Nova

by Samuel R. Delany (1968)

5/10

I feel 2.5-y about this one but I’m rounding up in consideration of the inventive premise and impressive scientific knowledge on display. They make it a marginally better book than just “OK.” The story of a wealthy scion-turned-pirate hunting the mysterious and priceless Illyrion in the middle of an exploding star is intriguing, but its execution is middling and off-putting.

There’s too much expositional dialogue and not enough character development. Actions and motivations are described obliquely, often with mystifying results. I still don’t understand why the two main characters acted the way they did, nor why our “pirate” Lorq Von Ray was supposedly committing an immoral action. Seems like securing a basically infinite supply of Illyrion for his home federation would be a good, inherently worthy act. So why all the angst around it?

I did like Mouse but wish he had been given more to do, or at least more time in the driver’s seat of the narrative. I would normally say that the book could have used some more weight to develop Mouse and Von Ray more fully, but in this case I don’t think it would have helped — Delany probably would have simply spent more time on fantastic settings and annoying dialogue.

I’m going to read more of him — Dhalgren is on my to-read list and I’ll seek out more based on how much I like it. But if the execution isn’t much better than this I don’t think I’ll waste more time, despite the clear brilliance of the writer and his ideas. At least the writing is better than Asimov’s! But the content. . . not quite as iconic.

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