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Nova Paperback – June 11, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[Nova] reads like Moby-Dick at a strobe-light show!” —Roger Sale, Time Magazine

“Here are (at least some of) the ways you can read Nova: As fast-action far-flung interstellar adventure; as archetypal mystical/mythical allegory (in which the Tarot and the Grail both figure prominently); as modern myth told in the SF idiom . . . The reader observes, recollect, or participates in a range of personal human experience including violent pain and disfigurement, sensory deprivation and overload, man-machine communion, the drug experience, the creative experience—and interpersonal relationships which include incest and assassination, father-son, leader-follower, human-pet, and lots more.” —Judith Merrill, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

“Samuel R. Delany is the most interesting author of science fiction writing in English today.” —Gerald Jonas, New York Times Book Review

“Samuel R. Delany, right now, as of this book, Nova, not as of some future book or some accumulated body of work, is the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense. I don’t see how a science fiction writer can do more than wring your heart while explaining how it works. No writer can. The special thing that science fiction does is to first credibly place the heart in an unconventional environment. A particular thing that recent science fiction has been doing is to make that unconventional environment a technological one. Another has been to make it a romantic one, sometimes calling it an intensely humanistic one . . . All of these things are accomplished in Nova.” —A.J. Budrys, Galaxy Magazine
“One of the most complete and fully realized pictures of an interstellar society that I have ever read.” —Norman Spinrad, Science Fiction Times

From the Inside Flap

Given that the suns of Draco stretch almost sixteen light years from end to end, it stands to reason that the cost of transportation is the most important factor of the 32nd century. And since Illyrion is the element most needed for space travel, Lorq von Ray is plenty willing to fly through the core of a recently imploded sun in order to obtain seven tons of it. The potential for profit is so great that Lorq has little difficulty cobbling together an alluring crew that includes a gypsy musician and a moon-obsessed scholar interested in the ancient art of writing a novel. What the crew doesn't know, though, is that Lorq's quest is actually fueled by a private revenge so consuming that he'll stop at nothing to achieve it. In the grandest manner of speculative fiction, Nova is a wise and witty classic that casts a fascinating new light on some of humanity's oldest truths and enduring myths.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375706704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375706707
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Forbes on June 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have a feeling this is going to be my summer of Delany. I read Nova on the heels of his short story collection Aye, and Gomorrah and the virtues that I found in that collection are also to be found in this novel in spades. Delany writes with an attention to detail, prose and character that is astounding, and in doing so he creates a scifi world that is truly natural and lacks the self-consciousness of much of the genre.
Nova is to be compared with the great works of literature, both in theme and achievement. The story centers around a reckless quest by starship captain Lorq Von Ray, a figure reminiscent of Melville's Ahab in his oversized dimensions and emotional complexity. Von Ray hires a crew of "cyberstuds", men who interface with machines to navigate the vast distances between the worlds of their interspace confederation. The mission is to enter a sun as it novas, during the first few hours, to gather an element that is used as the basis of space travel. The element is mined on planets, but rarely found. However, in the core of a sun during a nova, the element is found in great abundance. As the quest continues though, Von Ray's darker obsessions become evident and the tale plumbs deeper themes of revenge, political freedom and the search for the Holy Grail.
From the outset of the novel, Delany captures you with the originality of his prose style and the deeper resonance of his characters. Most of the tale is told through the eyes of a gypsy musician, the Mouse and his friend Katin, who is collecting notes for a novel he is destined not to write. These characters are fully drawn, but set up parallels to Melville's Ishmael and Quee Queg. Von Ray is introduced carefully, first by reputation, as an old mad former crewman in a bar describes him. The ties to Coleridge are unmistakable.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I consider Nova to be one of Delany's best works. While written comparatively early in his career (1968), it shows maturity in handling of both language and character. The narrator, the Mouse, is Delany's typical nail biting, one shoed foot outsider from civilization (gypsy like, in this case), who, while intriguing in his own right, makes an excellent contrast to Prince Red, spoiled, rich, and equipped with an artificial hand that he is extremely sensitive about, and Captain Lorq von Ray. The plot is near space opera, with a race to visit a star in the first stages of nova to collect trans- uranic elements, commonly referred to as Illyrion, that are the power basis of the stellar economy, and also the basis for the high level political/corporate battle. Illyrion is also used to power one of the most unique gadgets I have come across in SF, the sensory- syrynx, which can produce music (or any type of sound), moving holographic images, and scents, all under the control of a single player. This instrument figures prominently in the final climatic scene where Prince gets his just dues. The book also introduces the idea of socket inserts in humans, allowing anyone to plug into any machine and control the machine as an extension of his body.
But beyond the simple, near-cliched plot line lies a deeper level of meaning, when each of the characters, gadgets, and indeed even the portrayed socioeconomic structure is viewed as a symbol or metaphor for larger items. Careful reading and thinking about this book will reward the reader with some unexpected insights into courage, environment versus heredity, the use and abuse of power, the influence of 'little people' on the course of history, and many other items.
His control of language is illustrated by this quote:
He was an old man.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
It seems extraordinary that this seminal novel should be out of print. Perhaps Delany is out of fashion, or maybe readers have beeen put off by the reputation produced by books like Dhalgren that he is hard to read.
Nova is a giddy dash across a shiny future civilisation where economic forces are about to act on a large scale to change people's lives. If the quest of Captain Lorq von Ray succeeds, energy prices will plummet and power will shift from one ruthless faction to another. The stakes are high and both sides will stop at nothing.
Into this situation, add some more ingredients. Nearly everyone, aristocrats to lowlife, is equipped with neural sockets which allow then to jack into any machinery from starships down and inhabit a virual reality where the machinery becomes an extension of themselves. Yes - cyberpunk fans will be amazed at how much of their genre Delany foresaw/invented. Throw in a synasthaesic musical instrument, an overheated love affair and a pysychotic or two and the brew is starting to bubble nicely. Add a sense of history, the Tarot and a hint of decadence and the pot is starting to look as if it will boil over.
It very nearly does. Delany's style, which dazzled when the book was first published in the mid-'60s, now seems more flashy than brilliant and there's rather too much exposition for a book of this kind. In the end, though, bravado carries all and the reader's irritation gives way to exhilaration.
It's a wonderful ride on the Roc with Lorq von Ray and his motley crew. If only it were longer...
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