Title: Sisters of the Vast Black
Author: Lina Rather
Blurb: Years 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 own.
When 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.
This space opera novella delves into the daily lives of a group of Catholic nuns who travel around in a living spaceship, visiting colonies and space stations and the like. And if that sounds like a boring premise, you’re wrong.
Despite the short length, the author manages to squeeze in a redemption story, a lesbian love story, a story about a living spaceship making up its own mind for once, and a story about the political struggle between a cruel central Earth government and the societies beyond Earth that just want to be free to rule themselves.
The main POV characters in the story are all well developed and interesting in their own way. The plot follows fairly traditional action beats, culminating in a tense and exciting climax. And the world-building is extremely rich yet simultaneously believable (minus, perhaps, the living spaceships).
In short, if you’re on the hunt for a good, short sci-fi read, I highly recommend Sisters of the Vast Black. It reads like a short entry into a very well-conceptualized world, one I hope the author decides to visit again in the future.