Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Wandering Scientist described as a cross between Douglas Adams and Eurovision so I was in, especially when I found it to listen to on Hoopla.

Published: 2018

Genre: science fiction

Length: 352 pages

Setting: near future Earth and beyond

Summary: Short version: Humans join the rest of the galaxy in competing in the Metagalactic Grand Prix

Long version: Human have been invited to prove their sentience by participating in the Metagalactic Grand Prix, a galaxy-wide singing competition. All newly space-faring being are compulsorily invited. If you can not come in last, your species avoids being wiped out. The Eska, breaking the news to humanity, have prepared a list of candidates most likely to succeed in the competition. Only Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes are still alive. They have 11 days to come up with a new hit, made more difficult by their distracting spaceship surroundings and the fact that the band broke up years ago. Things become even more mind-bending when they reach the site of the competition. It’s perfectly legal to compromise the competition and the humans are easy pickings. Decibel Jones turns on all of his charm just to survive.

Final thoughts: I found the book hilarious. I was laughing out loud on a regular basis. I think the narrator helped with my enjoyment of the story. He had the best voices for everyone. My favorite was probably when the Eska sounded like a no-nonsense Midwest waitress. The variety in the aliens was impressive. Valente outdid herself in descriptions of aliens and their outfits. She provided so much variety and spectacle, with bits of humor thrown in for good measure (like the computer program choosing Microsoft’s Clippy for its avatar). I enjoyed hearing about the aliens and the previous Grand Prix winners, but I could see it becoming annoying to some.

Decibel Jones was all about making the best of a bad situation, provided he didn’t have to do any actual work. He fit right in with the aliens at the before party (except for all the threats on his life) because he just turned on the charm and figured everyone would rather talk about themselves. Of course, his willingness to have sex with whoever offered nearly cost him the competition. One of my favorite scenes involved the cat who had been granted speech. An alien offered to cheat for the cat and she easily agreed. The alien was shocked at the cat’s answer, but no human would be. As we all figured, cats are sociopaths who just couldn’t be bothered to take over the world.

Title comes from: Humanity was invited to participate in a singing competition in space

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #39 for 2020 and a V in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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