Space Opera

Narrated by: Heath Miller
Length: 9 hrs and 45 mins
4 out of 5 stars (993 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision in an over-the-top galactic science fiction spectacle from best-selling author Catherynne Valente where sentient races compete for glory in a universe-wide musical contest - where the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented - something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix - part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick, and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny - they must sing.

A band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.

©2018 Catherynne M. Valente (P)2018 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"Heath Miller narrates a story that is equal parts scathing social commentary and hilarious send-up of music competitions.... Miller shines as the sarcastic and sardonic narrator who guides listeners through the byzantine galactic history that led to this confusing state of affairs. He also does an outstanding job creating a range of convincing alien personas, as well as bringing the human characters to life.... Those who enjoy intelligent satire will be richly rewarded." (AudioFile)

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Not a lot of story (non-specific SPOILER ALERT)

I was misled by a lot of other reviews here and didn't get much out of the book. I was expecting more of a galactic romp with unlikely heroes getting themselves into and out of trouble. The first 2 hours were basically a scene that would have taken 5 minutes, and the random jumps to insanely detailed backstory for minor characters were jarring to me.

A lot of the book was written like a history text with excruciating detail given to describing different alien races and their histories. The problem was that every time a new alien was encountered, there would be a side trip for 15 minutes, giving the full history of that species and interrupting the narrative. All in all, I'd say there are maybe 3 hours of narrative, minimal character development, and 7 hours of flowery descriptions of alien species history.

I felt like the alien species were too hard to keep track of, especially with trying to keep up with random tangents. You know that friend you ask what time they get off work and they talk for 15 minutes without taking a breath before giving you an answer that wasn't quite what you asked? Yeah, that's how this book read for me.

The minor characters had much more detailed backstories than the major characters, and a key moment in the backstory for the main characters was alluded to half a dozen times. By the time it played out 8 or 9 hours in, the only "big reveal" was the exact dialog for the event. There was no real character growth and I really considered turning it off pretty early on.

The end was abrupt and fairly unfulfilling, from my point of view. I'm not a fan of deus ex machina instead of characters working themselves out of a jam, and the end seemed pretty hokey to me. All in all, this book just fell flat for me. There was no real character growth and I really considered turning it off pretty early on.

The narration was good, and I enjoyed that part of the recording.

This was the first book I read/listened to from Catherynne Valente. I'd probably give her another chance based on some comments from other reviewers who liked her other books but didn't care for this one.

39 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

An hour less of adjectives please

Typically I love long quirky descriptions in novels, however this book has sooooo many of them that I had a lot of trouble following the story and struggled to finish.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Sooo many words.

This book came highly recommended to me because of my love of Douglas Adams. And as I started listening to this book, I could see why. The rambling style and odd ways to compare things that were not similar, was definitely in the vain of Adams. But, where Douglas Adams knew when to cut short a thought and give it an abrupt ending... this author, just kept on going. It was very distracting and felt like someone was trying to hard to be like Adams or was trying to make a book seem longer than it needed to be. I really liked the concept of the story and the narrator did an okay job, but there was far too much filler. When the author got around to actual dialogue and character interactions, not just alien backstory, it was quite enjoyable. Lots of promise and I look forward to other books, but this one fell short.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Douglas Adams is Smiling in the Seventh Dimension

This is a love letter to science fiction in general, and to the work of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett in particular, although you'll go crazy trying to keep track of all the Easter Eggs. It is hysterically funny, lavishly written by someone who can turn on her disciplined poet and her inner toddler at will. It is also deadly serious about Big Issues in science fiction and politics. Heath Miller is a gem too, as you'd expect a gifted voice actor reading his wife's own work to be. Can't recommend this enough.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Delightful clever, fun, and satisfying read

Witty psychedelic romp filled with humor and the hope of redeeming humanity. Really enjoyed the snark and surprises throughout the story. Catherynne’s elegant, complicated, colloquial, and delightfully descriptive writing is perfectly narrated by Heath Miller.

12 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

random descriptive phrases do not make a book

Hated this book, took way too much time describing random planets, aliens, or ships throwing random phrase after phrase together. "The alien was like a 2 person bicycle with an green safari hat left in high tide at a Miami nightclub", and then repeat this style adnasuem. Everything was described in this style, ships, planets, bands, aliens, clothing, and after the tenth description of someone's mood using this style I had enough. The narrator did his best and even sang a few of the songs, but the book was painful to listen to.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Intergalactically Engaging

I read the book before listening, and I'm happy to say that Mr. Miller's narrative aplomb helped me to absorb even more than I had from the text! Even when the text's complexity and detail hits Mach 12 (this one goes past 11), the narrator's commitment to character voice & personality delineation keeps me from spinning lost out into the stars. As a performer and a music fan, I don't mind admitting that the story hit me in almost all of the feels. Narration and novel combine to make the whole experience well worth the trip!

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

So much detail, so little substance...

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Full disclosure, I couldn't make through more than just over half of the story...

Things started out in an interesting fashion, I had hope for the characters that I met at the beginning.

As the story progressed, I felt that the attempt to introduce as many alien species as possible (and as many random details about them as possible) was detrimental to any kind of relationship I could have developed with the main characters.

Simply put, what I gained in the hours and hours I invested in this book could have been whittled down significantly.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not Douglas Adams

An ok story that attempts to reach the hilarity level of Hitchhiker's Guide but falls well short.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Trying too hard to be Douglas Adams.

What disappointed you about Space Opera?

The "adamseque" humorous asides went too far aside and became loopy without looping back around. I wasn't able to engage with the storyline.

What could Catherynne M. Valente have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Not sure, but for sure, stop channelling Douglas Adams.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narrator was fine and pleasant to listen to.

Any additional comments?

I am interested to try some other titles by Ms. Valente.

14 people found this helpful