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on May 21, 2012
I only just finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and it feels in some ways too soon to write about it.

This is not an easy book. There is something to take virtually every reader out of his or her sexual comfort zone. And yet it is deeply suffused with love and the joy of living in a community that accepts you for who you are, quirks and all.

The story starts in 2007, just before 17-year-old Eric Jeffers moves to the small seaside village of Diamond Harbor and meets the love of his life, 19-year-old Morgan Haskell (who goes by a nickname that cannot be quoted in this review). The book unfolds from Eric's point of view, following the two men into the 2070s through various careers, the loss of family members, the gradual evolution of the seaside community as more (and different) residents move in, and a rich and robust sex life. The sexual play between them follows repetitive, slowly evolving patterns--but that is part of the point. What is so often elided in fiction is here presented as an integral part of the warp and woof of their relationship to each other and to the community, and in the end the accumulation of the quotidian salacious details adds up to something greater than the sum of its lubricious parts.

It is also about community--how it supports us, how we support it, how it changes over time--and about memory--about the bumps and gaps of individual memory as well as of community history. It is also about the ongoing thread of sensual and sensory experience--full of precisely described moments and details of food, weather, light and clothing. It lets you closely observe the lives of a handful of people who never are in the spotlight or at the turning points of history, but who view all of that from a distance.

Spending 800 pages with Eric and Morgan feels like it has been a richly rewarding and touching experience, but one that is in some ways difficult to articulate because it is in some ways experiential, expressed through the lived details of their lives revealed over a lifetime.
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on June 9, 2012
As "Internet puppy" Charlie Stross blogged the other day, "We're living in the 21st century: it's not possible to write a novel that seriously explores modern life without a background that includes rapid, cheap international travel: the commercial space industry: smartphones and the internet and spam: social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter: the rapidly shifting reference points of life expectancy, gender roles, and politics." Thus my first impression, reading the first half of TTVOTNOS, was that the young Eric, who turned 21 in 2012, was not such a well-formed character. For one thing, he was always looking for ways to break taboos in secret without ever once Googling the search-friendly fetishes he professed. Mid-way through, it became clear that Eric knew full well about computers and was actively avoiding them. This works as fiction because Delany's novel is more transgressive than what teenagers find on the Internet.

The prose is also beautiful. The incorporation of passages from a 17th century philosophical work, Ethica, is particularly effective; it might even prompt a few readers to pick up Spinoza.

However, after sitting through the long lessons on coprophilia and so forth, Delany's subsequent restraint in building the world of the 2030s through 2070s was disappointing. Colony on Mars, check. Clothes wash and repair themselves, check. Gay marriage common and polygamy on rise, check. Thin gruel. Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand virtually invented the internet; or rather, offered a vision of what a fully networked society might look like. That book was published something like a year before Rock Hudson died; Delany retrenched and never completed its sequel or any new science fiction novel at all until now. Since this book opens on a hedonistic note, I suspected he was picking up where he left off. In the end, I was surprised by his conservative touch. Despite having lesbians on the Moon, this world seems partly mired in our turn-of-the-millennium cultural swamp despite the passage of seventy years. Memory of the past weighs on protagonists Eric and Morgan, of course, but also on subsequent generations, due to factors like an offstage global tragedy Delany drops in abruptly two-thirds of the way through. Eric at the end of his long life is interviewed by a historian of sexual practices, yet he omits the worst out of deference to the young scholar's fragile sensibilities, and warns the youth of the far future about parasites.

Though it is interesting to consider why Delany didn't go farther with his world building, this book is excellent. It makes me hopeful he has another great science fiction novel or two still on the way.
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on June 19, 2012
Challenging and off-putting, transgressive and liberating, mundane and joyous, "Through the Valley . . ." is Delany at his frighteningly honest best. Mixing elements of sf, pornography and journalistic epic, he weaves the tale of two life companions from their first meeting through the end of their days.

This is not an easy read, but life is not often easily lived, and the pay-off is the beauty of Delany's language - his eye for the odd but telling detail and the social comment ever-present but never didactic.

Delany is our Wolff, our Joyce (and sometimes our Sacher-Masoch) and this is a truly memorable, even epic, ride.
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on February 25, 2015
I'm part of a four-year running SF book group. We're a pretty mixed crowd and almost every book we read has a mix of folks who liked it and those that were unimpressed at best. Several of us just couldn't make it through the beginning of this book...but this is the first novel in four years where every member who got to the end was very impressed. The beginning felt dull to most of us (though I still enjoyed Delany's use of language) but there's something very intentional that's building thoughout. In the end, it's a subtle, powerful, philosophical novel. I can't recommend it to everyone--I have plenty of folks in my life who just won't be able to make it through the long, graphic, and often tedious beginning...but for anyone who can, there's real gem that reveals itself over time. I expect this to be a favorite novel for many many years.
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on February 13, 2013
In his first science fiction novel in a looong time, Delany gives us the story of two lovers across several decades, from youth to old age. There is a great deal of explicit (and occasionally gross) sex, but oddly the book isn't very "stimulating" that way: the sex isn't cold and clinical, but described in very factual terms that keep it from being really pornographic.

The science fiction is almost in the background; the "future" that happens is presented mostly as it affects our protagonists, who are far from the center of society.
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on September 3, 2015
Amazing book, but poor quality printing. Pixelated cover and uneven pages.
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on June 16, 2015
Needs considerable editing. This isn't Victorian England where one gets paid by the page and there is no TV. I can read James and Trollope out of respect for what and when it was. I find this too concrete, repetitive and predicable to not turn on the TV. As a gay man could I give this to a straight person to read based on some literary or redeeming value? No. I threw the hard copy out.
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on March 12, 2013
I tried, really I did, but I could not make it through this book. Not because it was "gross," as some reviewers have complained; it is, but there's nothing as grotesque as much of what life offers us, more just men enjoying types of sex that most of us find unappealing - but because the endless repetition is just tedious. Oh, look, he's eating snot again. And again. And again. This feels like some kind of perverse fantasy written for nobody but the author. Other writers have tread this kind of transgressive ground with more skill and insight - Denis Cooper, Scott Heim, and others come to mind. Really disappointing considering Delaney's other work.
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on April 11, 2012
AS OF 02 APRIL 2012 THE TEXT ERRATA CAN BE FOUND AT oneringcircus.com. ALSO A BONUS CHAPTER (INSERT BEFORE CHAPTER 90) PDF IS THERE AS WELL.FOR KINDLE READERS TURN ON 'POPULAR HIGHLIGHTS'AND I HAVE HIGHLIGHTED AS BEST I CAN WHERE THE ERRATA AND BONUS CHAPTER GO INTO THE TEXT, THEN YOU CAN COPY AND PASTE THEM INTO YOUR 'NOTES' OF YOUR KINDLE COPY. THE ERRATA IS MOSTLY MINOR MISTAKES (DELANY IS KNOWN TO BE VERY ATTENTIVE TO THIS KIND OF MINUTAE), BUT A BONUS CHAPTER IS A REAL TREAT!
GIVE ALL YOUR THANKS TO FELLOW DELANY FAN Kevin Donaker-Ring, who compiled Delany errata AT ONERINGCIRCUS.COM

I'M SUCH A DELANY FAN THAT AFTER WAITING FOR ALMOST TWO YEARS FOR THIS BOOK (A SHUTTERED PUBLISHING HOUSE IS JUST ONE OF ITS TROUBLES)I BOUGHT BOTH THE PRINT AND KINDLE EDITION. I AM CURRENTLY READING THROUGH BOTH OF THEM.
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on November 21, 2013
I may read more someday. I don't think of myself as a prude but thus far I have no idea what these endless descriptions of filthy (scat) pornography have to do with this story. They are not erotic, just gross. I loved Dahlgren and The Motion Of Light on Water, but this book is either way over my head or way below it.
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