The Stars Are Legion was both exactly what I was expecting from a Kameron Hurley novel, and not at all. If you, like me, love her women-led novels and unflinching look at violence and trauma, you will find that here.
And when I say women-led, I want to be clear, there are no men in this book. None. Zero. All the main characters are women. All the side characters are women. All the nameless grunts in the background are women. The lack of men is never noticed or commented on. There’s no point to be made here about women as rulers or female-led societies. Men are just completely irrelevant to the society and plot line.
After all the sausage-fest novels I’ve read in my life, this was glorious.
Another thing that I appreciate in this that is such a Hurley thing is that no one in here pretends to be a good person. Jayd, in particular, is pretty explicit about being a villain. Yet despite that, it’s a novel about love and filled with hope. It’s about keeping going even when life is at its worst and everything has gone wrong. No one here is a good person, but they’re all still doing their best.
As for what they’re doing? Well, Zan and Jayd are trying to get to the surface of a particular living worldship. Everyone in the (maybe artificial?) solar system they’re in sees that particular worldship as the key to their salvation–since all the worldships are slowly dying. Everything goes wrong in a spectacular fashion, as plots are wont to do. But Zan and Jayd claw their way towards their goals, sometimes literally.
Hurley became one of my favorite authors three books of hers ago. This has all the women and queerness and body horror and unflinching injuries that I’ve come to expect from a novel of hers. But at the same time, it was also less violent than I expected. To be clear, it’s still violent. Incredibly violent. But it’s less violent than I was expecting after finishing her Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy or even The Mirror Empire. There’s a lot more politicking and interpersonal drama in this book. It’s still just as thrilling, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, so it threw me for a bit of a loop.
There’s also a mystery to this book: Zan has amnesia. In a way, her surprise about everything in the setting works well. Her competence comes through in believable, automatic ways, but doesn’t always save her. Her amnesia lets the reader see the world as something new with her, though. And because of that, I feel like this wouldn’t be a bad intro-to-sci-fi book.
I want to be clear that pregnancy, freedom, and bodily autonomy are major themes in the book. If pregnancy is a trigger for you, give this a pass. I really enjoyed the thoughtfulness put into those themes.
The title drop at the end was a chef’s kiss of a sucker punch. Utterly perfect.
Recommended for: people new to sci-fi; women interested in sci-fi; queer people interested in sci-fi; fans of Ancillary Justice/The Imperial Rach trilogy; anyone who wants a bit more body horror in their sci-fi; anyone who wants some amazing worldbuilding; everyone who wants more SPACE LESBIANS