Book Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

“Once upon a time on a small, watery, excitable planet called Earth, in a small, watery, excitable country called Italy, a soft-spoken, rather nice-looking gentleman by the name of Enrico Fermi was born into a family so overprotective that he felt compelled to invent the atomic bomb.”

When I read the opening of the book, I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive by mail and get it to my hands. This had to be good, but it did not deliver and not because of the opening was better than the rest of the book, the opposite in fact. It was hard to find the plot and characters under all the bombardment of words. I didn’t have time to breathe from the whimsical, clever words crammed in one sentence. While some made me smile (those with substance) a good deal of felt like empty clatter.

I didn’t get attached to the main characters: Decibel Jones or Oort or the plot. While I loved the plot’s premise, the rest caused me to have mixed feelings about the book. Still, while I read, I enjoyed the weird descriptions of the different alien species, moralizing about war, and questions what is life all about, but they were so easy to miss under all the bizarre nouns and adjectives.

I wonder now if I should have listened to this book instead of reading it as I have heard the audiobook is a blast. If I will ever revisit this book, I will go with the audiobook version. One final note: while I complain about the writing, I have to highlight that it was what drew me in the first place. Catherynne M. Valente can write. She is funny and insightful. There is no doubt about that, but even funny needs a break and breathing room to be funny.

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