Although Catherynne M. Valente’s delightful sense of humor is the most constant aspect of her prose, it is not the most memorable. Although her comedic talents are reminiscent of Douglas Adams at his best, Valente’s palette is far larger. Her prose is always quick and engrossing, but the content ranges from a glitzy, sometimes profane satirization of the music industry and its larger-than-life characters, to dead-serious flashbacks and a genuinely moving finale. That ability to fluidly tie real-world tragedy together with psychedelic hilarity is perhaps Space Opera’s most impressive attribute. Valente’s writing here is as strong as anything taught as 'good prose,' although the rock and whimsy will keep it from finding its way into the traditional literary canon anytime soon. And that’s a shame. It takes confidence, skill and talent to craft a tragic disco ball metaphor, and Valente has all three in spades. At the end of the day, Valente’s fiction of a high-stakes, sequined Intergalactic Idol ably addresses what it means to be human and what it means to love someone, while being ever-entertaining and, crucially, being the kind of book that makes you want to dance. It’s got soul, after all.
There are really no words to describe Space Opera, Catherynne Valente's new novel. Know why? Because she used them all in writing it. I can say that it is square-ish. Made of wood pulp. Composed mostly of sentences. I can say that it's a wicked-fast read (if you can handle the whiplash and the pure, 12-gauge crazy-pants nonsense of it all) and enjoyable at speeds unsafe for upright mammals ... In between it's all big ideas written in glitter. It's surprising tenderness on a galactic scale. It's about loneliness and nerdliness and acceptance and making fun of the old, frowsy powers that be. Valente offers up a universe in which the only thing of true value is rhythm. Not guns, not bombs, not money, not power, but sex and love and pop songs.