The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, a group of "species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. Fashioning themselves as the one true “Human Republic,” the Sturm killed billions before finally being defeated and driven into the far reaches of Dark Space. Centuries of peace bred complacency. Everyone believed the Sturm had died out in the Dark. They were wrong.
...making readers laugh out loud even as it pulls them through an intergalactic battle for the soul of humanity ... The Cruel Stars showcases Birmingham’s remarkable mastery of scope. In just a few short chapters, he manages to paint (and then proceeds to destroy) a complex, flawed and deeply interesting version of human civilization ... for readers who loved the frenetic pacing of the first few episodes of Battlestar Galactica or the gritty realism of A Song of Ice and Fire, The Cruel Stars needs to make its way to the top of summer reading lists.
Continual space battle action, despicable enemies, tight corners, and plucky heroines enliven the story, though one-dimensional characters, improbable last-minute saves, and familiar tropes weaken it. For larger collections; space opera lovers will enjoy a fast and reasonably exciting read.
Birmingham’s gripping near-future novel launches readers into a genocidal interstellar war amid sudden violence and dark humor ... Birmingham alternates between gut punches and laugh-out-loud humor, with some gore and thought-provoking philosophy thrown in for good measure. Every character is a presence, including the villains, who are disturbingly convincing in believing their actions are for the good of all. Plenty of twists, sharp turns, and fateful encounters will keep readers guessing and turning pages. This jarring, engrossing story of a species-wide fight for survival is recommended for all science fiction readers.