Home > Genre, scifi > Book Review: Nova by Samuel R. Delany (Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge)

Book Review: Nova by Samuel R. Delany (Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge)

Spaceship above a red planet.Summary:
Lorq von Ray is the head of one of the biggest corporations in the galaxy that for years has worked hand-in-hand with the Red corporation, currently headed by incestuous brother/sister partners Prince and Ruby.  But now internal fighting between the two has made von Ray determined to find his corporation’s own supply of Illyrion, normally supplied by the Reds.  He’s heard rumors you can fly through the center of a nova (an imploding star) and survive and that Illyrion is inside.  He gathers an unlikely crew in a race against the clock to gather the fuel.

I really wish I could remember what made me acquire this book.  The cover was nothing special, and the summary on the back said approximately diddly-squat about the actual plot (unlike my own).  Supposedly this book took years and tons of research into the Tarot and the Holy Grail, yadda yadda.  Fine.  All I know is that it was boring as fuck with a plot like it was written by a fifth grader.

One of my updates on GoodReads said, “Reading this book is like going to the dentist,” and I still think that’s the most apt review of it.  The plot drags, which is shocking for such a short novel.  We learn an astonishing amount of backstory about the Mouse, who is a minor character, but not a ton about Prince and Ruby Red, who are far more essential to the plot.  We don’t learn the backstory for the plugs everyone wears until the book is almost over, when plugs are key to the story.  A set of black twins work on the ship with one mysteriously albino for no apparent plot reason, and they operate as one person finishing each other’s sentences.  Their whole characterization really bumped my racism button.  Yes, I know this is an old book, but still.  We also have the annoying novelist member of the crew, who is such an obvious Mary Sue it’s painful.  And I don’t throw around the term Mary Sue willy-nilly.  Come on.  The guy is a novelist trying to write a Holy Grail book. *blinks*

The amateurish exposition consists mainly of long speeches by various characters.  The plot saving device of a miracle machine that can fix almost all wounds appears part-way through the story.  The whole thing would get maybe a C from me in a creative writing class. Maybe.

The only thing that keeps this book from one star is that it does, in fact, have a plot and is readable.  Of course, I can’t for the life of me figure out anyone who would want to read this if they knew what they were getting themselves into.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

Buy It

  1. January 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Oh dear, memo to self: avoid this book hehe 😛

    • January 19, 2012 at 5:45 am

      Hey I attempt to save others pain 😉

  2. January 18, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Interesting. All I’ve read by him is a memoir and I remember enjoying it, though as biography it clearly didn’t have the same kind of plot issues that this does. I know he has a cult following though and did always intend to read some of his fiction but…maybe…not? Lol. No big loss.

    • January 19, 2012 at 12:31 am

      Oh man this got nominated for a Nebula award, and all I could think was the nominators were on drugs…..

  3. Michael Gage
    November 2, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Samuel Delany was my favorite SF author until he dropped out of my reading universe and dedicated himself to writing homoerotic stories. I re-read Nova every few years. Perhaps, because I’m a scientist, I more easily read between Delany’s lines. Every book he writes teaches us about something central to being human; slavery, self, communication, the universality of mythos, that space, time, and reality are not linear, but circular, and that we only perceive a four dimensional shadow of our fifteen dimension universe. After having read more than 4000 books, I find I can push through the boring passages without losing respect for a book or its author. I prefer a 60’s SF novel to another 21st century story about young, beautiful vampires.
    Opinion: A bored reader is a boring person. Perhaps, the reviewer is too narrow in their interests, and their understanding of the world, to ‘get’ Samuel Delany.

    • November 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Yeah….because every time someone is bored, it’s the reader’s fault, not the author’s! #drippingsarcasm

      I also find it fascinating that a “scientist” so loves a book based on the Tarot.

      Similarly, nice avoidance of the racism issues.

      Finally, nice touch with that subtly hidden homophobia. Really set the tone for the whole comment.

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