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Sisters of the Vast Black

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  246 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The sisters of the Order of Saint Rita captain their living ship into the reaches of space.

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 aboard Our Lady of Impossible Constellations, a living,
Kindle Edition, 162 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by
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Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
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Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Kayla Dawn
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was beautiful
laurel [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
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Sorry about that, but it had to be said. Now that I've got that out of my system, don't let the idea put you off. LinaRather's novella about a ship of nuns doing good works, but more interested in helping people in need than depositing Bibles around the outer colonies is just plain good space opera.

Full review available Oct 1, 2019:
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: Nuns on a galactic mission to heal and offer comfort are forced to make some hard decisions in this stunning and thoroughly original science fiction adventure.

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading Sisters of the Vast Black, touted as “nuns in space” by the publisher. But it didn’t take long to come to the
Nuns on a living spaceship must decide whether to follow the Church's dictates or help a colony that has an outbreak of Ringeye virus.

4.5 stars
I really enjoyed this novella! It's difficult to pull off this length of a story - sometimes you end up feeling like it needed to stretch and have more pages and others you're frustrated that it should have been streamlined. This is one of the rare novellas that feel just right.

And it's just right with space nuns, virus outbreaks, queer romance, and an
Nuns in space! this manages to pack a good amount of backstory & has a very likable cast of characters. I feel like I could keep reading in this universe, either before or after the events of the story. My heart was STOLEN by the biological spaceship though — so beautiful! I think the last 15% moved a little quickly, but that seems to be a Thing with novellas. A few other elements weren’t to my tastes enough to make it a favorite, but it’s a lovely, hopeful piece of science fiction with a ...more
sofia (sam willows)
not a bad book but definitely not for me
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Note: I received this as a free ARC from in exchange for an honest review.

Sisters of the Vast Black has space nuns, deadly plagues, dementia and romance, and, oh yeah, living spaceships that can get pregnant and have baby spaceships. Need I say more? It's everything I didn't know I needed in a sci/fi novella. Every page is perfectly crafted and honed down. I'm absolutely astounded. This novella is so quality, it should be curriculum for creative writing classes. Wow.
Uudenkuun Emilia
Glorious space opera, small in scale at first but growing to encompass much broader vistas and concerns than I thought a short novella could manage. I love Lina Rather's prose, the characters are full of nuance and backstory, and the worldbuilding here was great. Also, what a breath of fresh air to read SF where religion is not disdained, but is also treated in a nuanced and complex way, with the dangers of massive organisations explored. I am always here for stories of cool nuns. And queer ...more
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, sci-fi, for-alli
This was a really interesting read! The representation of a religious institution and how it can be commandeered by government was really fascinating. I loved the living ship concept and liked how the characters had to discuss the sentience of the vessel. And I loved the LGBT relationship, it was very sweet!

As interesting as it was though, I think it could have benefited from being longer. The living ship idea ended without a satisfying conclusion of sentience: it's just like a flying space cow
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-paper
Speculative short and flash fiction author Lina Rather's Sisters of the Vast Black is a novella about nuns, from the Order of St Rita (patron of lost and impossible causes, illness, wounds, abuse, and mothers) who are traveling in space aboard the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. That's right, nuns in space. Yeah, I had to get my hands on this one. Just as American nuns have gained a radical and progressive reputation, the nuns of Our Lady of Impossible Constellations seek the moral high ...more
Beautiful, original and vastly imaginative.
Diana Green
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Wow! I had no idea this novella would be so good. The concept sounded intriguing, but I didn't anticipate brilliant world-building, masterful plotting, and a beautifully developed ensemble cast. What a wonderful surprise! I'm definitely going to look for the next book from this author...though readers should be aware, Sisters of the Vast Black is not an easy light story. It deals with difficult themes and has some dark moments. But in the end, I was very glad I'd read it.
Jordan Shiveley
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Sisters of the Vast Black is a spinning jewel in the dark expanse of spec fic. It doesn’t however rely on trying to blow your hair back with pyrotechnics and lasers on every page.

Instead it gives you carefully crafted characters and then makes you care DEEPLY about them. Oh also some weird af bioengineering, queer romance and a galaxy spanning theres that too

This book tells the story of the intermingled lives of the sisterhood even as forces beyond their control are starting to
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed my time with this little character-driven book about nuns in space. The pacing was solid, the plot was fun, and the worldbuilding was just enough to leave room for the imagination. The writing itself exceeded my expectations, felt familiar but not colloquial, was elegant and warm overall. I just wish there was more of the book, but the ending was well timed. It was a great read, highly recommended!
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5*, review coming
This took a few of my favorite tropes that I almost never see and combined them in a way I really enjoyed it. It wasn't a complete knock out for me - just something missing there, but overall I had a lot of fun.
I definitely would have loved to see a whole novel based on this, which I think was perhaps my problem? It had so much behind it but felt like we got just a glimpse of the history and the world, a frustrating small glimpse at that. I hope this is a series, otherwise I'll be quite
Alexander Tas
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this review, along with other Sci Fi/Fantasy reviews at The Quill To Live

I’ve never been a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. Our family only went to church on Christmas, and that was about it. As a result, finding myself excited about the prospect of the Catholic Church in space was a weird experience for me. Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather scratched an itch I didn’t know I had (ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley). Rather wrote an engaging novel
Nov 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella, sf
Religion in space has been done a fair bit - my favorite The Book of Strange New Things, or The Sparrow, or A Case of Conscience.

In this novella you get a bunch of nuns onboard a living spacecraft, helping colonists in the outer reaches of a human space empire that recently collapsed after a long war. Earth is destroyed, there's no particular central government, all you have is local governments and organised religions. No aliens, even though it's not particularly explained how the living
Jamie Collins
1.5 stars. I was disappointed in the story, although I liked the setting: nuns in space; and living, breathing, egg-laying spaceships. The prose is fine. The world-building is shallow, but then this is a novella.

The first half was not bad: we meet a handful of nuns in a living spaceship which they consider to be their convent, traveling around in a Firefly-like universe, bringing medical and spiritual care (vaccinations, weddings, baptisms) to isolated colony worlds. There is an odd debate going
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of science fiction and I am pushing myself to read at least one a month. There seem to be many 'kinds' of science fiction out there and I don't know which genres I fall into - that's why I don't read a lot of it. But, when I saw this description of nuns in space - come on - I was totally interested! Then when I got into it and found out they were riding through space inside some kind of living snail/slug creature, I was smitten. I thought to myself, ok - this is the kind of ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nuns in space! What a brief, delightful, and unexpectedly brutal novella. I liked the depiction of faith among the nuns: a sense of service, a mission of trying to help the universe at large rather than necessarily trying to convert (well, excluding Sister Mary Catherine, perhaps). And when that small world bumps up against political and religious machinations, things get interesting (and depressing because we all know what men in power will do to keep and expand said power).

Rather has a strong
Mary fike
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Unique and Thought-provoking

I’m not sure what I expected, but as a lapsed Catholic who spent some time in a convent, I found the descriptions of the relationships in this onboard convent to be quite realistic. The live ship concept was wonderfully portrayed. Perhaps the most interesting relationship was the one between the central earth government and the arm of the Vatican that governed the religious order on the live ship. The issue of government, power, and religion as explored in a crisis
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"While the sisters of the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations argued themselves in circles, the Reverend Mother sat silently in her chair at the head of the chapel as she always did, listening to the arguments twist and double back on themselves."
- First line of Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

This novella is better than its first line, and yes, it really is about nuns in space! I was delighted to read this fascinating debut - very strong characters packed into this short read. Their
Catherine Coe
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Another new novella published by Tor, but this book, unlike other recent short offerings, wasn't entirely successful at this length.

It's a nice tight story with lovely touches: a living ship that comes into heat; a group of spacefaring nuns about to be invaded by a representative of the patriarchal Church from far away Earth; a run in with a deadly plague; and secrets, lots of secrets.

But the characters were slightly underdeveloped and the backstory of the catastrophic war that breathes life
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this so much! I was a bit worried about how "preachy" this would be, but as a former Catholic, I have to say there was nothing to worry about. The characters embrace a life of service, prioritizing that over helping the overseeing organization accumulate power. I'm really glad that this focused on the women, rightfully portraying the priest, fresh from a few years of organization-focused education, ignorant of the realities of the big bad world out there. I actually quite like that this ...more
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