Zan loses her memory.
- Title: The Stars Are Legion (2017) by Katherine Hurley
- Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
- Format: Audible (11h 49m); Read by Nicole Poole and Teri Schnaubelt
At first, I found this to be an intriguing world of mystery. The loss of memory, the strange alien-sounding environment of (apparently) an entire population of women living on these “world-ships.”
But the further I got into the audiobook, the more it started to get on my nerves.
There’s an almost total lack of setting description, which isn’t entirely unusual in the modern publishing world (I remember specifically that The Hunger Games was devoid of description, too… it’s a writing trick to speed up pacing), but in this case, the lack of details leaves me confused and disoriented.
This is a very unusual science fiction setting that doesn’t have any terrestrial Earth-bound analog. When the author doesn’t give me even a paragraph of description, there’s nothing in my brain to fill in the unsaid details, so it feels like most of the narrative is taking place inside a white void of nothingness. There are occasional references to interesting-sounding, unusual things in the surroundings, but they’re left maddeningly vague: Casual mentions of “organics” and “tentacles” and “human skin stretched over tables” and I can’t even begin to picture what this place might look like, or why or how it got that way.
That alone wouldn’t necessarily put me off of a book, but it’s jarring enough to keep interrupting my immersion, as I keep thinking, “What the hell? What does that mean?”
To be fair, there’s no reason for a first person narrator to explain details of a setting they are familiar with in-world, but part of an author’s job is to communicate crucial information to the reader, and that communication feels lacking here.
The other big problem I’m having is a combination of the perspective and the production of the audiobook itself. This is a multiple-first-person present-tense book, and there are (initially, at least) two different POV characters.
Unfortunately the two viewpoints sound like exactly the same character; there’s little in the writing or dialog that distinguishes one from the other, and there’s very little personality difference between the two. The audiobook makes it even worse because the two women readers sound fairly similar (one is slightly higher pitched than the other), and they’re both reading in a fairly flat intonation.
Those two problems together make it very difficult for me to understand the narrative or feel any immersion in the story.
And, to add a final nail in the coffin, I can’t tell anything about where the story is going after 10 chapters. At first it was about Zan having to attack “The Mokshi”–a “world,” (I think), which is not exactly a planet (I think), or maybe it is, but it might be a living creature (I think), or a ship made out of organic material, or something–to get her memory back. It was a mystery.
But then, the story veers into tragic romance and an arranged marriage with an enemy faction that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with The Mokshi and the memory loss. It’s … confusing. And, lacking any particularly strong character development, given no compelling reasons to care about the fate of these characters, it feels like a side quest that just doesn’t matter.
The point is, I can’t make sense of it. It needs a companion guide. I gave up after 12 chapters.
It’s an interesting idea, I think, but it feels like it needs several more rounds of revisions and guidance from an editor to improve clarity. Maybe the inevitable Netflix series someday will work better.