Sisters of the Vast Black and Sisters of the Forsaken Stars
(Tor.com, 2019 and 2022). Covers by Drive Communications and Emmanuel Shiu
I’m a huge fan of the sprawling space opera sub-genre, but my love is conflicted. All the best — from Peter Hamilton to Ann Leckie, Lois McMaster Bujold to Becky Chambers — comes packaged exclusively as multi-volume epics. If you want to enjoy space opera these days, you need to schedule a 4-week sabbatical first. And a lot of caffeine.
Thank God for Tor.com, which has kept up their weekly drumbeat of top notch novella releases — including Lina Rather’s Sisters of the Forsaken Stars, sequel to her debut Sisters of the Vast Black. It’s the tale of a heroic band of space-faring nuns, hunted and on the run, and yet still bound by their calling to provide help and mercy to those in need. And best of all, you can devour both volumes in an afternoon.
BG blogger Foz Meadows published a thoughtful review of the opening book at Strange Horizons, saying in part:
In a future where humanity has colonized multiple star systems — and in which living, genetically engineered spaceships fly the dark alongside metal deadships — the nuns of the Catholic Order of St Rita find themselves faced with an unexpected choice: to change course and let their ship, the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations, find and mate with the ship on which she’s imprinted, or deny her biological needs as a matter of doctrine…
Sisters of the Vast Black is an accomplished, thoughtful debut that evokes comparison to the novellas of Lois McMaster Bujold and Martha Wells. This is not something I say lightly… Sisters of the Vast Black is similarly hopeful, contrasting the biopunk aesthetic of a living, insectoid spaceship with the enduringly human questions of her crew…
Sister Gemma, who has secretly fallen in love with a woman from another ship, stands in obvious parallel to the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. Unlike the ship, she is conscious of the potential breach of her vows, and yet her decision is not pitched as a choice between faith and unfaith, but rather as a choice between interpretations of faith: how best to live in faith, and how best to love, and through what type of service?..
Sisters of the Vast Black is a story with many layers. Everything is interconnected. Rather writes with gentle, economic elegance, compressing an impressive amount of detail into a comparatively small package, creating a story that stands alone within a setting that could easily—and hopefully will—be explored in further narratives. Her characterization is both humane and human….
Regardless of whether it ends up being a stand-alone story or the first instalment of many, Sisters of the Vast Black makes for a wonderful, thought-provoking read, and I highly recommend it.
Publishers Weekly gave a warm review to the sequel.
The Catholic nuns of the Order of Saint Rita are on the run from Central Governance after witnessing its attempt to wipe out the inhabitants of a newly colonized moon in the Phoyongsa system using the highly contagious ringeye plague. One of the most captivating worldbuilding elements here is the Order’s living spaceship, and Rather skillfully folds in biological details of this massive life-form while developing the emotional bond between the sisters and their ship as they struggle to survive their exile. During a supply stop, the sisters learn that rumors about the ringeye outbreak on Phoyongsa III have become a rallying cry for a group of religious radicals, who’ve weaponized the disaster to foment revolution… The quirky premise will draw readers in while the depth of the characters and mounting stakes will keep them hooked. This is a worthy sequel.
Here’s the complete publishing details for the Our Lady of Endless Worlds series.
Sisters of the Vast Black (159 pages, $14.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, October 29, 2019) — cover by Drive Communications
Sisters of the Forsaken Stars (192 pages, $15.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, February 22, 2022) — cover by Emmanuel Shiu
Both books were published by Tor.com. No word of a third volume yet.
See all our recent coverage of the best new SF and fantasy series here.