The Sisters Of The Order Of Saint Rita Captain Their Living Ship Into The Reaches Of Space In Lina Rather S Debut Novella, Sisters Of The Vast BlackYears Ago, Old Earth Sent Forth Sisters And Brothers Into The Vast Dark Of The Prodigal Colonies Armed Only With Crucifixes And Iron Faith Now, The Sisters Of The Order Of Saint Rita Are On An Interstellar Mission Of Mercy Aboard Our Lady Of Impossible Constellations, A Living, Breathing Ship Which Seems Determined To Develop A Will Of Its OwnWhen The Order Receives A Distress Call From A Newly Formed Colony, The Sisters Discover That The Bodies And Souls In Their Care And That Of The Galactic Diaspora Are In Danger And Not From Void Beyond, But From The Nascent Central Governance And The Church Itself We should go because I would want someone to come for us We re all just scattered, lonely specks out here, unless we try to be We shouldn t be brutal just because the universe is The sisters of the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations live a life of austerity and piousness aboard their living ship and they face decision points that threaten their internal and external way of life, bringing relief to the pockets of humanity scattered about the vast black.I don t know what it is, but this is the second book about queer nuns in space that I ve read this month And I loved both books This one is very much a bleak dystopian of humankind after the nuclear holocaust, when those who left Earth tried to break away from those who stayed, and the aftermath of that struggle It s a book of choices and sacrifice, of centralized government and decentralized command, of second chances and trying to make the world a better place Of theology and humanity Of small worlds intersecting with a larger one, and small actions beating rapidly into something much, much bigger Of insignificant and significant consequences.It s also vaguely a biohorror book The sisters live inside a living creature, and some of the descriptions of the ship made me not want to eat ever again, along with descriptions of the many diseases plaguing humankind in this brave new world.All of the sisters had their own motivations and desires, and for the most part felt real at least the ones who were given page time others felt like names on pages I did like the deep mystery involving the Mother Superior, and the idea that every single sister had a past that informed and influenced her present.Anywho, this was a very bad review, but the book was enjoyable If you enjoyed Kameron Hurley s The Stars Are Legion or other hard ish sci fi stories, try this one out.I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review. Nunsinspaaaaaaaaaace Sorry about that, but it had to be said Now that I ve got that out of my system, don t let the idea put you off Lina Rather s novella about a ship of nuns doing good works, but interested in helping people in need than depositing Bibles around the outer colonies is just plain good space opera Full review available Oct 1, 2019 This was a really interesting read The representation of a religious institution and how it can be commandeered by government was really fascinating I loved the living ship concept and liked how the characters had to discuss the sentience of the vessel And I loved the LGBT relationship, it was very sweet As interesting as it was though, I think it could have benefited from being longer The living ship idea ended without a satisfying conclusion of sentience it s just like a flying space cow that people travel in, without rights of its own The characters could have been fleshed out, which is not to say I didn t like them I did, I just would have liked to get to know them better The twist is one that I saw coming halfway through, but it was still a cool idea.Overall cool ideas, could ve been longer Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC. Note I received this as a free ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.Sisters of the Vast Black has space nuns, deadly plagues, dementia and romance, and, oh yeah, living spaceships that can get pregnant and have baby spaceships Need I say It s everything I didn t know I needed in a sci fi novella Every page is perfectly crafted and honed down I m absolutely astounded This novella is so quality, it should be curriculum for creative writing classes Wow. I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty gritty Nuns on a galactic mission to heal and offer comfort are forced to make some hard decisions in this stunning and thoroughly original science fiction adventure.I had no idea what to expect when I started reading Sisters of the Vast Black, touted as nuns in space by the publisher But it didn t take long to come to the conclusion that I was going to adore Lina Rather s unique world, filled with interesting world building ideas, living, breathing characters, and even some unexpected nail biting action This is another novella that felt just right to me just the right length, a perfect blend of character development, action and mystery, and just enough emotional depth to hook me good.The Order of Saint Rita is on a mission to bring spiritual support and healing to the colonists scattered throughout the galaxy, after a devastating war made Old Earth an unfit place to live Now the Reverend Mother and her Sisters travel from colony to colony aboard a living ship called Our Lady of Impossible Constellations But their comfortable and predictable lives are about to change Sister Faustina receives a distressing message from the Pope stating that the church will soon be sending a priest to board their ship to manage their day to day lives, and that Central Governance will be watching and guiding their every move After years of freedom in the black, Sister Faustina knows nothing good can come from this, and so she keeps the message a secret.At the same time, several other events are unfolding The Reverend Mother is starting to show signs of mental decline, and the Sisters fear that if anyone in power finds out, they will remove her from the ship And Sister Gemma, whose main responsibility is to care for Our Lady, discovers that it has imprinted on another ship and wants to mate with it in order to fertilize it s latest clutch of eggs Because the ship is considered a holy vessel, the Sisters aren t sure what to do Let nature take its course and allow it to mate Or deny it the freedom to act on impulse to ensure it remains a consecrated vessel When the Sisters get word of a deadly ringeye breakout in a nearby moon colony, they know they must help in any way they can But Central Governance doesn t want them to help and will do anything to stop them.That s about all the recap I m willing to give you, so as not to spoil the story There is so much to love about Sisters of the Vast Black, but let s start with my favorite part of the story, the living ship I ve read other living ship stories, but what makes this one so special are all the scientific details about how ships are bred and grown, and how the Sisters take care of it I loved reading about baby ships almost tadpole like in their egg sacs being raised in farms and sent out into the world to be used as actual ships I never actually got a sense of what the ship looked like, but it felt like some big, lumbering beast, like a giant cow Rather describes the feeling of living inside the ship, listening to its never ending heartbeat, hearing the blood pump through its arteries, touching its moss covered walls and feeling it breathe It was both intimate and magical And let s just say there is a mesmerizing scene of the two ships having sex yes, you read that right that blew me away with its beauty.Rather s nuns are a wonderful group who love and support each other, although there is friction from time to time We know from the start that Sister Gemma is hiding a big secret and is being pulled in two directions Should she follow her heart Or stay with her family where she can continue to do good Making her decision even harder is the fact that she and Sister Lucia are working together to develop a vaccine against the dreadful ringeye virus, using tissue samples from the ship s immune system Leaving the ship means she won t get to finish her research And then there s the Reverend Mother, a woman who took a vow of silence forty three years ago although no one on board knows why and is slowly being crushed by the big secret she s been keeping all these years I really loved her backstory and everything that happens when her shocking secret is finally revealed.I also loved Rather s beautiful writing, simple yet evocative Because the Sisters spend so much of their time eating rations on the ship, the times when they get to mingle with other people and try new foods were delightful The author s descriptions of an alcoholic drink called honey wine, for example, had me salivating
She swallowed another mouthful and this time the honey came to the fore, sugar and muskiness coating the inside of her mouth She had tasted real wine only rarely, and had never understood the words in the old cookbooks and romantic novels that came across the relays Oakey or dry or soil tasting This was sweet, then warm, then bitter in the back of her mouth, gently encouraging her to take another sip for the sweetnessRather brings up such weighty subjects as how religion is used to control people, but she incorporates it seamlessly without bogging down the story Certainly her characters are strong enough to think for themselves and make good choices, and even during some tense scenes where I worried about their fate, I never gave up hope that Gemma, Lucia and the rest would do the right thing.The novella ends in such a way that suggests Rather has many stories about these characters to tell, and I ll admit I will be devastated if she isn t already writing a sequel This is a quick but immersive story that is one of my favorite novellas of the year.Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.This review originally appeared on Books, Bones Buffy Sisters of the Vast Black is a spinning jewel in the dark expanse of spec fic It doesn t however rely on trying to blow your hair back with pyrotechnics and lasers on every page.Instead it gives you carefully crafted characters and then makes you care DEEPLY about them Oh also some weird af bioengineering, queer romance and a galaxy spanning threatso theres that too This book tells the story of the intermingled lives of the sisterhood even as forces beyond their control are starting to disentangle them from the community they ve formed within the pulsing flesh walls of their ship.Rather weaves this all together much like a biomesh shipwright and gives us a beautifully encapsulated story in which to voyage into an intriguing new universe.You can and SHOULD preorder this book right now Why because it really helps authors And you re gonna get it anyway so Read this review, along with other Sci Fi Fantasy reviews at The Quill To Live I ve never been a religious person by any stretch of the imagination Our family only went to church on Christmas, and that was about it As a result, finding myself excited about the prospect of the Catholic Church in space was a weird experience for me Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather scratched an itch I didn t know I had ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley Rather wrote an engaging novel about a small group of nuns learning the meaning of their faith in a galaxy reluctant to embrace the larger Catholic Church.Sisters of the Vast Black takes place on a living ship, Our Lady of Impossible Constellations, and follows the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita as they travel to a new colony in distress Along the way, they deal with adapting earthly church doctrine to spacefaring life in big ways and small The Catholic Church, defeated years ago along with Earth in a war for control of the space born colonies, is resurgent and willing to test its new sense of power and reach The sisters of the Order begin to feel the influence from the Church themselves, causing them to question their faith Individuals secrets are brought into the light as pressure starts to mount and their loyalty to each other and the church is tested The story itself meandered a little for the first half of the book It didn t feel like it had a lot of direction, and the narrative often takes a backseat to the worldbuilding This isn t necessarily a bad thing, but since it is a novella I was a little worried about where the story was going to end up Fortunately, Rather pulls it in for a tighter second half She uses everything she explored in the first half to hone in on the characters individual stories as they grapple with the tightening control from the Church and reignition of war Any concerns I had about losing the thread were washed away in the succinct but open ending that focused on individual faith in the shadow of the Catholic Church The narrative s success depended on the characters themselves Rather takes the time to develop the characters by giving them a weight that makes them relatable I found myself enmeshed in their lives with the day to day of maintaining the ship instead of waiting for something to rock the boat so to speak The daily repetitive tasks and the small conversations about church doctrine and coming changes helped to build the identity of the characters quickly without throwing a quick succession of events at the reader The hushed ways they whispered to each other about their lives, or rumors they have heard built a sense of community among them that set them apart from the world they inhabited It was a really nice touch that made me care about who they were as people instead of just pieces to move the story along The real star of the book, for me, was the setting The world Rather created was subtle yet incredibly enticing Not only did the church feel important to the characters, it felt like a living presence within the solar system There was a history that felt raw and immediate, like an open wound that had not been properly tended Rather wrote a distinct lack of finality to everything that made the world really come alive There was also a lot of understated interplay between the characters and the setting, making the characters feel present within the world while also being very affected by it I think that without the deft handling of the setting and its effects on the people living in it, this book would have fallen short Sisters of the Vast Black is unfortunately brief, but it packs a punch The themes of sin and redemption are cleverly explored through the characters and the world Rather s sense of history and ability to portray the longstanding effects of past events is admirable I want of this world, of the people living inside it, finding their way in the dark I want to watch it change in the small subtle ways that mirror the real world Needless to say, I recommend Sisters of the Vast Black especially if you re looking for something a little different that feels human at heart, and otherworldly in scope.Rating Sisters of the Vast Black 8.0 10 Speculative short and flash fiction author Lina Rather s Sisters of the Vast Black is a novella about nuns, from the Order of St Rita patron of lost and impossible causes, illness, wounds, abuse, and mothers who are traveling in space aboard the Our Lady of Impossible Constellations That s right, nuns in space Yeah, I had to get my hands on this one Just as American nuns have gained a radical and progressive reputation, the nuns of Our Lady of Impossible Constellations seek the moral high ground and will oppose the establishment whenever it seems warranted Thwarting a dastardly plan to depopulate planets seems to fit the bill of something the nuns would consider warranting opposition, maybe even a bit of insurrection This novella is a fast, imaginative, and engaging read I m curious to see what Lina Rather comes up with next, as she continues her foray into longer works I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Unique and Thought provoking I m not sure what I expected, but as a lapsed Catholic who spent some time in a convent, I found the descriptions of the relationships in this onboard convent to be quite realistic The live ship concept was wonderfully portrayed Perhaps the most interesting relationship was the one between the central earth government and the arm of the Vatican that governed the religious order on the live ship The issue of government, power, and religion as explored in a crisis situation here emphasized the importance of the individual conscience, and made for extremely interesting reading even though the story was quite short I would be very interested in following these concepts in a series of books Definitely worth the very small amount of money that was required to buy this novella, highly recommended. Nuns in space this manages to pack a good amount of backstory has a very likable cast of characters I feel like I could keep reading in this universe, either before or after the events of the story My heart was STOLEN by the biological spaceship though so beautiful I think the last 15% moved a little quickly, but that seems to be a Thing with novellas A few other elements weren t to my tastes enough to make it a favorite, but it s a lovely, hopeful piece of science fiction with a core cast of women.
- 176 pages
- Sisters of the Vast Black
- Lina Rather
- 11 April 2019 Lina Rather