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The Stars Are Legion
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Book Discussions > The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

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This is our discussion of the contemporary scifi novel...

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
(2017)


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments Life tip to maybe not read this one while eating. It's... meaty.


Donald | 157 comments I really enjoyed the ideas and the world but the story itself was brutal. Normally I read my books before my bed but this one had to get special treatment, it was just so depressing and bloody at times.


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A rarity – a stand-alone scifi novel.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I'm not all the way done with it yet but unless something amazing happens in the last 75 pages it's going to be the rare 1-star book for me. I haven't enjoyed it at all so far.


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments Alternate title, taken from the author's twitter:
description


Rachel | 522 comments My thoughts were:
Four sticky slimy bulbous tentacles!
I was impressed by the world (very) and many of the characters. One star off for the ending which seemed anticlimactic compared to the rest of the events told.

The grossness factor didn't bother me so much - perhaps because it was ongoing - more world building that trying to be gross. Or maybe it's just that I'm potty training twins right now and so my life is gross too.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited May 21, 2017 08:23AM) (new)

Brendan wrote: "Life tip to maybe not read this one while eating. It's... meaty."

Had some of the carpet beetles for breakfast. Tasty crunchy protieny goodness :)


message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited May 21, 2017 08:24AM) (new)

The Beginning:

As with Hurley's other novels, she delights in the confusing opening. (I think she assumes mere incomprehensibility will make it intriguing.) This isn't so much befuddlement as with The Mirror Empire.

The use of a protagonist with amnesia (Zan) reminded me a bit Roger Zelazny's favorite method of inducing exposition. Except here, everyone seems to want Zan not to remember (including Zan.)


Rachel | 522 comments Also did anyone else keep thinking that a big twist was going to be someone birthing a male creature?


Andreas | 677 comments A Kwisatz Haderach?
Is a female only world really lesbian?
I really liked the novel, the slimy organic tentaculous mess.


Rachel | 522 comments Andreas: Ha- maybe!

Good question - not really?


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Andreas wrote: "Is a female only world really lesbian?"

I noticed these ladies seem to fall in love pretty quickly. I suppose there's no need for monogomy.


Donald | 157 comments It kind of makes in-world sense as well. Monogamy is traditionally linked to ensuring resources from a male for his children. If there's only females that's one reason for it to go away, but a second very good reason is that the "world" effectively choosing what their children are removes any need for much worrying about who the partner is.


message 15: by Brendan (last edited May 21, 2017 06:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments Zan's Orpheus-like journey into and back out of an underworld made of flesh reminded me strongly of Veniss Underground, another book I really enjoyed but was even more messed up than this one.

One thing I was thinking about was how in The Mirror Empire the people inhabit a deathworld, with carnivorous plants, deadly predators and hostile enemies on every side, but the main characters' society is supportive, communal, respectful and pacifist (mostly). In Stars the world these ladies inhabit is amazingly fecund. Like living in a giant womb, everything seems like it helps them survive.

Things don't seem to get diseased or rot. They can recover from what would usually be fatal injuries by jamming parts of their surroundings into them, they won't starve because if necessary they can scrape food off the walls. Because their environment is so conducive to life, the people living here seem to have little respect for it. They're warlike, hostile and murder indiscriminately. As others have pointed out: quick to love, quick to kill. Different environments producing very different societal norms.

I thought the weakest part of the book was the ending, (view spoiler)


Rachel | 522 comments Thinking more - some of the deeper issue the book explores are pretty interesting- such as the lack of control the women have over their reproduction


Silvana (silvaubrey) I agree that the ending is the weakest part.

I really like Zan from the start. She Hurley invented a similar character named Nyx in her Bel Dame Apocrypha and Zan reminded me of her. I really enjoy the 'Odyssey/Journey to the Center of the Earth' parts of this book as well as the space battle (I could use more of the later). I liked the fact that people are actually made to produce what the worldship needed. Some visuals are gross and visceral but they are well done. Is this biopunk too? I think so.


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Brendan wrote: " In Stars the world these ladies inhabit is amazingly fecund. Like living in a giant womb, everything seems like it helps them survive. ..."

The impression I got was that the whole ship/world is a single giant colony lifeform – a collection of symbotic elements which extend from microscopic bacteria all the way to the intelligent humanoids. The "ship" induces pregnancy as well as the nature of the ofspring, presuably via airborne, waterborne, or food-borne organisms; while the inhabitants think this is through the ship's intelligence, it's more likely a mater of biased chance, with the ecosystem feedback systems that discard any excess of one type or another.

Giving birth to a living, mechanical part is pretty weird.

i didn't notice any indication as to whether this is a designed system or just evolved.

We've encountered "living ships" before in SF, from the Liveships & Boojum to TV's Farscape's Moya and Lexx. None have this level of depth in their ecosystem, though.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Silvana wrote: "Is this biopunk too? I think so."

It's funny, that's the exact word I would have used to describe this book. I even looked it up in wikipedia but based on that definition I'm not sure this book fits.

A lot of people, including the author, describe this book as a "space opera" which usually makes me think of Star Wars.

I'm still not done but I'm going to fight through and finish it, even though I don't like it much.

It's interesting that everyone is debating whether or not it's gross, but we're not talking much about the characters or the plot. I didn't care for most of the characters, especially Jayd who I found irritating. And although there's a bit of action early on, I wasn't really overwhelmed by the story.

The book felt gimmicky, like it was set up just to have an excuse to have an all-female cast of characters, and the author just decided to make it as gross as possible for punk rock cred points or something.

It's getting 1 star from me unless the ending wows me, but based on the comments above that seems unlikely to happen.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) By the way, I love the cover of this book. I guess it's true what they say, about not judging a book by that.


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments I've heard it described as "wombpunk", which while this may be the only example of that genre, i like it as it describes the tone of the book pretty well.

I read Company Town recently and that seems to me like a fairly typical example of biopunk.

Randy wrote: The book felt gimmicky, like it was set up just to have an excuse to have an all-female cast of characters, and the author just decided to make it as gross as possible for punk rock cred points or something.

I have two thoughts on this: 1. Why is a book with an all-female cast gimmicky but otherwise not? Are all books with all-male casts gimmicky? 2. I don't think the book's message about body autonomy would have worked if there were men in the story.

Unrelated thought: I really liked the cephalopod guns. How do you build a bullet in a world where everything is organic? Living bullets!


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Brendan wrote: "I have two thoughts on this: 1. Why is a book with an all-female cast gimmicky but otherwise not? Are all books with all-male casts gimmicky? 2. I don't think the book's message about body autonomy would have worked if there were men in the story.

Unrelated thought: I really liked the cephalopod guns. How do you build a bullet in a world where everything is organic? Living bullets! "


I'll table my response until I've finished the book just so I've read the whole story and don't have to speculate. I do agree about the world being interesting - just don't enjoy the story much.


Silvana (silvaubrey) Hurley is known to be disregarding gender and flip the roles around so I guess she has been wanting to write an all-female-cast novel for a long time. As for the weirdness, well, she wants to be the next China Mieville (who is her idol) mixed with Joanna Russ.


message 24: by Cat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cat | 343 comments The ick factor killed this book for me... plain and simple. I would have rated it as average but just couldn't get passed the grossness...

That said, I did enjoy the novelty of a female-only book (I know there are more out there, I just haven't read many) - especially about the reproduction process. I thought that was a very quirky kind of idea. I mostly read fantasy and there are basically no female-only books that I can think of, off the top of my head.

The characters weren't my fave - Jayd, in particular, was very annoying. Bloody martyr. Zan, I had more sympathy for but not a lot. I think someone else said it and I totally agree, quick to love, quick to kill, which I think made for a pretty brutal book with not much respite - it was either gross or someone was being killed.

The one question that I want to know though... is how did these worlds originally come about? That's what I'm most curious about.


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Silvana wrote: "As for the weirdness, well, she wants to be the next China Mieville (who is her idol)..."

Interesting you should say that. I don't know Hurley's heroes, but on an incredibly shallow level, I did notice there was a lot of juddering going on :)

"Judder" is a perfectly serviceable word, but as the dictionary says, chiefly British. Whenever something judders, I figure I'm reading Pratchett, Adams, Gaiman, or Chambers, or some other British writer. Hurley uses it 6 times (all in the first half, by the way; maybe she forgot she was Miéville in the 2nd half.)


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Cat wrote: "The ick factor killed this book for me... plain and simple. ..."

Hurley seems to like ick. Her God's War is a dirty, ugly terraformed world where insects are the weapons of choice.


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments Ever since I read Mieville for the first time i've really adored authors who are great at writing evocative and beautiful "ick." It's fascinating to me how some writers depict rot, disease, mutations and decay. I think Jeff Vandermeer and M. John Harrison are the best at it, but Hurley is no slouch herself. The recycler scene and the cogbirth scene are some classic ickiness.


message 28: by [deleted user] (last edited May 23, 2017 12:24PM) (new)

Brendan wrote: " Ever since I read Mieville for the first time i've really adored authors who are great at writing evocative and beautiful "ick." It's fascinating to me how some writers depict rot, disease, mutations and decay...."

So, ick-punk, then?


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments I think they usually call it "Weird"


Silvana (silvaubrey) It is now called New Weird.


message 31: by Cat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cat | 343 comments Silvana wrote: "It is now called New Weird."

Brendan wrote: "Ever since I read Mieville for the first time i've really adored authors who are great at writing evocative and beautiful "ick." It's fascinating to me how some writers depict rot, disease, mutatio..."

Haha well now I know the authors I might need to steer clear of in the future! Good to know. It always fascinates me that the one thing that one person adores is the exact same thing someone else can't stand. It's good though, I do like trying things outside of my comfort zone and I'm definitely glad I gave this book a shot, broadening my reading is after all why I joined this group!


message 32: by Silvana (last edited May 24, 2017 06:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Silvana (silvaubrey) So say we all, Cat!

Anyway, Randy mentioned that Jayd is not a likable character. She is also not my favorite. Way too manipulative and wishy washy. I actually felt sorry for her husband (?), the general from the other world. Maybe that is why I think (view spoiler)

And I'd also would like to mention that I love the spacesuit tech thing!


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Brendan wrote: "I have two thoughts on this: 1. Why is a book with an all-female cast gimmicky but otherwise not? Are all books with all-male casts gimmicky? 2. I don't think the book's message about body autonomy would have worked if there were men in the story."

So I'm finished (weaving it in around studying for the Series 7 and 66 exams was a real trick) and here's my thoughts:
1. I think an all-male cast would probably be gimmicky too. I felt less gimmicky about the all-female cast as the book progressed and the rules of the world became more known
2. Why not? I can't see why males would have anything to do with the removable wombs. Spontaneous pregnancy probably wouldn't be necessary in that case though. Which is probably where my "gimmicky" thought came from - if you create a world in which only female characters are needed, is it a gimmick? Cat was right, however, that it was an interesting novelty. I'll go with that.

The "ick factor" (great phrase Cat! It sounds like a new show on NBC) was irritating to me but in the end didn't make much of a difference in my opinion about the book.

I just found the plot and the characters lacking, I never felt any real connection to any of the events, and I could care less what happened to any of them at the end.

Glad to be done with this one. I gave it one-star and now I'm moving on to A Fire Upon the Deep.


message 34: by Rob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob Beck | 23 comments Disclaimer: I have read a few other novels since The Stars are Legion, and I have a bad memory ;)

Well, it wasn't my favourite book as I said in my review, but it did keep me reading, although I was left wondering at the end what it was all about. It felt like just like a long journey through a variety of (admittedly interesting) environments. If I remember rightly (it has been a little while since I finished it) another thing I was confused by was the fact that the living worlds had metal 'skeletons'

There were some highly imaginative ideas in this book, but overall it still didn't really grab me.

I think the character I liked most was Das Muni, but I'm not sure I was supposed to!

Like Brenda, I did really like the cephalopod guns.


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