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Publisher's Summary

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision in an over-the-top galactic science fiction spectacle from best-selling author Catherynne Valente where sentient races compete for glory in a universe-wide musical contest - where the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented - something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix - part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick, and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny - they must sing.

A band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.

©2018 Catherynne M. Valente (P)2018 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What the critics say

"Heath Miller narrates a story that is equal parts scathing social commentary and hilarious send-up of music competitions.... Miller shines as the sarcastic and sardonic narrator who guides listeners through the byzantine galactic history that led to this confusing state of affairs. He also does an outstanding job creating a range of convincing alien personas, as well as bringing the human characters to life.... Those who enjoy intelligent satire will be richly rewarded." (AudioFile)

Featured Article: 20 Best Sci-Fi Audiobooks for Exploring New Worlds

There is no genre that lends itself better to audio narrative than Science Fiction does. There is a magic that transports listeners to new worlds of wonder and mystery that is heightened by expert voice actors and narrators. A great writer can create an imaginative new world or dystopian civilisation, but it is up to the narrator to bring this world to life around you. We’ve gathered together 20 of the top science fiction audiobooks ranked not only for their stories but for the emotive and compelling narrative performances. Let these award winning tales and voices carry you away to worlds unknown.

What listeners say about Space Opera

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book saved by narrator Heath Miller

Horrible writing! The author found a thesaurus and used all the words. Each new concept and idea was explained ad nauseam. I was hoping for a fun light-hearted science fiction comedy but instead got an encyclopedia of alien creatures, their worlds, and cultures. This is not a story. I am very impressed by Heath Miller and his ability to read and portray all the characters without screaming in horror.

2 people found this helpful

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Life is beautiful, and life is stupid.

It's not often that a story can move me to tears of laughter one minute, and tears of emotion another. If you ever enjoyed anything remotely similar to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you will love Space Opera.

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good narrator, awful story.

i liked the narrator, his reading gives the feeling of a broad range of authentic emotions carried over a great range of character voices. Unfortunately he couldn't help the story.

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  • Ken Schneyer
  • 2018-12-21

Douglas Adams is Smiling in the Seventh Dimension

This is a love letter to science fiction in general, and to the work of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett in particular, although you'll go crazy trying to keep track of all the Easter Eggs. It is hysterically funny, lavishly written by someone who can turn on her disciplined poet and her inner toddler at will. It is also deadly serious about Big Issues in science fiction and politics. Heath Miller is a gem too, as you'd expect a gifted voice actor reading his wife's own work to be. Can't recommend this enough.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Aria
  • 2019-01-14

An hour less of adjectives please

Typically I love long quirky descriptions in novels, however this book has sooooo many of them that I had a lot of trouble following the story and struggled to finish.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Erik B.
  • 2018-05-22

Not a lot of story (non-specific SPOILER ALERT)

I was misled by a lot of other reviews here and didn't get much out of the book. I was expecting more of a galactic romp with unlikely heroes getting themselves into and out of trouble. The first 2 hours were basically a scene that would have taken 5 minutes, and the random jumps to insanely detailed backstory for minor characters were jarring to me.

A lot of the book was written like a history text with excruciating detail given to describing different alien races and their histories. The problem was that every time a new alien was encountered, there would be a side trip for 15 minutes, giving the full history of that species and interrupting the narrative. All in all, I'd say there are maybe 3 hours of narrative, minimal character development, and 7 hours of flowery descriptions of alien species history.

I felt like the alien species were too hard to keep track of, especially with trying to keep up with random tangents. You know that friend you ask what time they get off work and they talk for 15 minutes without taking a breath before giving you an answer that wasn't quite what you asked? Yeah, that's how this book read for me.

The minor characters had much more detailed backstories than the major characters, and a key moment in the backstory for the main characters was alluded to half a dozen times. By the time it played out 8 or 9 hours in, the only "big reveal" was the exact dialog for the event. There was no real character growth and I really considered turning it off pretty early on.

The end was abrupt and fairly unfulfilling, from my point of view. I'm not a fan of deus ex machina instead of characters working themselves out of a jam, and the end seemed pretty hokey to me. All in all, this book just fell flat for me. There was no real character growth and I really considered turning it off pretty early on.

The narration was good, and I enjoyed that part of the recording.

This was the first book I read/listened to from Catherynne Valente. I'd probably give her another chance based on some comments from other reviewers who liked her other books but didn't care for this one.

42 people found this helpful

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  • MiniSvlad
  • 2018-05-21

Sooo many words.

This book came highly recommended to me because of my love of Douglas Adams. And as I started listening to this book, I could see why. The rambling style and odd ways to compare things that were not similar, was definitely in the vain of Adams. But, where Douglas Adams knew when to cut short a thought and give it an abrupt ending... this author, just kept on going. It was very distracting and felt like someone was trying to hard to be like Adams or was trying to make a book seem longer than it needed to be. I really liked the concept of the story and the narrator did an okay job, but there was far too much filler. When the author got around to actual dialogue and character interactions, not just alien backstory, it was quite enjoyable. Lots of promise and I look forward to other books, but this one fell short.

12 people found this helpful

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  • SparklyShiny
  • 2018-04-17

Delightful clever, fun, and satisfying read

Witty psychedelic romp filled with humor and the hope of redeeming humanity. Really enjoyed the snark and surprises throughout the story. Catherynne’s elegant, complicated, colloquial, and delightfully descriptive writing is perfectly narrated by Heath Miller.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 2018-04-30

random descriptive phrases do not make a book

Hated this book, took way too much time describing random planets, aliens, or ships throwing random phrase after phrase together. "The alien was like a 2 person bicycle with an green safari hat left in high tide at a Miami nightclub", and then repeat this style adnasuem. Everything was described in this style, ships, planets, bands, aliens, clothing, and after the tenth description of someone's mood using this style I had enough. The narrator did his best and even sang a few of the songs, but the book was painful to listen to.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Sooj
  • 2018-04-15

Intergalactically Engaging

I read the book before listening, and I'm happy to say that Mr. Miller's narrative aplomb helped me to absorb even more than I had from the text! Even when the text's complexity and detail hits Mach 12 (this one goes past 11), the narrator's commitment to character voice & personality delineation keeps me from spinning lost out into the stars. As a performer and a music fan, I don't mind admitting that the story hit me in almost all of the feels. Narration and novel combine to make the whole experience well worth the trip!

20 people found this helpful

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  • Dave
  • 2019-01-01

Sex, Drugs, and...Wait. What's That Other Thing?

Where's the Rock 'n Roll?

There aren't enough funny SF/F books, which is one of the reason's I was so excited to try the incredibly talented Catherynne M. Valente's Space Opera. The concept sounded golden to me -- like Douglas Adams reporting on an intergalactic EuroVision. And while Valente certainly has a blast with the bunny trail ramblings we've come to love about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the rest of the execution left a lot to be desired.

In this book, the bunny trails appear to mean more to Valente than the characters themselves. As for the rock n' roll? It's mostly absent. There's a lot about the style and the fashion of it, some of the sex and drugs lifestyle. (One great line: the voice that launched a thousand sexual awakenings.) But as far as the music itself? At best, it's muzac playing in the space elevator. Which makes the final performance of our Earth's first intergalactic rock band very anticlimatic. I say all this realizing how difficult it must be to twist an art form like music into the confines of prose. But even the characters seem uninterested by music, unless they're grappling with writer's block.

(I'm also not entirely sure when this book takes place. Sometime in the not-too distant future? But Decibel Jones and Oort Saint Ultraviolet seem to recall David Bowie or Freddie Mercury, while a lot of our contemporary musicians are apparently dead. Andy I was left wondering what decade and music genre were they from. This seems like a little thing, but the more I thought about it, the more confused it made me.)

Heath Miller's narration is fine on a technical level, but for a book that's supposed to be as wonderfully ridiculous as this one, his performance seems restrained in all the wrong places.

I appreciate Valente's effort in trying to write a funny SF/F novel -- the world needs more of those. But this one just couldn't hit the right notes.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Elisabeth Carey
  • 2018-05-07

Enormous, madcap fun, with a brain and a heart

Eurovision in space.

No, really.

This is humorous sf, strongly influenced by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Not everyone will love it. Some people will find it hopelessly over the top, especially if that's how they felt about Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

I loved it.

Earth has discovered that we are not alone in the big, beautiful universe, or even in the galaxy. There's a galactic confederation that, since the Sentience Wars a hundred years ago, have worked at system to decide who gets to join the sentience club, and who gets eliminated permanently, with their planet getting a chance to try again when another species has evolved far enough to be contemplating space travel.

The system is a totally over-the-top musical competition. It's an interstellar, inter-species Eurovision, and performance on stage matters at least as much as the song itself. New species competing for the first time don't have to win; they do have to not lose. Established species who finish dead last are confined to their own planet for a long time to contemplate their mistakes. New species competing for the first time, if they finish dead last, are eliminated permanently, their species exterminated, with as little damage to their planet as reasonably possible so that the biosphere can try again to produce a sentient species.

The aliens have been monitoring Earth's transmissions since the beginning of radio, and they have a list of possible representatives to compete on Earth's behalf in the Galactivision competition. Unfortunately, most of them are dead.

The trio Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes are chosen, not quite by default.

Unfortunately, only two of the three, Decibel himself and Oort (I listened to the audiobook and didn't, alas, get his last name well enough to reproduce it here), are left, Mira Wonder Star having died in a car crash. Neither of the m thinks they can really do it without Mira, but since the alternative is that Earth finishes dead last by default and everyone dies, they are shortly on their way to the contest site, 7,000 lightyears away. They're accompanied by a couple of friendly aliens, one of whom is apparently a big, blue flamingo. Oh, and Oort's children's cat, Kaypro, is with them, and newly endowed with the ability to talk.

This is a completely madcap, insane rollercoaster ride, so far over the top you can't even see the top anymore, and it's a lot of fun. It's also sharp and insightful and warm and decent. The characters learn and grow and are well worth spending the time with, especially, but not exclusively, Decibel and Oort. Valente uses the language beautifully, and it was a lot of fun to listen to Heath Miller reading it.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Wayne Chinapen
  • 2018-04-23

So much detail, so little substance...

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Full disclosure, I couldn't make through more than just over half of the story...

Things started out in an interesting fashion, I had hope for the characters that I met at the beginning.

As the story progressed, I felt that the attempt to introduce as many alien species as possible (and as many random details about them as possible) was detrimental to any kind of relationship I could have developed with the main characters.

Simply put, what I gained in the hours and hours I invested in this book could have been whittled down significantly.

14 people found this helpful