{Ebook Kindle ePUB} Nova by Samuel R. Delany by Samuel R. Delany


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Nova by Samuel R. Delany

These are at least some of the ways you can read NOVA as a fast action farflung interstellar adventure; as archetypal mysticalmythical allegory in which the Tarot and the Grail both figure prominently; as modern myth told in the S F idiom the reader observes recollects or participates in a range of personal experience including violent pain and disfigu. Nova A New Wave Grail uest space opera from the 1960sOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureNova is Samuel Chip Delany s 1968 space opera with mythicGrail uest overtones It is packed with different themes subtexts allegorical and cultural references and literary experiments and the young author just 25 years old is clearly a very talented intelligent and passionate writerBut I didn t enjoy it sadly While I thought Babel 17 was a very fast paced vivid and engaging space opera that centered on language and identity this book felt very turgid and forced Why you ask Well the author was determined to mold the story along the lines of a Grail uest Moby Dick and Jason and the Argonauts with the goal being a race to retrieve the super material Illyrion from the heart of a recently exploded nova in order to swing the balance of power in the universe between feuding aristocratic families So events in the story have to conform to this format and none of the actions of the characters rang true to meObsession greed revenge vying for supremacy I can understand those emotions But the actions of the characters both the principals and supporting cast don t seem to make much sense If this rag tag group of misfits was really determined to retrieve this material why the heck did Delany structure the story the way he did The first 10 15% of the book has Captain Lor Von Ray gathering together his crew and then for the next 50% of the book there is an overlong flashback of Lor s childhood and encounters with the rival Red family and his nemesis Prince Red and his beautiful but submissive sisterIt s good to build the backstory for why the characters have such animosity for each other but this section goes on far too long There is also a detailed side story about a young gypsy musician named Mouse a windbag intellectual named Katin who wants to try the long lost art of writing a novel a drawn out episode involving Tarot cards and how scientific they are and a seemingly aimless pit stop on a planet that results in a major confrontation that ends inconclusively By the time the mission to find the nova gets underway we re already 70% through the book Finally in the last 10% of the book the long awaited encounter with the nova develops into a thoroughly unbelievable standoff between the main characters This part made no sense to me whatsoeverThough the writing uality and language are consistently strong like Babel 17 I feel like this was wasted since the story s pacing was so interminable and the mythic undertones just didn t resonate with me I ve always felt that realistic character motivations and world building are far appealing than stories that try hard to be symbolic and archetypal Even within the book this dynamic is debated between the impulsive emotional Mouse and the dry intellectual Katin Unfortunately it seems that Katin has had a greater influence on the story than Mouse and I never trust a book where a character is writing a novel that doesn t yet have a subject You can see where that is headed a mile awayThere are certainly some fascinating cyborg aspects of the book that have clearly been influential on the Cyberpunk movement since characters have implants plugs that allow them to directly interface with sockets and operate all types of machinery Neuromancer anyone Even in Babel 17 I liked the fact that there was a huge databank of stored personalities that could be revived as discorporates But as should be clear now though Delany can spin off lots of neat SF ideas his real interests lie much in the literary direction Speaking of which his 1968 Hugo Award winner The Einstein Intersection is probably the most overtly allegorical of all his books but at least it is short which cannot be said of his massive and reportedly unreadable magnum opus Dhalgren

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Ied and exotic crew who sign up with Captain Lor van Ray know their mission is dangerous and they soon learn that they are involved in a deadly race with the charismatic but vicious leader of an opposing space federation But they have no idea of Lor's secret obsession to gather Illyrion at the source by flying through the very heart of an imploding sta. Direct seeming in the mythic way Nova still belies its modest page count bursting at its seams with Delany s muscular world building prowess How could it come to an end so uickly I thought with how full it is growing And Delany s world Constructed with an innate faith in the ability of his readers to keep up or perhaps simply not caring if they do Having only read Dhalgren prior to this I wasn t sure what to expect More of the same And that I did find in certain ways How he only half sketches out some aspects in concrete terms leaving the rest to be filled out in the reader s mind with the aid of abstract impressions I like this It scratches flint for the imagination How his outsider characters interact in unexpected ways how from strangers they grow close and support each other How he seems to relish showing us a good party How his keen class consciousness pervades the text And always his imagination glittering on the page even on the yellowed pages of this old paperback It was interesting to read this in parallel with Robert Sheckley s science fiction stories Delany s worlds so intricately textured and fully alien contrast sharply with those of Sheckley whose settings evoke Earth centric roots and often read as if they are but window dressing for their creator s social commentary The two could not be farther apart in style and yet I enjoyed both just in different ways But comparisons to Sheckley aside I won t rehash the storyline of Nova here as I don t see the point If you ve read Dhalgren you should enjoy this And if you have not this would certainly be a good precursor to that fine novel

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Rement sensory deprivation and overload man machine communion the drug experience the creative experience and inter personal relationships which include incest and assassination father son leader follower human pet and lots The balance of galactic power in the 31st century revolves around Illyrion the most precious energy source in the universe The var. Ah classic space opera futuristic setting oddball characters with oddball philosophies and ships and science well beyond what we ken Unlike a good deal of space opera Nova is not a doorstopper It is modest in length and in focus though not in scope The cast of characters is small but the events have large repercussion Captain Lor von Ray certainly has much in common with Captain Ahab and obsession is an important motif in Nova I hesitate to compare it to Moby Dick not because I think such a comparison is invalid but because I read Moby Dick once a long time ago and don t much remember it Instead I m going to grab hold of that space opera vibe and run with itFirst a caveat The term space opera is so hopelessly imprecise that you might not agree with how I m using it and that s OK Hopefully you still understand what I m saying about this form even if you don t agree with my label for itI have a special place in my heart for space opera above other forms of science fiction I want to attribute this in part to Dune which was one of the earliest science fiction novels I read Two problems Firstly Dune is of a planetary romance than a space opera Sure it has huge spaceships that cover vast interstellar distances in the blink of an eye But as the title implies the book is much about the planet than the space around it Secondly and importantly Dune is not the book that influenced my perception of space opera for all time that distinction belongs to The Hitchhiker s Guide to the GalaxyBut this isn t a review of h2g2 and perhaps one day I ll write a review explaining why I consider it my formative space opera experience For now let s return to Nova and Samuel R Delany s use of space opera Delany has divided humanity into a tripartite society based loosely on constellation Draco contains Earth and the richest planets in known space and it s home to Red shift Limited the sole manufacturer of faster than light drives and company owned by Prince Red the Pleidaes Federation is the home of operations for the rival Von Rays and its other rich families are the new money to Draco s old finally there are the Outer Colonies whose only attraction are the Illyrion mines and whose population consists mostly of working class people If you read this and start thinking class conflict then you are on the right trackThrough the expository conversations between the Mouse and Katin Delany explains how society has changed in the 1200 years that have elapsed between his time and theirs I loved these parts of Nova even when they seemed ancillary to the rest of the plot Katin reminds me a little of myself dismissive of the past yet simultaneously yearning for its philosophical renaissances Katin can t uite believe that we twentieth century folk were backward enough to doubt the accuracy of Tarot he expresses his joy that the elimination of disease has made personal hygiene unnecessary Delany neglects to address the problem of smell As a student of history he has taken the ultimate plunge of falling in love with an anachronistic literary form the novel Katin goes around making notes he has over twelve thousand of them now in preparation for his novel which he has not yet begun for lack of a subject It s good to see that despite other changes there will always be writers who perpetually procrastinate in their writing Despite his deferral of the task Katin remains obsessed with the idea of writing a novel of creating something from a dead art form And this obsession drives him forward to observe and take notes eventually bringing him to Lor von Ray s shipCaptain Lor von Ray is obsessed with diving into the heart of a nova to harvest Illyrion I think Delany should have said a supernova as they are not the same thing but I m not sure how well 1960s astrophysics differentiated between the two so we ll let that slide This MacGuffin substance is a group of stable transuranic elements that for reasons never explained are the key to faster than light travel Now you can synthesize Illyrion or you can mine it but both of these operations are expensive and inefficient Lor is convinced he can come out alive with enough Illyrion to flood the market Among other things this would devastate Red shift LimitedLor s motives for upsetting the careful euilibrium between the Reds and the Von Rays become clear in a series of flashbacks through which we see the enmity between Prince and Lor develop At first it seems like the incidents that incur Prince s ire are the result of misunderstandings The two family patriarchs do their best to inculcate friendship between Lor and Prince but it doesn t take And eventually it becomes clear that Prince is psychotic While this spoils some of the tragedy for me it adds an interesting dimension to the conflictAlthough Lor and Prince have a personal enmity their status as essentially modern aristocrats means this affects the fate of entire societies If Lor is successful not only will he crush Prince s company the Illyrion mines in the Outer Colonies will be obsolete over night Millions of workers will be displaced Prince or precisely Ruby asks Lor how he can do such a thing how he can damage the structure of society and create so much chaos Lor claims it is a matter of survival that he has to strike before Prince does But this is not a fairy tale and Lor is not Prince Charming come to rescue the princessThat princess Ruby Red intrigues me because she s such a weak character She seems to have no will of her own devoting herself instead to Prince and his schemes As the sister she always had the potential to bring Lor and Prince closer together or drive them apart Owing to Prince s psychotic tendencies it seems inevitable that it would be the latter any time Lor makes any kind of overture to Ruby real or imagined Prince goes berserk But as far as we can see Ruby never makes an attempt at reconciliation She takes Prince s hate for Lor and makes it her own to the point where should would murder suicide Lor if she had the chanceYour are not the only one with secrets Lor Prince and I have ours When you came up out of the burning rocks yes I thought Prince was dead There was a hollow tooth in my jaw filled with strychnine I wanted to give you a victory kiss I would have if Prince had not screamedDelany never explicitly codifies the relationship between Prince and Ruby Red so the extent of their closeness is open to interpretation I think it s significant however that whenever Lor talks about the search for a nova as a race he refers to his opponents as Prince and Ruby Red But when he talks about his enemy his rival the person he has to defeat he only mentions Prince And in the end not to spoil it I think that having to surrender this distinction is what defeats himFor a race it seems like Nova spends an awful lot of time dallying before finally arriving at the finish line Yet this might be an illusion caused by the brevity of the book I think the build up to the climax at the nova is the right length I just didn t expect it to end so abruptly We just get an epilogue in which we learn the fates of Lor and the rest of his expedition Delany never deals with the larger ramifications of Lor s planAnd unlike a lot of space opera Nova does not involve fantastic battles between massive armadas or invasions of entire solar systems Instead the entire book is a series of stories about individuals each with a different obsession whose paths converge and clash with conseuences beyond just the scope of their own lives More than that it s a presentation of a fascinating future burgeoning with so many good seeds of ideas that would later mature and flourish in other books both those by Delany and by future contributors to science fictionAlas because of this wealth of ideas Nova never delves into any of them with much depth Nevertheless I think I have not covered all that Nova has to offer a reader and I am not entirely happy with how I have discussed what I did cover True to my conception of space opera Delany has taken an adventuresome uest and married it to an intensely personal conflict between two larger than life characters Lor von Ray and Prince Red The result is a gem of a novel and like most gems this one has its share of flaws But that is OK and I still like it all the same


10 thoughts on “Nova by Samuel R. Delany

  1. says:

    flawed but heroic space captain on a mission that is part vengeance and part noble uest assembles a disparate crew to fly through a nova this is Samuel R Delany so that synopsis just barely scratches the surface I'm going t

  2. says:

    “NOVA” – ueen sings – Ahhh AhhhhReading this I could not help thinking about the 1980 Mike Hodges film Flash Gordon starring Max von Sydow and Sam Jones Many critics and reviewers have used the term “space opera” to label and describe Samuel Delaney’s imaginative Hugo nominated 1968 science fiction novel and I think I will join those ranksWikipedia defines “space opera as follows Space opera is a sub g

  3. says:

    Nova A New Wave Grail uest space opera from the 1960sOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureNova is Samuel Chip Delany's 1968 space opera with mythicGrail uest overtones It is packed with different themes subtexts allegorical and cultural references and literary experiments and the young author just 25 years old is clearly a very talented intelligent and passionate writerBut I didn't enjoy it sadly While I thought Babel 17 was a very fast

  4. says:

    Finished a reread of Samuel R Delany's Nova for my reading group I'll post a longer review later but for nowNova is considered by some critics as the last of Delany's early period lesser novels I think it is the first of his masterpieces insofar as he fully embraces what will become a trademark in the next several Dhalgren Trouble On Triton and all the Neveryon books ending with Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand

  5. says:

    Nova does not cease telling you how clever it is It does this with plenty of the goobledigook that can mar any narrative sci fi or not First the neologisms meant to indicate that the writer really thought through his futuristic wor

  6. says:

    Ah classic space opera futuristic setting oddball characters with oddball philosophies and ships and science well beyond what we ken Unlike a good deal of space opera Nova is not a doorstopper It is modest in length and in focus though not in scope The cast of characters is small but the events have large repercussion Captain Lor

  7. says:

    For those of you unfamiliar with Delany let me explain to you what it's like reading one of his novels And Delany is a clever PLUS so I think there should be way raving about him than there is I don't uite hear enoughHere's the blurb they give youThe balance of galactic power in the 31st century revolves around Illyrion the most precious energy source in the universe The varied and exotic crew who sign up with Captain

  8. says:

    Sprung from pirates reeling blind in fire I am called pirate murderer thiefKudos to Delany for writing in 1968 one of the first space opera stories with real substance and serious cultural and sociological underpi

  9. says:

    Direct seeming in the mythic way Nova still belies its modest page count bursting at its seams with Delany's muscular world building prowess How could it come to an end so uickly I thought with how full it is growing And Delany's world Constructed with an innate faith in the ability of his readers to keep up or perhaps simply not caring if they do Having only read Dhalgren prior to this I wasn't sure what to expect More of the

  10. says:

    A grizzled young captain and his ragtag crew go on the biggest and deadliest refueling trip in history Stakes entire galactic econom

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