You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than in the cast of Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry. This book features a motley cast consisting a magical unicorn-man, three humans, and a team of spaceship-dwelling dwarves. Also, the pilot wants to kill the unicorn. While the characters of this book certainly stand out, the plot also takes unpredictable turns as it careens down seemingly the simplest of plots: get from point A to point B.
All of the inhabitants of the Space Unicorn Blues universe comes from fantasy, but they’re also aliens. The creatures of human myth – such as unicorns – really have been aliens attempting to contact humanity. However, the humans have discovered that the aliens have special powers: most importantly than unicorn horn can power faster-than-light spaceships. In a highly inventive volume, fantasy crashes into science fiction and creates chaos.
Surprisingly enough, it all knits together pretty smoothly. Unicorns can heal nearly any wound and their horns (once shaved off) can be thrown into engines and used as fuel aboard stoneships. Other mythological creatures have superpowers, too. Dryads control nature, fairies can fly, dwarves are master mechanics, and the Greys (you know, those aliens you see in most alien movies) act as all powerful administrators. Yes, unicorn horn is just tossed into the ship’s fuel tank, but only aboard special vessels called stoneships, which are rocks with ecosystems inside that act as a kind of living engine.
Our hero, Gary Cobalt, just wants to live in peace, but a totalitarian intergalactic human government has strict rules about unicorns and other mythological creatures’ rights. Gary is half-unicorn, half-human (his mom got pregnant by magic) so he has a horn and hooves, but everything else looks human. Gary finishes up his ten-year prison sentence for murder, and immediately goes on the run from government officials who want to exploit his horn by teaming up with murderous thugs Jenny Perata and Cowboy Jim who framed him in the first place.
Weirdness coats this story like fudge on a sundae. Sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Veteran fans of space opera (especially the late Iain M. Banks) should devour it. I have many food similes when I write before breakfast. Unicorns eat bones, by the way, and that’s how their horns grow. Gross, right? Throw in the fact that everyone in the universe either hates Gary or worships him, and the result toes the line with melodrama. But, hey, that’s space opera, kids. Genre fans will love the wonderfully sugary strangeness here, but some might find it off-putting.
Pick up a copy of Space Unicorn Blues for the strangest read all summer, but be warned that it’s pretty immersive. Everything about Space Unicorn Blues feels incredibly well-built and solid. It’s a delight for space opera junkies, but fans of harder sci-fi might find it a little too silly.
Rating: Three stars out of five.
Favorite quote: “Bump your sarcasm level by seventy percent and up your belligerence by the same.”