The Stars are Legion is the most mind-blowing space opera I’ve read in a long time. It’s a stand alone novel, so you get the full story all at once.
The book is set so far in the future that assigning a numerical date wouldn’t really say much. The characters have forgotten about earth anyway. This is science fiction entirely unmoored from our world, much like Star Wars is set long ago in a galaxy far far away.
All we see of the universe is a bunch of giant ships orbiting a sun. They’re huge spheres, covered in giant tentacles they use to gather resources. Inside there are concentric levels, so many that the residents of the innermost don’t know about the people on the outermost levels. Everything feels very organic and biological. Hurley never passes up a chance to remind us of this - characters notice the slightly soft floors, moist walls, and fluid-filled veins of their ships.
All the ships’ residents are female, and there’s a really solid worldbuilding reason for it. Like so much of the worldbuilding, that reason would be a spoiler, though. You’ll just have to read the book to find out.
To occupy this huge world, Hurley gives us two different protagonists. Jayd and Zan, and we see them first person and present tense.
Zan wakes up with amnesia at the start of the book, so Hurley can use her eyes to help show you the universe. This is good, because there is so very much to absorb. Zan is a badass soldier, who has been leading the army of her world-ship. As soon as she wakes up, she realizes she’s neck deep in some kind of plot, but she has no idea what it is.
Jayd, on the other hand, knows exactly what’s going on. Hurley does a great job of not letting the reader know, without making them feel cheated by a character that’s teasing them.
Along with the world-building, the pacing of this book really stands out. Part of the present tense mode is that it makes everything seem extra immediate, and Hurley really put her foot down on the gas pedal. This book was really hard to put down from start to finish. I didn’t notice any slow downs along the way.
The net result of a book with amazing world building and a thriller’s pacing is that it takes you for a crazy ride and dumps you out at the end with a head full of amazing ideas swirling around. I want more about this place, and I want critical discussion of it. I highly recommend The Stars are Legion. It will almost certainly show up on my Hugo nominating ballot in 2018.