« Stars are legion » is a fascinating story, quite easy to read after the very beginning, which could appear mysterious and fuzzy to the unprepared… A slight effort is necessary and then none: one of the strong points of this book is that the main character, Zan, suffers from chronic memory loss. So, in a way, we discover with her the strange world she lives in, bewildered, but not alone!
Zan has some memories left, principally hunches, and had kept her (quite awesome) physical capacities. She’s also rather different from nowadays young women, for various reasons, but her struggles are familiar enough to help the reader to figure gradually the alternative reality.
So, if you fear to be lost in a oniric world, don’t. Of course the imagine background is very very strange. People now live on – or rather in – « worlds », which are many and form between them The Legion. Each « world » seems to be: third planet, third spacial ship, third living being. People are all women or girls, no allusion is ever made to another sexe, and nobody seems to have access to past History or even to wonder about it. (You may have read the excellent Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold, where the situation is the other way round, but the similarity stops there).
If there a lot of holes in the background story, there aren’t flaws, but narrative choices. There isn’t any lack of logic, the reader can imagine the context, a very distant human diaspora which would have resulted to this strange (in our point of view) situation. In a different way this book reminded me about another striking SF read, « Courtship Rite » by Donald Kingsbury, a story where we could also imagine an evolution which could have drove humans to embrace anthropophagy to survive on an inhospitable planet. In « Stars are Legion », we can also imagine a very distant past where humans would have succeed to master genetic and biology so well as to be able to create entire biological symbiotical systems. A reality where reproduction isn’t anymore dependant of having two different sexes, and where men have disappeared, disappeared so thoroughly that the no one remembers a past where humanity presented two different sexes, both necessary to the human species’ survival.
The story is well paced, with action, adventures, good characters and good dialogues. The middle part is rather weird (beware if you have a weak stomach, for myself I must confess I enjoyed myself ^-^), weird but also coherent, logical, a riveting ride which allows many discoveries about the world and the intrigue. This part strongly reminded me the French Peggy Sue series (supposedly for children, my older daughter was passionate about them as a child, so I also read them), a mix between bizarre, creepy and exciting.
Another strong point is that the reader get rather quickly used to having only feminine characters in the book, which is an excellent exercise against gender preconceptions. I had one rather similar impression with the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie, a story which teaches you to think of every character as a person before thinking about them as male or female. In the Ancillary books, we don’t know the sexe of the protagonists, as they’re all called « she ». In « The stars are Legion », as everybody is female, we learn to forget about it and end up considering each new character with a totally open mind, skimmed of all involuntary and unconscious prejudices. As a person before anything else.
Zen, a very interesting and touching character, strong, resilient, violent but also compassionate and shrewd, is good company and makes for an engaging read. The end of the book is satisfactory, clever and mature. If the premises of this story holds your attention you shouldn’t be disappointed.
My copy of this book as being waiting for a while to be read, and I’m really happy to have at least taken action, after have read and loved the author’s short story « Elephants and Corpses », which is splendid. I plan to read more of Kameron Hurley’s works, to begin with « The Light Brigade », which I have pre ordered 🙂