It is, in fact, nothing less than intergalactic Eurovision in the fine stylistic tradition of Douglas Adams—madcap, bizarre, comedic, and shot through with a certain wholesome kindness ... A clever, thorough mashup of David Bowie, Eurovision, Douglas Adams, and Valente’s ever-astounding prose drives Space Opera. All of its heart and heft comes from the honest, devoted adoration that rolls off the page at every turn; it’s hard to miss Valente’s total love for her subject and for the argument she’s seeking to make about the production of culture, the songs we sing when the lights go out and we’re left cold in the night. This book is eminently contemporary, enmeshed in arguments about politics, nationalism, resources, and xenophobia ... It’s a big, loud, spangly novel, but it’s also a personally intimate one. Valente has done a fine job giving us the glitz, the glam, and the heart all at once.
...one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read ... Where Douglas Adams projected the comedic incompetence of impersonal bureaucracies into outer space, Valente introduces whimsical weirdness like a multidimensional panda bear called a Quantum-Tufted Domesticated Wormhole, which is the only feasible means of interstellar travel ... But the real selling point is Valente’s elaborate prose, dense with description and metaphors. I’ve bounced off this style in some of her books, but here it works beautifully ... I enjoyed every minute I spent reading Space Opera — first for the story of Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros and their performance to save Earth, and then for the fantastic worlds that Valente put to paper.
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.