Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sisters of the Vast Black” as Want to Read:
Sisters of the Vast Black
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sisters of the Vast Black

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,472 ratings  ·  351 reviews
The sisters of the Order of Saint Rita captain their living ship into the reaches of space in Lina Rather's debut novella, Sisters of the Vast Black.

Years ago, Old Earth sent forth sisters and brothers into the vast dark of the prodigal colonies armed only with crucifixes and iron faith. Now, the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita are on an interstellar mission of mercy ab
ebook, 176 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Tordotcom
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sisters of the Vast Black, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sisters of the Vast Black

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,472 ratings  ·  351 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sisters of the Vast Black
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of soft space sci-fi
There's something incredibly campy sounding about nuns in space. But this is less meme and more character study in the most unique space faring vehicle yet (even surpassing Tchaikovsky's webship). In fact, I can wholeheartedly recommend it, with a caveat. Something like a cross between The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Memory Called Empire, this should appeal to those who can let go some of the demands of physics and biochemistry, and follow Rather's focus on the personal and ethical c ...more
Kayla Dawn
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was beautiful
K.J. Charles
An excellent novella which could be summarised as 'nuns in space' but has a great deal more than that going for it. There's exceptionally good, economical worldbuilding and terrific plotting, with every element slotting neatly into place, all of which support a moving and engaging human story that includes love, redemption, revelation and kindness. A fantastic example of the form.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Vivian by: carol.
Shelves: 2020-odyssey, sci-fi
*June 2, 2020: Part of's free monthly giveaway, HERE

Quirky. I contemplated doing a Venn diagram, and then decided I'd rather read.

This is an amalgamation of concepts, many of which has the potential to disenfranchise readers. While the the argument about whether Our Lady of Impossible Constellations has a soul is intriguing, it is not deeply explored. But, the present day issues of The Church (Catholic) of who can perform which rites, the role of women, and adherence versus fracturing is
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
They all prayed in the dark, be it to the Christian God or the Islamic one or the Hindu many-faced pantheon or the cruel, calculating, exacting god of Science.

Sisters of the Vast Black tells the story of a convent of nuns, somewhat unusual in that their convent is situated in a living ship, carrying them throughout the galaxy answering calls for prayer, treatment, or blessings. Religion and science never have been the easiest of bedfellows, so it was nice to see the two handled in such a balance
Rachel (Kalanadi)
This one surprised me. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be my thing (let's just say "nuns in space" is not actually a buzzword for me), but it turned out to be a really good story. Solid plot, solid characters, solid writing. I immediately went to look up if there would be a sequel, or anything else Rather might have out.

My two minor criticisms are 1) some dangling modifiers and uncertain pronouns that should have been caught by the editor and easily smoothed out, and 2) some of the parts seemed ve
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of science fiction novellas
I love reading neat little novellas like this one that revolve around such a unique concept. In Sisters of the Vast Black, that concept is “nuns in space.” I am not religious and my knowledge of the Catholic Church is limited to what I’ve learned from movies and television, so I was a bit wary picking this one up, but that ended up not mattering at all. This is definitely a book you could enjoy regardless of your beliefs.

What I liked best about Sisters of the Vast Black was the worldbuilding. Ou
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
An order of nuns aboard a living spaceship minister to remote human colonies in the aftermath of a devastating interstellar war.

The amount of world-building and characterization crammed into this short novella is really impressive. The story itself is a good one as well, with the nuns at ground zero of what might be a whole new war while struggling with their own role in a rapidly changing universe.

Recommended, and should be a feature of next year's awards lists.
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first half or more of this novella length story consists of some excellent setting and character development. A close knit group of nuns in space, running missions of mercy and service in the name of the church to the far reaches of settled space. Their ship a living, bioengineered space faring organism. Their individual personalities become evident as they deal with assorted personal, political and theological dilemmas and conflict, including whether their ship possesses a soul and should b ...more
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: zread-1-scifi
Hmm. I thought I would love this, but alas, not for me.

The idea was right up my alley. Nuns on an organic living ship, travelling the galaxy, helping the sick and poor. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy how the story unfolded, at all.

It felt like too big a story to squish into novella form. It started off slowly, showing lots of promise, it plodded along and then the last third felt extremely rushed. Puzzlingly so. In a why-didn't-the-editor-catch-this kind of way. I'm off to read reviews and find
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is another one of those books where my impression varies quite a bit from the masses.

There were some good ideas, but the execution felt so clumsy that I felt nothing after having read the novella. There were too many character fates thrown together, none of them had the time or depth needed for an emotional response from me. On the contrary, I had the feeling I was told everything instead of being allowed to experience it through the writing.
The same goes for the themes that somehow gave t
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. An excellent story about
-Nuns in space, travelling from colony to colony, giving medical aid, marrying people, and doing other things deemed appropriate by their Earth-based church and male leadership.
-Live, biological ships wanting to procreate. -A terrifying central (Earth)-based authority.
-And war crimes.

A quiet story that builds tension nicely, and ends in a chilling place.
Interesting premise (Nuns in space! Living ships that could mate and be bred! Earth domination!) but with a dull plot and lack of depth on the most interesting aspects that made it unique.
laurel [the suspected bibliophile]
"We should go because I would want someone to come for us. We're all just scattered, lonely specks out here, unless we try to be more. We shouldn't be brutal just because the universe is."

The sisters of the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations live a life of austerity and piousness aboard their living ship—and they face decision points that threaten their internal and external way of life, bringing relief to the pockets of humanity scattered about the vast black.

I don't know what it is, but thi
Zitong Ren
I really enjoyed this novella and the concept was so cool and really loved that some ships are actually sentient being and they can breed and communicate and everything. There were some really nice character work and the world, for a book this length was really well fleshed out and super detailed. So yeah, the worldbuilding was great. The ending is fairly ambiguous with so many more stories to tell and I really hope more stories are told in this universe! 7.5/10
The Captain
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there me mateys! Aye, this novella has nuns in space. But it also has so much more. It is a fantastic character study about a group of women who have secrets and what happens when Rome and the Earth’s government try to involve them in a conspiracy.

Well the first thing I have to squee about is the living ship that is a kinda slug that the nuns live in. I love me some spaceships. I love me some living spaceships where ye get to hear about the realities of what living in one is like. These shi
Okay, this is one of the best short SF novels I have ever read. I was completely bowled over. You know that incredible frisson from a sense of wonder, combined with on-point speculation, careful world-building, and characters who in(habit) their world completely that the best SF delivers in such a heady rush? Lina Rather has this in spades. Who is this amazing writer, and why haven’t I heard of her before!?

So the Sisters of the Order of Saint Rita, aboard the spaceship Our Lady of Impossible Con
Samantha (AK)
Religious orders in space are nothing new to Science Fiction. Nor are living ships. The latter are usually wondrous things, while the former range from tedious caricatures to thoughtful explorations of life, faith, and humanity. Overall, Sisters of the Vast Black strikes a balance.

The Sisters of the Order of St. Rita travel the stars aboard the Liveship Our Lady of Impossible Constellations on a mission of mercy to far-flung colonies and outposts. They bring with them medicine, supplies, and aut
This was okay, but I was really hoping for something better than "okay." There were some interesting concepts, and it was enjoyable enough while I was actually reading it. However, I wanted (and I felt as though this was pitched as) a story that would leave me with lots of feelings and ideas to ponder, and I didn't get that, at all. I couldn't feel the weight of the ethical dilemmas faced by the characters, and in that absence the story felt a bit empty.
Oleksandr Zholud
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: hn-2020-longlist
This is a debut SF novella with an interesting premise but mediocre execution. I’ve read it as a Buddy Read in February 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group.

The story starts on a living space ship, which acts as a convent for a Sisterhood order. While both living ships and religious groups of women are present is SF, from The Stars Are Legion to Dune, they are not broadly used, and thus such a combination is quite promising. The problem that faces the sisters is also fascinating: t
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
I know what you’re thinking- “nuns in space? Seriously?” and yes seriously why exactly can’t nuns be in space!? They can, and they are! (You know, fictionally speaking.) Anyway, I figured this one could be incredibly awesome, or incredibly hokey, but good news friends! It’s the former! It is hands down one of the best novellas I have ever read, I was shocked that I cared so deeply about all of the sisters aboard the ship in such a short time. The world was well done, the plot was a great blend o ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia, bitesize
Oh, my.

I began by wrestling my suspension of disbelief, which was raising awkward questions about nuns in space (look, I KNEW the book was about nuns in space. Why question it after I've bought it, brain? Sheesh) - but its dedication to wholesome goodness in the face of the despicable shit Those In Power can throw at you won me over completely.

The Order of Saint Rita are free-range nuns able to officiate at births, deaths and marriages, untethered from Rome as they range out across the four syst
Lisa Wolf
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This science fiction novella is set on board a living ship, the space-voyaging convent Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. The nuns on the ship travel to the outer reaches of the four systems, ministering to the sick and performing rites and rituals, largely independent of government and church politics. I was fascinated by the concept of the ship as a living creature -- this novella would be worth reading just for the descriptions of the ship's biology! The lives of the sisters hold more sec ...more
I loved this book! It's so rare to meet characters who are truly loving and altruistic, and there were some in here. Even though there were quite a lot of main characters, each one felt well-rounded and had her own character arc and development. The biological, living slug-like ships people were flying around in were very cool (although a bit gross), as well.

It may not have perfect science behind the story, but that wasn't really important - this is not meant to be hard SF. What was important he
The Shayne-Train
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing

For real, tho. This lovely novella is about nuns. In space. Travelling the stars in a living space slug to spread the Word and minister to off-world colonists. Dealing with crises of faith, impending regime changes, and doing the right thing.

The world-building, especially for such a small story, was top-notch. We even got a little nun romance, which is definitely in my top 20 kinds of romance.

Highly recommended for sci-fi fans looking for a quick but meaty read.
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a sweet little book. Short, but highly enjoyable. I saw Carol review it (and i'm paraphrasing heavily) as a combination of Children of Time and Beck Chambers. Lol. And yes, that's pretty much it. It's pretty light reading and pretty short. But a very enjoyable trip with a nice little hook at the end.

I will be watching Lina Rather with interest
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
In a Standard Sci-Fi Setting, a Five-Woman Band of nuns, members of a mendicant order, travel from struggling, freed, colony to colony in a Living Ship after a Great Offscreen War. A character-based story twists into a government conspiracy for a Reconquista by the Vestigial Empire.

My eBook edition was a brief 176 pages. It has a US copyright of 2019.

Lina Rather is an American science fiction author of short stories. She has many ‘speculative fiction’ short stories published. This is her debut
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A little rough around the edges, but overall a very nice little novella. Writing could be a hair more polished, and the plot has a few too many elements for the size of the book... but the story holds together, the characters are well done, and the concepts are sufficiently novel to keep me reading.

Feels rather strongly like there's going to be a sequel, though the story does stand on its own satisfactorily.
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, science-fiction
CAWPILE rating: 7.21/10
STAR rating: ★★★★

She was one small part of an infinity, and there was much to be done.

REVIEW: Sisters of the Vast Black follows a superfluity of nuns travelling through space in a living opisthobranch-like ship, delivering aid and assistance to whomever asks for or needs it. Don't want to say anything about the plot (no spoilies!) but I enjoyed this novella quite a bit and I'd love to read more set in the same universe.

[blows kiss] for the sapphic nun who (view spoiler)
A really well done space opera novella, Sisters of the Vast Black focuses on a small community of nuns whose charism is the tending of far flung colonies of humans in the aftermath of a devastating war. Lina Rather takes on issues of faith, gender, colonialism, and that plus the presence of nuns!—lesbians!—lesbian nuns!—wimples in space!—means this ticks a lot of boxes for me. Rather does a great job of world building in a way that feels rich without relying on expository dumps or to the detrime ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
SFF Hot from Prin...: Buddy Read: Sisters of the Vast Black 27 16 Feb 21, 2020 01:52AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Miranda in Milan
  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)
  • Finna (Finna #1)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1)
  • Drowned Country (The Greenhollow Duology, #2)
  • Upright Women Wanted
  • Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)
  • Prosper's Demon
  • In Our Own Worlds #2: Four LGBTQ+ Novellas
  • Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015
  • Riot Baby
  • Ormeshadow
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate
  • The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex
  • Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)
  • Made Things (Made Things, #1)
See similar books…

Articles featuring this book

Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are...
247 likes · 100 comments
“Ecosystems were so fragile, and humans were such a strain.” 1 likes
“We're all just scattered, lonely specks out here, unless we try to become more. We shouldn't be brutal just because the universe is.” 1 likes
More quotes…