Glam/Heart: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

With the delightfully garish neon tagline “In space, everyone can hear you sing” emblazoned across its cover, Catherynne M. Valente’s newest novel Space Opera is a marked shift from the seriousness of Deathless (2011) or Palimpsest (2009). 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.

After the near-fatal cosmic consequences of the Sentience Wars, the universe at large decides who gets a seat at the table of sentient species—and where the resources get distributed—via a pop music competition. If a petitioning new species comes in dead last, their artifacts and culture will be recorded and they will be summarily scrubbed from existence to let the next smart bit of flora or fauna on their planet have a chance in a few million years. When the Esca, a birdlike alien race, appear ...