cover image The Cruel Stars

The Cruel Stars

John Birmingham. Del Rey, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-399-59331-4

Birmingham’s gripping near-future novel launches readers into a genocidal interstellar war amid sudden violence and dark humor. A long-exiled radical human group bent on killing any “impure” humans with genetic or mechanical modifications has executed a massive strike against the rest of human culture’s defenses and elites. Standing in its way are one military ship with a new captain, a band of pirates, a bodiless criminal, a 12-year-old princess, and a legend. Birmingham alternates between gut punches and laugh-out-loud humor, with some gore and thought-provoking philosophy thrown in for good measure. Every character is a presence, including the villains, who are disturbingly convincing in believing their actions are for the good of all. Plenty of twists, sharp turns, and fateful encounters will keep readers guessing and turning pages. This jarring, engrossing story of a species-wide fight for survival is recommended for all science fiction readers. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Aug.)