Book Review: Nova by Samuel R. Delany

NovaNova by Samuel R. Delany
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read for The Second Best Challenge, the LGBTQ Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge, and the Science Fiction Masterworks Book Club.

This book was nominated for the 1969 Hugo Award.

I think I really like New Wave sci-fi. This book was an excellent retelling of Moby Dick for the Space Age. Delany’s characters are intriguing, colourful, and diverse — unusually so for the time it was written in. The science even stands up. It was exciting, and somehow maintained an optimistic tone despite the fact that his characters are extremely flawed human beings. The second-person viewpoint character approaches were also refreshing.

I love the way New Wave science fiction was willing to extrapolate on future cultures; something we seem to have lost, for the most part, in modern sci-fi. They make up words, invent fads, create new styles of architecture, and dare to speculate that rules of proper societal behaviour may be different (at one point, an intellectual character speculated that people of pre-space societies would have been appalled by their standards of hygiene and cleanliness, because before they’d cured all the diseases, it was much more imperative to keep things clean; also, most of the characters believe in the science of the Tarot, and only “superstitious backwards primitive folks” don’t.)

I also enjoyed Delany’s explanation for space travel. The science is not clearly defined, but it makes sense. I may borrow elements of it for something I’m working on, because he has defined more clearly a concept I’ve been working with.

The politics and quests for personal vengeance and onesupmanship easily rival Game of Thrones, and he did it in 224 pages.

This is the second work I’ve read by Delany. I also read Babel-17, which struck me as a precursor to cyberpunk. This is glorious, zany space opera with some cyberpunk tech elements.

Excellent! Well worth the read!

View all my reviews

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Nova by Samuel R. Delany

  1. I appreciate these posts – I read a lot more fantasy than sci-fi when I was growing up, and as an adult read mostly “current” authors (current starting thirty years ago, lol). I’ve added a lot of books to my TBR pile/wishlist thanks to this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure! My reading history’s very similar to yours (with the notable exception of the Dragonriders of Pern, which are of course science fiction, but which feel like fantasy) and doing this list of classic SF has been such an amazing and rewarding experience already. Glad to be of help!


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