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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  3,654 ratings  ·  187 reviews
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 poten ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 216 pages
Published June 1975 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1968)
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mark monday
flawed but heroic space captain, on a mission that is part vengeance and part noble quest, assembles a disparate crew to fly through a nova. this is Samuel R. Delany so that synopsis just barely scratches the surface.

I'm going to copy & paste a post regarding this book that I just made in a group I moderate. hopefully the pasted post will eventually turn out to be notes for an actual review, but who knows, I'm whimsical. and lazy!

Delany's prose reminds me of a couple musicians I like, John C
“NOVA!” – Queen sings – Ahhh-Ahhhh!


Reading this, I could not help thinking about the 1980 Mike Hodges film Flash Gordon starring Max von Sydow and Sam Jones. Many critics and reviewers have used the term “space opera” to label and describe Samuel Delaney’s imaginative Hugo nominated 1968 science fiction novel, and I think I will join those ranks.

Wikipedia defines “space opera" as follows:

Space opera is a sub genre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure,
Ben Babcock
Ah, classic space opera: futuristic setting, oddball characters with oddball philosophies, and ships and science well beyond what we ken. Unlike a good deal of space opera, Nova is not a doorstopper. It is more modest in length and in focus, though not in scope. The cast of characters is small, but the events have large repercussion. Captain Lorq von Ray certainly has much in common with Captain Ahab, and obsession is an important motif in Nova. I hesitate to compare it to Moby-Dick—not because ...more
Nova does not cease telling you how clever it is. It does this with plenty of the goobledigook that can mar any narrative, sci-fi or not. First: the neologisms meant to indicate that the writer really thought through his futuristic world ("sensory-syrynx" and "psychorama" are among the plenty). These are meant to broadcast the legitimacy of his imagined world and that, yes, he took care to note that language evolves with the times. Yet the dialogue and language otherwise has timeless problems: s ...more
This novel might be off-putting to readers of current SF or fantasy novels. Its approach to prose and plot is very different from contemporary works, and I note that SF novels of the 50s and 60s often approached plot as an exploration of ideas. It's not that they weren't often entertaining and well structured. But novels by Delaney, Spinrad, Dick, LeGuin and many others seemed to develop their characters and setting and plots in the service of theme, developing and testing ideas, and extrapolati ...more
Maggie K
wow-a very charismatic space captain somehow gets a crew to take on a near-suicide type mission that's both greed and vengeance oriented...and it is so believable you will think its possible to fly into a nova!

I find it so awe-inspiring that Delany stuffed all this into a 200 page book, but there you are. The most content per word book ever!
When reading/reviewing this novel, you need to ignore the "science" parts of science fiction, as this was published in 1968, before the moon landing, let alone feasible space mining or colonization. Yet, Delany's ideas are not so out there to be considered improbable (or at least distracting to the story). Illyrion is quite properly described not as a substance, but as a superheavy material - that is, something more akin to particles than something you can hold in your hand (worst explanation ev ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Wow! Nova is one of the greatest pieces of art that I've encountered in my life!
Finished a reread of Samuel R. Delany's Nova for my reading group. I'll post a longer review later, but for now...

Nova is considered by some critics as the last of Delany's early period, "lesser" novels. I think it is the first of his masterpieces insofar as he fully embraces what will become a trademark in the next several---Dhalgren, Trouble On Triton, and all the Neveryon books, ending with Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand, namely the full use of metafiction. Many mainstream literary no
SF. Space miners! Space ships! Weird syntax! Sadly, it's the weird syntax that stuck with me after reading this.

Most of the action is set in the year 3172, in a universe where most of the galaxy is colonized by humans. In the Pleiades Federation, natives speak a dialect that always puts the verb at the end of the sentence. It gave us a lot of dialogue like: "I if his advisory meeting over is will see." The entire time I was reading I was wondering what kind of a culture puts its verbs last, and
Aug 27, 2007 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of 60's Lit and Sci Fi
Bizarre psychedelic jewel of novel that sometimes reads like prose poetry. Allusions to Bester, Holy Grail, Moby Dick, tarot, City of the Dreadful Night add to the enjoyment all with interesting thoughts on film and music, the future of the novel, humanity and technology, work and other weird thoughts.This book has an especially chilling finale alleviated by the humurous last line and an unsuspected conclusion. First Delaney I've made it through but maybe this will give the urge to tackle more(I ...more
Kyle Muntz
it's astounding how time has changed this book. this is the last of Delany's early science fiction novels, and in a lot of ways it's as striking and intelligent as I remember.... though in others, I think it's transparent why he abandoned this kind of SF, and it's almost odd how apparent elements of the transition are in the book.

but yeah: shouldn't say more for now. huge discussion piece on this book should be coming at Entropy within the next few months
Nate D
This was fun. Samuel R. Delany is a talented writer with a lot of ideas and a good sense of character and social context. He's certainly not reaching here like he did in his masterpiece, Dhalgren, and a lot of this boils down to a drama cast in archetypes: bold, vaguely Ahab-esque captain, back from previous failed expedition plans next. Semi-amoral rival with a beautiful sister. Street-smart orphan who tries to live in the present without introspection. Etc. Except Delaney manages to make most ...more
I read this immediately following Babel-17 and they are great companions. The von Rays and the Princes are leaders of industry - the Princes are from Draco, which includes Earth, and the Von Rays are from the Pleidas Federation. The Reds are old money; the Von Rays are new. At the core of the story is a feud between Lorq von Ray and Prince Red. Ruby Red is Prince's sister and cohort. She is also someone to whom Lorq is quite attracted, which only enhances the feud.

But there are other interesting
Jun 08, 2014 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sci fi fans, Delany fans, literati
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
Shelves: science-fiction
This will be one of my "placeholder" reviews in which I note that I have read a book, but I'm going to need to re-read it in order to write a decent review. I read this probably ten years ago, and all I really recall is that it's a somewhat typical Galatic space opera-type story, especially given that the author is Samuel Delany. I believe this was one of his early efforts, and no doubt he was still trying to conform to genre expectations, rather than break free of them, as he did in his best wo ...more
Wow! This book was incredible. It grabbed on to you and just wouldn't let go! What makes it even more amazing was that it was published in 1969.

Take one obsessed captain (lord of industry), two devious villains, a rag-tag crew, and an impossible dream and you've got one rollicking space opera.

Reading this is like gorging on a ten course exotic banquet. As I was reading I felt as if the words were dancing and singing, but in fact like Mouse's syrynx, Delaney's writing satiates every sense. It's a gem.
This was my third Delany book (after The Einstein Intersection and Babel-17 , and it was my least favorite of the three. This could be largely attributed to outside distractions (it seems like any time I sat down to read, I started thinking of something else I should be doing), but it’s also possible that Nova just wasn’t as good as those other books.

In any case, it’s not bad. I’d put Nova at 3.5-4.0 stars. In proper Delany fashion, you get a cast of characters that are vastly different from on
Sep 22, 2007 Owen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like science fiction
Recommended to Owen by: ryan the girl
i liked it! at first i was measuring it (skeptically) with an octavia butler yard stick, and it is not like octavia butler's books - most of the characters are men, you don't get into their heads as much, and the language is peppered with star trek-like words, which made me worry a little bit about who i am becoming. the book sucked me in, though, with a great story line and interesting cultural critique.

this book was set thousands of years in the future in an intergalactic society.

there was gr
Bart Everson
Nova is a seminal work by one of my favorite authors. It's a relatively short novel, written in an easy and accessible style, with poetic flourishes that don't overwhelm, beautiful imagery, iconic characters, and just a dash of of avant-garde ambition.

And I liked it OK. I mean really, it was pretty cool. But I don't feel it's Delany's best work. For an "accessible" Delany story, I'd point people to Empire Star or Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones.

We read Nova in my book club as t
Un libro que irradia. Un anterior (y único) libro leído de Delany - En Ciron Vuelan - me pareció intimista, agradable pero sin mayor brillo. Pero Nova es una explosión. Un poderosamente creado capitán - Lork Von Ray - que es, por supuesto, un capitán Ahab del siglo XXXII persiguiendo obsesivamente, no su ballena blanca, sino a su enceguecedora estrella. En torno suyo, un universo de notables personajes, bizarros pero de una sólida riqueza, sorprendentes para una novela relativamente corta. Y tod ...more
Pedro León
Interesante novela de Sanuel R. Delany sobre un futuro no demasiado lejano en el que los viajes interplanetarios son cosa del día a día. Pura ópera espacial al estilo de star wars. Y hablando de star wars, resulta que en el libro, los habitantes de una serie de planetas hablan de la siguiente forma:

- Yo te agradezco. - Tyy guardó el naipe en el bolsillo de la chaqueta.- ¿Tú la carta disfrutaste?
- ¿Mm?
- Tú cada carta para ganar meditar necesitas.
- ¿Tú meditaste?- preguntó Sebastian.
- Oh, sí. La m
Mar 23, 2010 Carl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of intelligent but fun science fiction
Shelves: fantasysci-fi
It could be that this is not the Delaney novel which deserves the most stars, but for the time being it's the one of his novels which I found most accessible and enjoyable-- though probably just because this one is the closest to a space opera, and I grew up on Star Wars. I also like a short story he did on an archeological dig on Mars, I think from the '60s. You can find it in LeGuin and Atterbury's Norton anthology of Sci-Fi (I think it was Norton).

March 2010: Recently reread this. Still cons
Lorq von Ray is captain of a starship and scion of one of the richest families in the galaxy. He gathers a motley crew to help him pilot his ship into a nova to claim Illyrion: the most valuable energy source known to man.

This was a great book with some very wide-ranging themes, although primarily obsession. Lorq is obsessed with Illyrion and goaded on by a feud with a rival family. The crew of the ship also form interesting characters and provide the backdrop to the star-spanning feud of the pr
Nova is a kind of idealized SF novel: the dusty paperback you happen upon, which turns out to be full of adventure, romance, and strange beauty, written in the spirit of the rip-roaring adventures of the distant past. It starts on a quay in Constantinople, with a gypsy melody and a pirate crew, for goodness sake.

It's the sort of imaginary book Borges would describe, or that a modern day Don Quixote would read over and over again. The sort of sophisticated fireside adventure you can imagine Hell
this is still one of my favorite Delany novels. i just re-read it for the third time and it was just as delicious as i, even more so. Delany's sense of literary style and affect is second to none.

so, yeah, i realize that there are a lot of grail and other references --- does anyone know where a comprehensive list of these reference might be available? i'm curious about it. also, i don't plan on reading all that ezra pound suggested reading list so that i can understand it all. in a
Bryn Hammond
I can’t go above 3 for this early Delany, although I appreciate its innovations in historical context as explained in other reviews. It’s Delany and screams potential. Story faults: the triangle of Lorq—Prince—Ruby Red belongs on television about five o’clock, and most of the ship’s crew are too busy being peculiar to have personalities. I was most interested in Katin, an awkward walking anachronism in these pages, but he had the most to say. A study in language, and throw-them-in-the-deep-end s ...more
I first read this book years and years ago as a teenager. I can still remember staying awake half the night, then finishing it the next evening. It is a magnificent grail quest of sorts, complete with manic captain, a demonic enemy, big stakes, a rich and varied past for the characters, and a fabulous setting. The ease with which the prose flows, and the believable and interesting situations and interactions make this one of SciFi’s masterpieces.
Noah Lyons

[For plot summary, consult other reviews]

This nova/novel pops, flashes, and lingers, just as the light of dead stars remain in the night sky. I generally avoid the 'space opera' subset of SF, but this book aptly juggles strong narrative drive with the cerebral and mystical. This balancing act (I hesitate to call it a synthesis)finds itself mirrored in several of the characters as well. There is the Mouse - the teenage, illiterate, Gypsy boy - and his somatic and more spontaneous art. (He plays a
The common definition I heard about this novel was that it was a “space opera.” It does fall into the category of space opera but to me it is more than that. Delany sets this story in the 32nd century. Humanity has colonized most of our section of the galaxy. The political structure falls into Draco, the Pleiades, and the outer colonies.
The main driver of the plot is a feud between the von Rays from the Pleiades and the Reds from Draco. Basically, Lorq von Ray is going to fly into a nova so he
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Sci Fi Aficionados: * October 2014 Read: Nova by Samuel R. Delany 14 33 Nov 01, 2014 01:44PM  
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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...
Babel-17 Dhalgren The Einstein Intersection Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand Babel-17/Empire Star

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“But the point is, when the writer turns to address the reader, he or she must not only speak to me—naively dazzled and wholly enchanted by the complexities of the trickery, and thus all but incapable of any criticism, so that, indeed, he can claim, if he likes, priestly contact with the greater powers that, hurled at him by the muse, travel the parsecs from the Universe’s furthest shoals, cleaving stars on the way, to shatter the specific moment and sizzle his brains in their pan, rattle his teeth in their sockets, make his muscles howl against his bones, and to galvanize his pen so the ink bubbles and blisters on the nib (nor would I hear her claim to such as other than a metaphor for the most profound truths of skill, craft, or mathematical and historical conjuration)—but she or he must also speak to my student, for whom it was an okay story, with just so much description.” 4 likes
“There are three types of actions: purposeful, habitual, and gratuitous. Characters, to be immediate and apprehensible, must be presented by all three.' Katin looked toward the front of the car.

The captain gazed through the curving plate that lapped the roof. His yellow eyes fixed Her consumptive light that pulsed fire-spots in a giant cinder. The light was so weak he did not squint at all.

I am confounded, Katin admitted to his jeweled box, 'nevertheless. The mirror of my observation turns and what first seemed gratuitous I see enough times to realize it is a habit. What I suspected as habit now seems part of a great design. While what I originally took as purpose explodes into gratuitousness. The mirror turns again, and the character I thought obsessed by purpose reveals his obsession is only habit; his habits are gratuitously meaningless; while those actions i construed as gratuitous now reveal a most demonic end.”
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