be R rated. This one in particular is not for the squeamish – the organic nature of the tech means there’s a lot of gushing fluids and body parts involved. A scene early in the book involves Zan making repairs to an interplanetary machine by cutting an intestine out of a dead woman’s body to use as a fuel pipe.
The Stars Are Legion alternates between two different first person POV characters, Zan and Jyn. Between the two, I far preferred Zan. She has much more empathy for others, which Jyn herself admits. Jyn was fascinating though – she managed to be brutal but still sympathetic. Kameron Hurley excels at creating anti-heroines.
The Stars Are Legion is a wonderful new outing from acclaimed science fiction author Kameron Hurley. If you’re already a fan of hers, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for a place to start with her work, I don’t think you could do better than The Stars Are Legion. After all, it has lesbians in space!
I received an ARC of The Stars Are Legion from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.