Nuns in space. In a living spaceship. Far from Earth and thus the Vatican and its influence. That is until the Sisters of the Order of Saint Rita on Our Lady of Impossible Constellations take on a young priest send to inform them about the Church’s newest doctrines. Faced with theological questions – should a consecrated spaceship be allowed to mate? –, the meddling presence of the Father from Earth and a sudden call for help from a colony suffering the outbreak of a deadly virus, the Sisters must come to terms with their personal struggles – past and present.
Normally I tend to avoid books that centre on any kind of religious topic, especially if the Church is involved. It’s just not a topic I’m comfortable with and novels with a strong religious (especially Christian) aspect are usually quite annoying to me. However, I was drawn to this novella because of the whole living spaceship/spacefaring nuns thing. I was just too curious to avoid Lina Rather’s “Sisters of the Vast Black” and I’m glad about that.
Yes, this is about nuns and as such it’s about theological stuff, but mostly it’s about ethics, about doing the right thing in the face of adversity and grey areas and about finding a way to live with what you’ve done. The Sisters are far away from the Vatican, so they have developed their own routines, found a balance between doctrines and their callings and a balance with each other. However, whatever peace they’ve found is soon threatened by various incidents and choices must be made – some influencing only their small community, others all of humanity.
What I liked most about this novella where its characters. The titular “Sisters of the Vast Black” are awesome and it’s amazing how much detailed characterization Lina Rather manages to get across on only 160 pages. Not only is the worldbuilding intriguingly done, the Sisters are such individual characters, each with her own wants and needs and totally distinct personality, that it was easy to get drawn into their story, to become emotionally involved in all that’s going on.
For me, Lina Rather’s “Sisters of the Vast Black” was a surprise. Yes, I had hoped for an entertaining novella, but hadn’t expected something so complex, so layered and so intriguing. However, the pacing is not as smooth as it could have been. There are some lengths in the story, while other scenes feel rushed. This, this was a fascinating read, one I enjoyed immensely and can wholeheartedly recommend!
For fans of …
- great characterisation
- short but intense stories
- Nuns! In space! Because that’s just a great concept
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