This review was first published by Booklist in August 2019.
There is a rift among the humans who have spread throughout the galaxy: a divide between those who embrace genetic and technological enhancements to their bodies and those who reject them. The unenhanced lost a war and were exiled into the depths of space. Centuries later, they’re back and intent on destroying those who would pollute human purity. Now the fate of humanity depends on a new military officer with something to prove, a pirate and her crew, a plucky princess, a condemned criminal, and an obnoxious living legend and his companion AI. Birmingham’s series starter has everything going for it: interesting characters, immersive world building, a believable backstory, high-stakes conflict, visceral action, and credible villains. It’s exciting and funny with just the right amount of tension and violence. This is what military space opera should be. Even the slightly contrived climax does not take away from the satisfying conclusion. The Cruel Stars is sure to be popular with military-science-fiction readers and fans of James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series.