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The Cruel Stars

(The Cruel Stars #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,609 ratings  ·  253 reviews
In this epic sci-fi adventure for fans of The Expanse and Battlestar Galactica, five intrepid heroes must unite to save civilization after a long-dormant enemy awakens and strikes a devastating blow

“This jarring, engrossing story of a species-wide fight for survival is recommended for all science fiction readers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The galaxy was once terro
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by Del Rey
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Groucho42 The epilogue was clear: there will be a sequel.

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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I love space operas, space books of all sorts so I jumped at the chance to read The Cruel Stars. At first I couldn't get into the book and to be honest I think it was my mood and not the book. There were so many people in the book, I thought I would never get what was going on. That being said, I'm not one hundred percent sure of things that happened, but I got the jist of it and started to love it.

There are five groups of individuals that are going through one thing or another. This is what th
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
[2.5/5 stars] Although wildly entertaining, The Cruel Stars didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

It started out with a bunch of POV introductions, one at a time, that took up a good 20% of the page count. The language was a bit thick at first, and there were a few info-dump scenes where the entire conversation served no purpose but to tell the reader stuff about the character. Needless to say, it took a moment to get going.

But get going it did, and I found myself interested in most of the cha
Karen’s Library
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Cruel Stars is a military sci-fi space opera along the lines of The Expanse meets Altered Carbon and I really enjoyed it.

In the first chapters we get the POVs of 5 interesting characters: Lucinda, who ships out to her newest assignment on the warship Defiant; Professor McLennan (my personal favorite), the gruff curmudgeon astroarcheologist/historian; Sephina the space pirate (along with her motley lovable crew); 12 year old Princess Alessia; and prisoner Corporal Booker who was on death row
The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, "species purists" intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. They cut a bloody swath across the stars, killing countless people before finally being defeated. Centuries later, this sect has returned, close to the brink of victory. Now five people must work together to stand against the invaders.

3.5 stars.

Going into this book there were a lot of characters and info thrown at the reader, so it took a while to get used to
Peter Tillman
Slow start for the series setup, but a solid beginning to this new Strine-flavored mil-SF space opera series. Once the Sturm come onstage, you'll have no further complaints. No particular fresh ground is broken (so far), but solid meat-and-potatoes reading. As always, read the publishers intro first.

I found the most impressive features of tCS to be the grand cinematic sweep of the book, which can be breathtaking -- and the interplay of the main characters. The ancient fake-Scots Grand Admiral wh
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fbr-2020
3.5 stars
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A really promising start that draws comparisons to Peter F. Hamilton and Marko Kloos is let down a bit by turning into just a war between the rest of humanity and a bunch of space Nazis (a term the book even explicitly uses).

The stuff with AIs that can use dimension-folding technology and embed their intelligences in nano-scale wormholes is really cool. As is the battleships making use of the same technology to do a TARDIS-like thing. And the commentary around the "good guys" being not all that
Christi M
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, sci-fi
To me, space opera's are just so much fun. An adventure across an entire galaxy is just so entertaining because it allows you to imagine bigger than what reality is. But while I enjoyed this story, it did have a bumpy beginning for me.

Always on the look out for a new space opera, I was very happy to get a copy of this one to read and review. The book is primarily from 5 different points of views, one of which is the story bad guy, Sturm, although his chapters are more limited than the o
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review.

Thousands of years in the future, humanity has brought space travel to a whole new level and now, for most people, space and space colonies are the only thing they know. As well as new planetary discoveries, technology has advanced to a point when most people don't need to learn skills - they can just download them, and for the more privileged person, death doesn't truly exist - they can be regenerated again and ag
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it

My initial impression of the Cruel Stars was disappointing. It’s struck me as overly dense in terminology and futuristic concepts. Almost as if Birmingham was flexing his nerd muscles. I also detected a pattern of the author using conversations to dump large chunks of information and that left them feeling a bit hollow. It took a long time to get a good feel for the characters. He switched to the next protagonist incredibly fast after introducing one, which didn’t really allow the time nee
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoy space opera and was very pleased that netgalley gave me a chance to check out this book. The first few chapters took me a bit to get into - we have five main characters, and I really liked some of their points of view/events a lot more than others. But then things started happening - big things! And from then on, the action never stopped. Looking back, that setup in the first few chapters was necessary, and I absolutely loved how everything came together.
4.5 stars
Lauren Stoolfire
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Cruel Stars is my first John Birmingham novel. It's a space opera that I was really looking forward to, but unfortunately it never quite got into it as much as I was hoping to. There are a lot of characters (there are five perspective characters) and quite a bit going on. I liked the overall story and action once I got into it, but the characters weren't quite what I was hoping for.
Thoroughly entertaining space opera - excellent world building and scenario and some brilliant characters. There are laughs along the way (the hedge trimmer scene lingers in the mind!) as well as heart ache and intense action (lots of dismembered limbs flying around). I really enjoyed it. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good space opera with the memorable characters I expect from Birmingham. A lot of setup needed, but he handled it well & the narration was excellent. It's really a 3 star read, but it gets an extra star as I'm looking forward to more in the series. ...more
Fun if you are in the mood for a retro mil-space opera with modern sensibilities but the classic don't stop and think too hard about what happens as you will lose the enjoyment; the characters and setting worked well and kept me turning pages, while the narrative has energy and doesn't let up; but again, just take it as it is and do not expect "serious" sf here - the next book is a huge asap as I really want to see what happens next ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Grand, epic war story, extremely gruesome and with a few too many pov characters...but also fantastically profane, well cast and choreographed, technologically credible, hilarious at times, and with all sex behind closed doors—so checking off most of my boxes. Hoping sequels won’t be long in coming.

All sorts of choice passages like this:

“I could just kill them,” Coto said. “It would save time later.” “Yeah, good idea, I know, but you kill one of these paleofascist nut jobs and you have to fight
Read for the NEWT's - book 3/4

Okay so I'm always in for a good sci-fi book/space opera and this one sounded really promising. It was, however, pretty confusing. The first half of the book was chaotic as f*ck and the introduction of the characters took way too long + the author didn't really round them out. They constantly felt like flat, one dimensional characters to me and it made me care a little less about the story with each chapter. Also, the main villain was... almost never actually part o
Liz Barnsley
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this.
It came along just when I needed a bookish adventure and The Cruel Stars was full of adventure. Well and a naked professor, a sarcastic intelligence, a flustered captain and a whole host of bad guys. Plus a princess, a pirate, a hedge trimmer (making me laugh quite a lot) and a few other good guys. I mean really, what’s not to love?
The world building is beautifully done giving you a sense of the scene that lights up the action. A motley group of survivors battling away, the group dy
Casey Wheeler
Jun 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was a huge disappointment and a slog to get through. The author tries to present the viewpoints from five different characters without making any of them interesting nor the overall storyline engaging. A number of other reviewers seemed to enjoy this book, but it did not resonate with me in any way.

I received a free Kindle ARC courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would provide an honest review and post it on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it a lot.
I had doubts at first because of the stacking of the points of view (6 of them), but they were balanced enough to avoid frustrations.
The last third of the book, in which the points of view come together, brings a lot of rhythm to the end of the story. In spite of some facilities I found this end successful, it is not so frequent in this kind of saga.
I very much liked the multiple approach of the transhumanism which constitutes the node of the narrative. It's well thought.

Anna at A Wondrous Bookshelf
Apr 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF at 20%. I tried but just could not connect with the story. Too many characters.
Alexander Tas
Initially reviewed at The Quill To Live -

There is something alluring about military science fiction. It takes the massive volume of space and narrows it to a single point: conflict. Often, this specific genre ignores a lot of the more nuanced questions that sci-fi often proposes in favor of a single query: what would humanity do in order to survive? Normally, I miss this complexity and nuance, but every now and then I want an action-focused romp against an easily discernible bad guy that defin
Dark Matter
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
DMZ has reviews and author interviews I interviewed John Birmingham it's available on all good podcasting platforms as well as on video.

My review:
Lieutenant Hardy is waiting among the cruel stars while she looks at her reflection, worrying about her off-the-rack dress uniform that does not fit properly. She’s met by a man of slightly lower rank whose motormouth promptly informs her that he’s from a wealthy but not noble fam
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
DNF @ 80%

I guess part of my experience with this book is to blame on myself for misinterpreting the synopsis. I thought we would deal with a lot of aliens fighting with humans, but there’s actually no aliens here at all. I was also really hyped for a motley crew to fight the evil Sturm together but since the group doesn’t actually get to know each other until page 300+ (and when it happens it is so abruptly that I didn’t feel the chemistry between them at all) this didn’t really live up to my ex
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read a lot of John’s non-fiction, but haven’t had the same connection to his (more recent) fiction. This includes supporting him on Patreon because I think John has a unique way of seeing the world (and future universes). This novel brought it home for me - I loved it as an action adventure but also because it examines ‘what is’ consciousness/ humanity/ life. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy and how it all plays out.
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Excellent space opera - like a more space-battle oriented Ian M. Banks novel. Best of Birmingham’s books to date. Only negative is that I’d not realized it was only the first of a trilogy, with the second and third books not yet released.

P.S. Spotted a few nice shoutouts to several prior titans of the genre, including “most harmless” and C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
Patrick St-Denis
I was intrigued when I received my advance reading copy of John Birmingham's The Cruel Stars, especially since the blurb mentioned that it was perfect for fans of James S. A. Corey's The Expanse. I was expecting space opera with depth and vision, even though this was a stand-alone novel.

Alas, it was anything but that. The Cruel Stars is a fun and action-packed scifi romp that doesn't take itself too seriously, no doubt about it. But like any big-budget movie relying on special effects rather tha
Joanna Bennett
Here’s the thing, I don’t know if it was just me but I just couldn’t get into this book like I wanted. The synopsis sounded fantastic and the cover is amazing but it just didn’t live up to the ideals in my head.

I am usually one that loves multiple point of views but it was hard to follow along in this particular book. I didn’t find myself connecting with the characters or feeling interested in their lives or their quest to save earth. It didn’t feel like they had much character development. The
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Birmingham, John. The Cruel Stars. Cruel Stars No. 1. Del Rey, 2019.
John Birmingham is a multi-genre writer from Australia, but he seems to be well versed in all the tropes of American military science fiction. Certainly, The Cruel Stars has a good time putting together a fast-paced action thriller that mashes up several familiar items. We have a young officer thrust into command when her captain’s implanted tech is hacked, driving him into a homicidal rage. Think Honor Harrington without a cat
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a fun remix of all your favorite sci-fi tropes with a colorful cast of characters and some exciting action sequences. The book takes place over a very short span of time, focusing on a few different characters as a long-dormant enemy launches a surprise attack on this one human-controlled solar system. The book does not stray outside of that solar system, but does imply that similar adventures are occurring at the same time all over the galaxy. It's an interesting choice to introduce suc ...more
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John Birmingham grew up in Ipswich, Queensland and was educated at St Edmunds Christian Brother's College in Ipswich and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. His only stint of full time employment was as a researcher at the Defence Department. After this he returned to Queensland to study law but he did not complete his legal studies, choosing instead to pursue a career as a writer. He curren ...more

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The Cruel Stars (3 books)
  • The Shattered Skies (The Cruel Stars #2)
  • The Empty Heavens (The Cruel Stars Trilogy Book 3)

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“And so you cannot back up. You go into harm’s way as true human beings. Just like our foe. Think now, if you should die, all of the words you have read, the places you’ve been, the knowledge and the wisdom you have gained, it will altogether vanish like a dream. Every note of music, every brushstroke of every painting, every q-bit, every sim, all that laughter, so many tears, and suddenly…nothing. Perhaps an earlier backup of another you does remain safely stored in some remote offline facility. Your memories of the Beijing Opera, the candomblé in Bahía, the dunes of al-Qudd, a walk down the grand avenues of Cupertino, the white nights of Putingrad, the call to prayer on the Habitat of Peace, a red supermoon over the Armadalen Sea, the crumbs of a pastry and the last mouthful of coffee in a tiny café in Trastevere, everything you have ever known, remembered, talked about, and everything you have left unspoken—it could all live again, I suppose. But would that be you, Doctor Saito? The you here with me? Right now?” The color had drained from her face. That was better. That was how people should react to encountering the” 0 likes
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