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Tales of Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon #1)

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  908 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
In his four-volume series Return to Neveryeon, Hugo and Nebula award-winner Samuel R. Delany appropriated the conceits of sword-and-sorcery fantasy to explore his characteristic themes of language, power, gender, and the nature of civilization. Wesleyan University Press has reissued the long-unavailable Neveryeonvolumes in trade paperback.

The eleven stories, novellas, and
Mass Market, 0 pages
Published May 1st 1985 by Bantam Books (first published September 1979)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,266)
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Sep 08, 2014 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

Delightful! Now for news! Gossip! Tales of travel! Romance! We will have tall tales and religious chatter, and - who knows - perhaps some deep and lasting insight into the workings of the soul.

The opening quote is from a monk in an isolated monastery greeting a party of visitors from Neveryon, the main city in the imaginary world created by Samuel R Delany for this opening volume of his sword & sorcery series. It is also a concise resume of the ambitions the author had about the project. T
Mar 15, 2016 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a unique venture into fantasy fiction for me, as I believe it would be for most. In its settings and basest aesthetic themes it is Sword & Sorcery, filled with high adventure, barbaric people and their customs. However in execution this is more a treatise on philosophy and social studies.

The story told in an episodic fashion, introducing each individual character, and slowly intertwining their stories. Each individual story also serves as commentary on societal prejudices, like sex
Nate D
Mar 14, 2016 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: civilizations, barbarians
Recommended to Nate D by: Troy
There's a recurring thread in various Delany stories wherein being provincial (geographically, or socio-economically) may limit one's scope of experience, but should never be confused with intelligence. The experience will come. And so this idea may play into the very form he selected for Neveryon: the genre-provincialism of the barbarian adventure story does not, here, suggest anything simple or intellectually un-developed. In fact, Neveryon is Delany's brink-of-civilization testing ground for ...more
This is a substantial work. It consists of five stories of varying lengths, a preface, and an appendix. The preface and the appendix profess to be authored by a K. Leslie Steiner and a S.L. Kermit respectively, but it is fairly clear that these people are characters in the metafictional work, as is Delany himself. The appendix is titled "Some Informal Remarks Towards the Modular Calculus, Part Three," indicating its place as the third entry in another series of Delany's which starts with Trouble ...more
Bryn Hammond
Oct 15, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
This is, among other things, historical fiction that looks at inventions and social change: for example, the introduction of money into a barter tribe, and the consequent devaluation of women, and why – as explored within a gorgeous ethnographic tale; attached to which is a satire of Freud’s penis-envy theory, at once funny and seriously mind-warping.

At one point in this book, when the introduction of writing is critiqued, because writing's first uses were to convenience slavery, I thought of a
Aug 09, 2007 Qiana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy, black-lit
I have a love/hate relationship with Delany. He is utterly unappreciated by African-American critics, mainly because he rarely chooses to discuss race explicitly, but his explorations of power and desire are vivid, creative, and insightful. Although I can't seem to digest any of his "cyberpunk" writings, this sword-and-sorcery series Return to Neveryon is my kind of fantasy read. The masters are dark-skinned and the slaves are white (heh) and as the people of Neveryon discover the value of curre ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful - using the tropes of sword and sorcery fantasy to explore postmodern questions of gender, slavery, economics, and the meaning of power. Chapter epigraphs by Foucault and Derrida, female ships' captains, mysterious bouncing rubber balls, and a slave revolt! I'll definitely be reading the other 3 books in the series.
James Debruicker
Dec 05, 2010 James Debruicker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's pulp fantasy, but overloaded with philosophical weight. Imagine halfway between Conan the Barbarian and Derrida.
Edward Rathke
Sep 01, 2011 Edward Rathke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel in stories and novellas set in a prehistorical world where life is changing from barter and trade to a monetary system, where slavery is a fact of life, but only provincially, where written systems are developing, but reading and writing are still quite rare.

These stories deal with power, most clearly, from political to social to sexual to academic. It is a reflective novel, where systems of power and stories tend to be commentary on one another, on themselves, on future stories within t
Jan 15, 2016 Macartney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review is for the series: Set in a long ago time in a forgotten kingdom, Delany explores the structures of civilization in this four novel “sword and sorcery” series comprised of eleven interlinking stories surrounding Gorgik the Slave Liberator. At times privileging academic exercise over pure storytelling, the series nevertheless captivates as much as it elucidates. To be immersed in Delany’s Nevèrÿon is to watch him attempt to name the unnameable magic and spirit that makes humans human. Even ...more
Oct 28, 2010 Pamster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay. God. Incredible fantasy that investigates what fantasy actually is, and makes the homoeroticism of sword & sorcery finally explicit, and deals with race, slavery, rebellion, and s/m, and tons of stuff about gender and relation of gender oppression to money, and the relation of general oppression to money, and a bunch of other shit. Jesus, so brill. And there is more to the series - this collects the first 5 stories and there are other novels and novellas and stuff to follow. Totally th ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Tom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A promising beginning was sunk by a straight up lecture on gender, political economy and semiotics jammed gracelessly into the text -- I shouldn't feel like I'm studying for an exam when I'm reading a novel.
Dec 10, 2015 Story rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More a meditation on our current world and it economies and gender politics than "simple" sword and sorcery. Deft and cutting. Delany has an academic style to his prose that appeals to me, though I could see others not finding it so delicious.
Robert Blenheim
Nov 11, 2015 Robert Blenheim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delany's masterpiece, and one of his most accomplished novels (not a book of short stories as the title implies). One interesting personal bit of trivia: This novel has a character in it who is called Small Sarg, and this character I, in fact, inadvertently inspired due to the author's misunderstanding of views I perpetrated in the 1970's in the renowned fanzine, Khatru, when I was criticizing some of Delany's (and others') putdowns of men in a previous issue. Innocently, I managed to fall into ...more
Bryn Hammond
Oct 15, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction at a future date...
Nelson Minar
Delany is one of my favourite authors: Dhalgren is one of the best sci-fi novels I've read, and his autobiography The Motion of Light in Water is quite compelling. Some of the books he's written are pulp trash, though, so it's a bit hard to find the right ones. The Return to Neveryona series is one of the right ones, I think, a nice multifaceted set of tales about the machinations of people in a lords and warriors setting. The biggest interest in this novel is Delany's social commentary. He's se ...more
Mar 28, 2009 AT rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delany uses the scaffolding of genre fiction to launch a dense and satisfying expedition into language, commerce, sexuality and culture. The stories in this project dance between adventure fiction and philosophical essay, and while that's a very weird and potentially off-putting idea I find myself returning to them again and again.
Aug 07, 2009 Charles rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Beautifully and lovingly written. The stories are really more literary fiction than anything. If you ask me. Great world building detail, but the action was rather slim. Enjoyable if you're in the right kind of mood.
May 04, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it
Loved it. An interesting hermeneutic tale about language, master/slave relationships (in a historical sense, a BDSM sense, and a larger conceptual sense), and memory. Not a traditional fantasy novel, and a fun read.
Juniper Green
It was the right book at the right time.

After being disappointed with a recent, much hyped, and imho less than mediocre m/m slave fic, I was cranky for days, fretting about authors wasting opportunities, readers being awed by mediocrity, and no one really writing what I wanted to read.
A good friend struck me over the head with this book and demanded I read it.
As much as I love Delany, I initially wanted to give the Nevèryon series a pass, because, let's face it, I'm prejudiced against Sword &
Apr 24, 2016 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to write about what I call “postmodern” fantasy, a set of books joined very loosely by some philosophical underpinnings I try to read into them. But Delany’s Neveryon series is unambiguously capital-P Postmodern fantasy. Every chapter has an epigraph from Derrida, Foucalt, and their ilk, and the content is shot through with hints of Ideas and Themes. That’s kind of exciting, because postmodernism is great and anyone who holds that worldview is bound to produce fantasy that is at least int ...more
Stoyan Stoyanov
There are elements of traditional phantasy in this book. The world of Neveryon Delaney builds is a complex, intruguing place that combines varieties of geography with a vast diversity of human conditions – from the capital city of Kolhari which changes before our eyes (and through the eyes of several of its inhabitants), all the way to the Ulvayan islands, themselves the home of at least two distinct tribes of people. And there are dragons too.

Yet, apart from the unfamiliar place, Delaney does s
Nov 29, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Delaney fans, Feminists, Gay fantasy fans
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
I seem to read this book about once every fifteen years – the first time being around the age of fifteen, the second sometime in my thirties and the third now. I suppose it would be something of a minor miracle if I read it three more times in my life. With a lot of the books we read as adolescents, there is a tendency to “grow out” of them and find that they have lost something in the interim. With this book, it seems to have taken thirty years for me to “grow into” it. It’s just possible that ...more
Dec 25, 2010 Ilya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This book is set in an imaginary Iron Age Near Eastern country with a medieval European social structure and 1970s American sensibilities. After a coup, people with connections to the previous government are killed, and their children enslaved. The teenage main character, a street-smart son of an employee of a coin-hoarding merchant, is sent to work in a mine, but his brown skin color is an asset, and he becomes a foreman in a position to steal food. At age 21 he is picked by a 45-year-old noble ...more
Robbie Blair
3.5 stars.

The short version: Delany writes with linguistic beauty, lush detail, and superb critical thought. However, the stories of Neveryon often feel like a thin disguise for academic essays. Ultimately, Delany's approach lacks subtlety and is often unsatisfying, never quite living up to the potential of either the fantasy setting or the deeper philosophical questions that the stories invite to the stage.

For those who want to see a different direction that fantasy novels can go or who enjoy a
Jun 30, 2010 Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
A deeply engaging book. Here, the idea of money has the power to radically change civilizations- and, once changed, the civilized have a hard time imagining life without this centrally organizing idea. Delaney's book imagines a time when the world, perhaps a fictional one, was changing-- perhaps, becoming modern? Instead of painting with broad or generalizing strokes, he examines this change through the lives of several central characters, a gay man who was formerly a slave and his barbarian lov ...more
Darshan Elena
Every few years, I return to Delany, thinking this is my year to fall in love with his writing. First in high school, then in graduate school, and more recently while preparing to teach a class on science fiction, I thought, this is the year when I discover just how amazing Delany's writing is! Because really, he is often cited as the inspiration for many of my favorite novelists.

This spring, I read Neveryon, as I love fantasy and this series has been recommended to me on multiple occasions. I l
Dec 05, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: metafiction fans, quirky fantasy fans, literary snobs
Complex, confusing brilliance. I feel like I could write a 10-page review and not cover my jumbled thoughts on this book: fantasy but through the lens of literary criticism and language and economic theory, an introduction written by a mathematics professor and linguistics expert who casually mentions she's a fictional character appearing in the last novel in the series, who is then rebuffed in the afterword by another fictional character who disagrees with her translation of the stories and pol ...more
Oct 03, 2013 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
On the one hand, this book is quite brilliant. Ostenstibly a sword and sorcery novel, you find out pretty quickly that it is not so. It is a series of stories of a land (Neveryon)bearing similarities to ancient greece in it's less developed period, which are organized according to ideas by Spivak, Derrida, Lacan, etc. who have quotes at the beginning of each story. It is the kind of book that you place prominently on a shelf in order to trick 16 year old boys into accidentally reading post struc ...more
May 24, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What fantasy at its best should be: an exploration of humanity and human culture - specifically, semiotics - through the lens of fantastic worlds. It feels like a standard Hero's Journey at first, distinguished only by Delany's unique prose and the occasional abrupt plot twist. If you stick with it long enough to see where it's going - not the definitive conclusion it leads you to, but the unanswered questions it forces you to ponder - you'll be awestruck at Delany's craft.
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History of Consci...: CFP: Delany at 70 -- conf UMD April 1 2 Jan 06, 2012 05:59AM  
  • The Adventures of Alyx
  • Dossouye (Dossouye, #1)
  • Ring of Swords
  • So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Swords Against Darkness (Swords Against Darkness, #1)
  • The Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection
  • Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry
  • Returning My Sister's Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice
  • Novelty: Four Stories
  • Turnskin
  • Bending the Landscape: Fantasy
  • We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology
  • The Best of C. L. Moore
  • The Warrior Who Carried Life
  • The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John, #1)
  • Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany
  • Mordred, Bastard Son
  • The Serpent (Atlan, #1)
Samuel Ray Delany, also known as "Chip," is an award-winning American science fiction author. He was born to a prominent black family on April 1, 1942, and raised in Harlem. His mother, Margaret Carey Boyd Delany, was a library clerk in the New York Public Library system. His father, Samuel Ray Delany, Senior, ran a successful Harlem undertaking establishment, Levy & Delany Funeral Home, on 7t ...more
More about Samuel R. Delany...

Other Books in the Series

Return to Nevèrÿon (4 books)
  • Neveryóna (Return to Nevèrÿon, #2)
  • Flight from Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #3)
  • Return to Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #4)

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“We try to bring up our children so that they are protected from the world's evils, only to find we've raised a pack of innocents who seem to be about to stumble into them at every turn just from sheer stupidity!” 8 likes
“Fire, slavery, cloth, coin, and stone - these are the basis of civilized life. Sometimes it happens that one or another of them gets hopelessly involved in the most basic appetites of a woman or a man. There are people I have met in my travels who cannot eat food unless it has been held long over fire; and there are others, like me, who cannot love without some mark of possession. Both, no doubt, seem squally strange and incomprehensible to you, 'ey, barbarian?” 6 likes
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