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Old 23-04-2012, 09:33 AM
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Dave Bradley Dave Bradley is offline
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Default Book Club 77: Nova

Hi everybody

In SFX 224 novelist Gareth L Powell will be writing about Samuel Delany's Nova.

Wikipedia entry


The deadline for your remarks is Thursday 17 May 2012.

Have fun! Thanks, Dave
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Old 23-04-2012, 09:59 AM
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hammard hammard is offline
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Default Re: Book Club 77: Nova

Oh, look forward to this one. I adore Delany but have yet to read this one.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:37 AM
Barsoom Barsoom is offline
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Default Re: Book Club 77: Nova

Samuel Delaney is one of those writers I think I ought to like, but when I actually pick up one of his books I find myself skimming through it to the end.

His books are critically acclaimed, have vivid characters and inventive use of language...and leave me utterly indifferent. Sorry.
Everything I say is a lie
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Old 11-05-2012, 09:13 PM
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hammard hammard is offline
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Default Re: Book Club 77: Nova

Absolutely loved it!

In many ways this is textbook Delaney, so if you like him, you probably will, if you don't you probably won't. There's the troubled musician, the unknowability of the universe, the mysticism, the journey, the allegorical characters e.t.c.. True it doesn't have lots of sex, but I prefer it that way.

I had not read this book before but I was familiar with it because of the famous controversy around it. This was because John W Campbell did not want to serialise it on the grounds that his readers would not be able to relate to a black main character*. When I actually got to reading this I was very surprised at how little reference there is to this fact. Lorq is at one point referred to as being half-Senegalese (and half-Norweigan), Mouse is described as having Brown fingers and another character as having skin like an Emperor Grape (which I don't know what colour that is). That is all apart from a few surnames. Growing up watching Red Dwarf, Men In Black and Deep Space Nine, I'm not sure whether I should it Quaint, Insane or Horrific that anyone could object to it. It becane a best seller and the critics nominated it for a hugo (no one related to it there!)

*As an aside, does anyone know if this was the inspiration for the DS9 episode Far Beyond the Stars?

The book does one of my favourite things which is constantly change your understanding of what the story is about. The flashback feels like it drags a bit when it first starts but it comes together when around page 100, you suddenly understand the Draco-Pleiades rivalry and the nature of Illyrion. Then again towards the end.

Throughout the feel changes as well. The first act is an anecdote which helps us to understand the society into which Lorq is living. The second act is a very mystical quest, particularly reflecting on the Tarot (but never whether or not it is real). The Final act is a thrilling personal battle between the piratical Lorq and the corporatist\aristocratic Red.

I could keep raving about how much all the different elements work together but I would probably come off sounding pretentious. So instead I'll just say it is ingenius and brilliant read right up until the end. I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to give you the very end (but just in case you're squeamish I'll white out):
In talking about writing a Grail quest story (which no writer has properly finished)
I want to I really do. But I'd be fighting a dozen jinxes from the start, Mouse. Maybe I could. But I don't think so. The only way to protect myself from the jinx, I guess, would be to abandon it before I finish the last
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Old 16-05-2012, 11:26 PM
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ptahotep ptahotep is offline
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Default Re: Book Club 77: Nova

A good read. I prefered Nova to its immediate predecessor in Delany's oevre, The Einstein Intersection, which was an earlier Book Club selection.
Delany visited the Mediterranean in 1965/6 and the influence of the trip can be seen in both books. However, I felt that Nova is the book that displays the influence of that trip most strongly; is Mouse based on someone Delany met in Istanbul?
Katin is clearly Delany's avatar within the narrative, though Mouse and Lorq Von Ray play a more central role. Nevertheless, Katin is used as the authorial mouthpiece when elements of commentary are called for.
A few inconsistencies grated: during an aside about hygene having become irrelevant since communicable disease had been irrelevant a point is made about someone from the past being horrified to see Mouse eat using his foot having not washed it. However, later, it is suggested that people no longer eat as they did in the past but take all sustenance, bar alcoholic drink, intravenously.
Dodgy science aside (whirlpool nebula treated as navigational hazards though they were known to be galaxies forty years before, fortune telling works and odd properties of trans-uranic elements to name but a few) this is a thoroughly recommendable book.
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Old 17-05-2012, 10:21 AM
turing cop turing cop is offline
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Wink Re: Book Club 77: Nova

Samuel Delany's writing has always fascinated me. On the one hand he is an extraordinarily sensual writer. Reading Nova or his short story 'The Star Pit' is like taking a hit from a subcutaneous intoxicant. His futures dazzle your nerves and emotions. In the 'Star Pit' you feel his narrator's dejection at being confined within a mere galaxy - a galaxy!

But Delaney is an unapologetic intellectual who uses SF as a means of exploring identity and language. In his novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand he hit on the brilliantly simple conceit of conveying a life in a civilization in which gender is differently coded by shifting the function of the masculine and feminine pronouns. In this post-gender world everyone is 'she' or 'a woman' regardless of sex, while 'he' is reserved for any human/alien object of sexual desire. Reading Stars encourages you to think of gender as a cultural virus rather than destiny or "nature" . Delany re-engineered ideas about the way language mediates our thought current in critical theory and post-structuralism and bodied them in an (alien) flesh we can read as our own. With his path breaking exploration of queer identity, this suffices to make him one of the most important (and underrated) political writers of our time.

It's been a long time since my first adolescent reading Nova but I remember being utterly seduced by the sensory detail and complexity of its star-faring future. I didn't get the sophisticated games with language on first reading, but the colour and difficulty of his world was unlike anything I'd encountered in the ascetic utopias of Asimov or Clark. Also Delany's work had none of the Oxbridge male ennui that afflicted even the greatest of British New Wavers. It was hard SF with Starships, alien skies and cyborgs; reconstructed for a poly-sexual heterotopia. Without Delaney, there'd be no Gibson, Sterling and no Iain M. Banks. He could be more important than all of those figures.
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents"

Last edited by turing cop; 17-05-2012 at 10:42 AM.
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