Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sisters of the Vast Black

Sisters of the Vast Black

Sisters of the Vast Black was an amazing read. It presents a universe that in many ways reminds me of the Becky Chambers novels and for me that's high praise indeed. The thing I love is the hopeful tone, the sense that in the future anything is possible, that humanity can rise above its divisions to explore other worlds. In other words, the grand promise of science fiction, the sense of wonder interspersed with themes that are recognizable to us today, the real world issues we face daily. 

 Sisters does that very thing. It takes themes that are so relevant today- what it means to be human, the fragility and promise of relationships, the intersection of faith and secularism, and makes it so readable and enthralling, just like Chambers' books do. Here we have nuns- yes, nuns- serving aboard a living starship, a being that plies the starways but is itself artificially created, born (or grown) in orbit and providing a biological means of traveling through space. How cool is that? It reminded me a little of the acanti from X-Men- living creatures that traverse the spacelanes, although here they're created by mankind. The Order of Rita is a sisterhood that descends from the church on Old Earth and has taken on a life of its own, providing services such as weddings, baptisms and whatnot to the scattered worlds that have no churches of their own. 

There's also the aftermath of a great war between Earth and it's former colonies and the ramifications of that conflict inform the story in numerous ways. We focus here on a few of the sisters- the Reverend Mother as well as Sisters Lucia, Gemma and a few others- and each one has a compelling story to tell, just like the characters in Chambers' books. I keep going back to the comparison because, frankly, it's one of the best compliments I can come up with, and again it speaks to how impressed I was with this novella. 

And speaking of being a novella, I need more. I'll definitely be trying anything else this author writes, and I wouldn't mind seeing some of these characters again, but either way this was a total winner. There were a few niggling issues I had, perhaps with pacing at one point, but it's a story told in three acts and each one has a distinct theme and feel to it. We're introduced to the characters, we learn more about them and feel their struggles and challenges, and then we're introduced to a horrific situation that turns this into an almost science fiction/ horror mashup, taking some familiar tropes and putting its own spin on them. I read this in on sitting and could have honestly kept reading for hours. 

So to sum up- this was a fantastic read and a window into a universe that I really fell for. I'm very impressed that someone could write a story like this- a look at religion in the far future that doesn't feel like being hit over the head- instead it's more like an examination of what would a future version of Catholicism look like in a world of scattered extrasolar colonies? But don't be turned off by the hints of religion- there's a hard look at faith and both losing and finding it, along with humor and questions about what makes an artificial being unique- does it have a soul, for example- and the themes of redemption and atoning for sins of the past are huge here. Like Becky Chambers' books, this world feels huge and expansive, full of possibilities and wonder and hope, and it left a huge smile on my face. Can't think of anything else to say- just read this.  

28 comments:

  1. This is the second or third glowing review I've seen for this book and now i'm dying to read it. Everything about the story just sounds so unique.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you would love it and would love to hear what you think!

      Delete
  2. I adored this too, Greg! And I love that you compare it to Becky Chambers' books, because now I want to read them even more😁

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's excellent. and I feel like you'd really like the Chambers book, would love to know what you think!

      Delete
  3. Haven't heard of this one, but it sure sound good! I'll have to check it out!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, I can definitely feel the love for this book in your review! And I know you like those Becky Chambers books, so it's definitely a compliment to compare them. This sounds cool, the idea of traveling around to bring religious services to places in the galaxy that don't have them. And I always find it thought-provoking when books take a look at artificial life and question whether it has a soul. Also this review is so eloquent? Not to say your others aren't lol, just that this one was especially so :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! That's high praise! And I definitely felt more than usual enthusiasm for this one when I was reviewing it- I guess it showed! But I really do love the Chambers books and this gave me totally the same feel.

      Delete
  5. This book sounds like a fantastic read! Though when you say "humanity can rise above its divisions" it begins to sound more and more like fiction with the way things have been going for the last few years. Let's hope our future is bright like this book ♡

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that right? It does seem worse now huh? Maybe that means the positive feeling books stand out even more now. :)

      Delete
  6. i am one of those people that love when an author can weave the real with fiction.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  7. This book sounds like it could be a TV show!

    ReplyDelete
  8. wow, sounds like the weirdest thing I have read in a while, lol

    ReplyDelete
  9. This does sound like a fascinating story and I'm not even a big sci-fi fan!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is really not my thing but I LOVE exploring those themes so I might look into it.

    Karen @ For What It's worth

    ReplyDelete
  11. This sounds like such a cool concept for a sci-fi, Greg! I am intrigued by the themes and the cast of characters. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I haven’t read this one butt cover convincing me to read it :) Corona Virus I'll have to check it out thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nuns in space? I'm up for it. Glad you enjoyed it so much, Greg!

    ReplyDelete
  14. TOTALLY agree, it is phenomenal. Like how the heck did the author manage such an incredibly developed world AND characters in so few pages!? AND come up with space nuns!? I have no idea but I think she might be magic.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It wouldn't be my thing but it sounds a bit different. Excellent review!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nuns in space, no that's an original premise. Glad to hear you enjoyed the novella enough to explore the author's other books! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is a really great review, Greg. Hope the rest of the author's works are as great for you as this one.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a fabulous review, Greg! I just wish it wasn't a novella - I hate it when I turn the page - and it's the end of a cracking read!

    ReplyDelete
  19. This one sounds really unique! Loved the review - as Kirsten said, very eloquent - but not spoilery at all. I might consider reading this.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Your summing up hits the nail on the head about this one! It really was great; I like it more the more I think about it, too.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I read a lot of stories set in the future, but the focus on religion is new to me! Very cool!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am glad that this was such a fanastic book for you and that you were able to enjoy it so much! I love that it has a hopeful tone because a lot of post apocalyptic books are so dark and grim... It sounds like you have a new author to read all the works from!

    ReplyDelete


  23. You did a great research about the product and really loved reading it. I must say I’ve no idea about this post before and not even heard that word. While i’m writing this i am using buffer and hoot suite to monitor my social media’s. Both are good by the way I’ve to admit. I’m thinking to try to will share my feedback after trying it.
    www.designercountry.com/

    ReplyDelete