BooksOfTheMoon

Space Opera

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4 stars

I have very definite feelings about this book. I feel that I need to read it again before I come to any solid conclusions. This book was sold to me as a lightweight Eurovision-in-space. Instead, it starts as slightly poor Douglas Adams pastiche, settles into something very readable but occasionally not just punches you in the feels, but gives them wedgies and steals their lunch money.

Okay, so, yes, it is Space-Eurovision, with an annual galactic song contest to relieve tensions in the galactic community, with the added twist that to avoid recurrence of the sentience wars (in which we, who are People, want to kill you and take your stuff because we think that you are Meat) any newly discovered apparently sentient species has to prove their sentience by not coming last in the Galactic Grand Prix. That in itself is a fascinating idea, giving species the chance to prove themselves by moving the watching fans enough to not come last: to prove that you have and can create empathy.

I nearly didn’t get that far though. The first couple of chapters nearly put me right off. On a first read, they felt like the book was trying (and trying too hard) to be Hitchhikers, and that’s not an easy thing to do. The tone settled down after Decibel Jones, former Brit-pop glamgrinder and the one chosen, along with his band, to be the Last Best Hope for Earth, was introduced and I started to enjoy it a lot more. I get the feeling though, that upon rereading, those first chapters would probably resonate a lot more.

Neither Decibel, nor his bandmate, Oort St Ultraviolet, are particular likeable, but that’s sort of the point. They’ve been through the system, have been chewed up and spat out the other end. They’re damaged goods, struggling to cope without the third member of of the band, Mira Wonderful Star. They make the sort of mistakes and arguments that two people who love/hate each other would do and try their best not to get killed before the main event starts (Rule 20, it’s all about Rule 20).

And between all the glam, and the silliness and really weird alien species, Valante has a lot to say about us. About whether we deserve that last shot at all, about the sort of people we can be at our best, and at our worst.

So, what did I think? I think I need to read the book again. But until then, it left me with a lot to think about and a whole bunch of slightly bruised feels.

Book details

ISBN: 9781472115072
Publisher: Corsair
Year of publication: 2018

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland, #3)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 3 stars

The third volume of September’s adventures sees her return to Fairyland, this time with the help, for want of a better word, of the Blue wind. She travels to the moon, finds her friends, A-Through-L and Saturday and has to try and save the moon from the terrible yeti, Ciderskin.

Although still enjoyable, I didn’t find this book as compelling as The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but I didn’t really find September’s adventures that interesting, and her feelings towards Saturday are starting to turn into quite dull teenage romantic angst. The new characters that we meet along the way didn’t seem as interesting as others that we’ve met before, although Abecedaria, the periwig librarian was fun.

I’m sure there are Metaphors here, about growing up, things that need to be cast aside or held on to, but neither they, nor the story, really grabbed me. I didn’t dislike them, I just wasn’t completely absorbed by them. I’ll still look out for the next couple of books though.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250050618
Publisher: Square Fish
Year of publication: 2013

The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4 stars

Written following the US election in 2016, this short piece sees Valente return to Fairyland as she turns her darker thoughts after the worst came to pass into art. It’s Dark and bitter, but does offer some hope in the form of Defiance, of saying No and saying Yes and continuing to be kind in the face of despair.

Book details

Year of publication: 2016

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland, #2)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4 stars

September returns to Fairyland after a year away to find it changed. But it’s not just it that has changed, she too has changed. As part of growing up, she has gained a young heart, and is no longer the heartless girl who left Nebraska without a backwards glance, and she now has to face the joys that a heart can bring, and also learn that it can be broken.

This book takes us to Fairyland-Below, where September must try to fix something that broke because of her actions, even if it wasn’t her fault. There she has new adventures, meets new friends as well as old ones (sort of) and learns that even if you destroy the signs, rules can’t be broken that easily.

I liked this book a lot, moreso than The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I don’t know if that was because I was more familiar with the tone and rhythm and knew what to expect. I also liked September more this time round too, as she is starting to grow up and learn about consequences. We see different sides to both A-Through-L and Saturday, and, despite being named for one of the more deplorable vegetables, I adored Aubergine, the Night-Dodo, and would love to see more of her.

After finishing the first book I was tepid on picking up the next one. After this one, I’m very much more looking forward to reading more of September’s adventures.

Book details

ISBN: 9781472108104
Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Year of publication: 2012

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 3 stars

September is bored, so when the Green Wind turns up on his Leopard of Little Breezes and offers to take her to Fairyland, she doesn’t hesitate and goes away with him, without even a backward glance. But all isn’t well in Fairyland: wings are in iron chains, rules proliferate and the people fear to speak out. In short, Fairyland needs saving, and September rushes in, where angels fear to tread. But can she save herself, never mind Fairyland?

It took me a while to understand the rhythm of this book. In terms of writing, it’s very Fairy Tale and childlike, but as you continue to read, it deals with concepts and emotions more complex than would initially seem, but in such a subtle way that you almost don’t notice.

September is a likeable heroine who learns more about herself as she progresses through her adventures (as is right and proper for a fairy tale). We learn less of her companions, although I suspect that they may get more screen time in the sequels, especially the Marid, Saturday. The Marquess, when we finally meet her, is also more complex than first appearances suggest, and the final showdown between her and September is particularly satisfying.

There is a prequel short story, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While, about September’s predecessor Mallow available to read for free at Tor.com which I enjoyed a lot, and sheds more light on some of what takes place here (I’d wait until finishing this one before reading the prequel though, as it’ll make more of a emotional impact that way).

Book details

ISBN: 9781780339818
Publisher: Little, Brown
Year of publication: 2011

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While (Fairyland, #0.5)

By Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4 stars

Lovely little prequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I just finished earlier today. This tells the story of how Mallow became queen of Fairyland, and gives extra depth to The Girl Who Circumnavigated. It lends another dimension to the novel but also works perfectly well on its own, with a very similar feel to the novel: charming yet with a layer of darkness under the surface.

Book details

Publisher: Tor Book
Year of publication: 2011

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