|Title: Nova by Samuel R Delany
Author: Samuel R. Delany
Published: 1968To submit a detailed article, click here!
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In Nova by Samuel R Delany, Lorq Von Ray is the scion of a powerful family in the Pleiades Federation (one of the three sociopolitical groupings in the novel’s universe; the other two being Earth-controlled Draco and the Outer Colonies). He is obsessed with toppling another corporate family, the Reds of Draco.
To accomplish this he wishes to pilot a starship through a nova, a cataclysmic stellar phenomenon, in order to gather a large amount of Illyrion, an ultra-heavy element used to power among other things spacecraft. If he floods the galactic market with the element he will ruin the premiere spaceship manufacturing concern, Red-shift Ltd., owned wholly by the Reds; this will also bring his culture, the Federation, into ascendency. Attempting to stop him is the heir to the Red dynasty, Prince, and his sister, Ruby.
Lorq’s first minutely-planned attempt to penetrate a nova led to failure, and the blinding of his best friend. His second try is utterly intuitive; he picks a new crew almost by chance. As they plunge forward on Lorq’s mission they encounter danger and gain self-knowledge, often not from sources they expect. They are:
- Mouse, a Gypsy adept with the sensory syrynx, a musical instrument capable of touching the human senses of sight, sound, smell, and taste;
- Katin, a rootless young intellectual;
- Tyy, a young Federation woman whose Tarot card readings are eerily accurate;
- Sebastian, master of strange bird-like pets, and Tyy’s lover;
- Idas and Lynceos, black and albino twin brothers, from the Outer Colonies.
One of Delany’s earlier novels, Nova is a complex mix of sensual language, intricate sociopolitical creation and examination, and marvellously minute characterization. As the story progresses, an authentic interstellar civilization is drawn. Within it, the characters often move and interact with seeming obliqueness yet always remaining true to their personalities and purposes. The story sallies back and forth in the histories of several of the characters, adding subtle nuances to their developments.
Delany routinely throws in incredible ideas: nothing is as it seems; the Von Ray/Red feud, the machinations of the great societies, the very concept of the hero/villain duality. In typical style Delany produced a milestone for space opera, with which all other such novels must measure up.
For a challenging, thought-provoking read, Nova by Samuel R Delany, a writer still in his twenties at the time, is not to be overlooked. And as one of my two favorite Delany novels, I recommend it most highly.
Bill R., February 15, 2013
Question: Do you feel that science fiction writers tend to peak young or later in their careers?