Publish Date: 29 October 2019
Page Count: 162 pages
Scientist nuns in space. A slug spaceship on heat. Sinister diseases. Sisters of the Vast Black is a little slice of sci-fi weirdness that I really enjoyed.
“We shouldn’t be brutal just because the universe is.”
This novella introduces the Sisters of the Order of Saint Rita and their living spaceship, Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. The sisters travel the fringes of settled space, offering aid to those who need it most. As the ship’s sudden fertility sparks a theological debate among the superfluity, the sisters’ faith is tested, and old secrets come to the fore.
Rather has crafted a unique sci-fi story with an interesting range of ideas. The book is told from multiple POVs, and it’s interesting to get to know different sisters and their reasons for joining the Order. I always love the concept of religion in space, and Rather’s take on an interstellar Roman Catholic Church and its involvement with central government provided some tasty food for thought.
I also love a sentient spaceship, and Our Lady is probably the weirdest one I’ve come across since The Stars are Legion, with its status as animal, possession, or member of the Order unclear. The sisters are forced to decide whether it should be left to pursue its carnal urges despite being consecrated by the Catholic church.
These were the most exciting aspects of the book for me, and I think the first two-thirds could have been a tight little novella by itself. The pacing and focus of the story get switched up in the final third, which leaves some of the earlier points feeling a little unfinished. I was still interested in the plot, but I think the bit that feels like ‘part two’ would work better as a sequel or if Sisters had been beefed out into a full-length novel.
“She was one small part of an infinity, and there was much to be done.”
I had a lot of fun with this one, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of Lina Rather’s writing.
Trigger warnings: Death of family, illness
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