Hurley, Kameron. The Stars are Legion. New York: Saga Press, 2017.
Zan wakes up with no memory of her history or identity. She is being held by the Katazyrna matriarchy and trained to breach Mokshi, the only remaining world-ship healthy enough to sustain life. Meanwhile, her sometime-lover Jayd is traded to the Bhavaja matriarchy in a diplomatic marriage intended to stop a generations-long war. The two women’s stories intertwine as both desperately struggle to stay alive, negotiate loyalties and betrayals, and gain control of Mokshi.
The Stars are Legion is a complex, fascinating, and unusual novel. The world building is unlike anything that I’ve ever read, and I was immediately immersed. The world-ships are biological machines, made up of living tissue and responsive to human interaction. Hurley’s descriptions are beautiful, gross, mind-boggling, and utterly realistic, all at once.
Most germane to the focus of this blog is that this universe is inhabited only by women. Society is structured into matriarchies; each world-ship is controlled by a family, with citizens in fictive-kin relationships of mother (lord) and sisters (soldiers). Characters are distinct, three-dimensional, and engaging. I especially appreciated the wide variety of gender presentations: characters clearly identify and present along the entire butch/femme/androgynous spectrum, though these words are never used. I also liked that romance, love, and sex are part of the characters’ lives without being positioned as non-normative, deviant, or tragic.
Hurley is a prolific writer and has won the Hugo Award, the Golden Tentacle Award, and the Sydney J. Bounds Newcomer Award. The Stars are Legion has received a Publisher’s Weekly starred review, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t win some science fiction and/or LGBTQ awards this year.
Content notes: This book contains extensive descriptions of body horror, including monstrous pregnancies and births. There are also a few non-graphic sex scenes.