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Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,518 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is a science fiction masterpiece, an essay on the inexplicability of sexual attractiveness, and an examination of interstellar politics among far-flung worlds. First published in 1984, the novel's central issues--technology, globalization, gender, sexuality, and multiculturalism--have only become more pressing with the passage of time ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 1st 1985 by Bantam Dell Publ. Group (NY) (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Greg
Two Stars? Are you kidding me? This is a book that has been re-issued by a University Press, that deals with complex issues like language, gender, sexuality....

I know, I know. But this book didn't do anything for me, if anything it just made me angry.

Well maybe that is because you are a white heterosexual male and you deserve to be made uncomfortable about the part you have played in the oppression of women and colonial peoples.

Yeah, I guess so. I guess I just don't see what the point of writing
...more
Mike Puma

Once upon a time (around 1986 or 1987?), I had an opportunity to meet Samuel R. Delany at an ALA or ABA [now BookExpo]. Taking advantage of my position as a buyer for a large book distributor, I monopolized some of his time in the Bantam booth while he waited to do a signing—something that is surely tedious for many authors, some of whom will seek diversion with anyone willing to talk with him or her. In our brief discussion, I remember him most for being surprised at his students’ reluctance to

...more
Christy
This was a hard book to rate. It raises interesting ideas and plays with theoretical concepts that are intriguing and significant within the fields of gender studies, queer theory, postcolonial theory, sf/genre studies, postmodern literary theory, and theories of race and ethnicity. There is a lot to take in. For that, I like the book. However, there is so much going on in this book that it becomes difficult to follow and, worse, it becomes difficult to care about the characters and what happens ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
This was a favorite read of mine back in my twenties. I used it as proof that SF wasn't a literary wasteland, that innovative stuff was being done in the field and there were voices that the most exacting style-snob couldn't scruple to include in hifalutin' conversations.

Boy, was I wrong.

It's turgid, it's obfuscatory, and it's mutton dressed up as lamb. "Cut through the galaxy's glitter; slice away all night. What thoughts did I dole out to that world (out of the six thousand, which, according t
...more
Ezra
if william gibson invented the term "cyberspace" (in "Neuromancer", 1984), then samuel delany (in "Stars In My Pocket...", same year!) is responsible for synthesizing the actual conceptual framework of the internet, and some of the consequences that might arise from an informationally-saturated society. gibson's book is like an impressionist painting, a piece of graphic design, an anime short; it's a style injection, with both ephemeral and lasting effects. "Stars In My Pocket..." is not like th ...more
Wrey Fuentes
Delany's prose takes some getting used to and I have even read reviews of his work that sang to the tune of, "Does he have to be so high and mighty in his verbiage?"

The answer is, yes! He does. Someone has to.

Get off your lackadaisical bum, you shoddy reader you, and expect something more from yourself and the writer. Stop kowtowing to the school of thought that indicates, "a simple word instead of an esoteric one." What the hell are all the rest of the words in the dictionary for? Why have com
...more
Ben Babcock
So … I don’t think I’d go as far as The New York Times Book Review does in praising this book. According to the blurb on the back of my edition, “it invites the reader to collaborate in the process of creation, in a way that few novels do”. Umm … yeah. Sure. Someone has been critiquing literature a little too long. But the blurb is right about one thing: Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is both extraordinary and transcendent.

Samuel R. Delany is an interesting author for someone like me to
...more
Sath
The prologue of this book is a third person telling of Rat Korga's life. Beginning at age 19 when he arrives as an illiterate delinquent for "Radical Anxiety Treatment", basically a sort of lobotomy that turns him into a docile zombie, with full mental capacity, but only able to do exactly as he's told. Perfect for slave labour. Korga has a temporary escape from servitude when a woman buys him as a sex slave, but gives him technology enabling him to read books. He returns to slavery however and ...more
Kernos
May 13, 2011 Kernos rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thinkers
I am a fairly experienced reader, but I had difficulty reading this book. I found the use of names confusing. If ever I have truly needed a name glossary, it is with this book. I kept getting confused about whether a name referred to a person, a place, a planet or a star. I was uncertain about who was human, who not and the continual shift of pronouns made this even more difficult. In a sense this relates to cultural confusion in our 'real' world. In another sense this book needs to be read when ...more
Meghan Fidler
The downfall of most science fiction is the difficulty of chronicling new bodies, worlds, and cultures for the reader. Many works dissolve into long flailing descriptions of aliens and drawn-out dialogs on cultural meanings. Authors who can surpass this albatross of introducing an 'other,' like Ursala K. Le Guin (training in anthropology helps, apparently! ^.^) and Octavia E. Butler, achieve an undeniable commentary on contemporary social life.
Samuel R. Delany joins this list. The main protag
...more
Geoffrey Fox
I had long wanted to read this famous book — a space fantasy far from my usual choices of fiction reading; it's good to break routine once in a while, as industrial diplomat and star traveler Marq Hyeth (the narrator of most of this book) might say. And it was not at all what I expected. Which is good, I guess. I wanted surprises and got them.

As I did expect, it is fantastical and ironic. But it is not light comedy. It is a story contrived to reflect on complicated, unresolved philosophical ques
...more
John
WTH?! I spent two months of lunchtimes on this?!

I have not slogged through a more difficult read since Gene Wolfe's lictor/new sun saga, and I didn't get the payoff from this that I did from them.

If this is the "masterpiece" that the cover blurb claims, I'm afraid it is one that passed right over the top of my li'l pumpkin head. As a character novel, it failed me: I never connected with narrator Marq Dyeth and was never supposed to grasp he cipher Rat Korga. As a plot novel, it failed me: it too
...more
Jeffrey Otto
This was a ‘tasty’ piece of writing, post-modernist to the core, but like the universal flows of information that permeate its (and our) W(w)eb, it wasn’t always accessible. Reading about the shapes of bodies and the forms of cities that are so unfamiliar, yet so thoroughly connected to the signs and symbols that define our own bodies and our own cities reminded me of what it is like to try an exotic new delicacy and then eventually grow to enjoy it. Initial apprehension, even revulsion, slowly ...more
Jason Plein
This is a novel with an amazing prologue, a sagging middle, and a brilliant ending. A reader's patience may be tried in places, but she should keep reading.

Most of the novel takes place on a world in which humans of both genders and three-gendered aliens (the lizard-like evelmi) have sex with each other in all combinations of species and gender, sometimes as part of long-term relationships, sometimes anonymously in places called runs. This is the backdrop to a love story between two men, and thi
...more
Garren
A highly unusual book. It's a far-future galaxy-scale science fiction novel, yet it's not centered on a conflict of any kind. This would make it the sort of contemporary realistic novel that I normally find boring, except that it's so removed from the setting typical of the kind of story it is. It was slow going because I wasn't in a rush to resolve suspense, but I didn't want to abandon it either because I was constantly mis-predicting how things would go and enjoying what I found instead.

I cou
...more
Michael
Apr 14, 2015 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sci Fi Fans, Delany fans, anarchists
Recommended to Michael by: Tom Jennings
Most of this book was just in the “good, not great” category for me – at least when compared to Delany’s classics, like “Triton” and “Dhalgren.” It seems to be a return to more standard science fiction, in that it takes place in the context of a vast, Galactic society with faster-than-light travel and alliances with multiple alien species. There’s even an enigmatic “enemy” species, the xlv, about which little is known and much imagined.

All is not as it seems, as one might expect from Delany, ho
...more
Jesse Toldness
This was a hard book to rate. Because it's not finished. And likely never will be. It was written with the stated intent of being the first half of a diptych with a novel to be named 'The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities'. Which Delany did not write. It was, in fact, the last major science fiction project Delany would embark upon for nearly thirty years. There is either something very tragic or magnificently awesome about unfinished things. You can never know (guess, speculate, dream etc ...more
Michael Battaglia
I will give Delany credit for throwing me a curveball. When I first read "Dhalgren" years ago I didn't think I would be in for the rather graphic sex scenes that the novel sometimes delved into (though given its length there was plenty of room for all kinds of stuff, my favorite kind of kitchen sink writing). When I read the description for this novel, I was expecting graphic sex scenes based on how the plot was going to go, and perhaps colored by prior experience. And that's not quite what I go ...more
Angela
My gut reaction to Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, the first Samuel R. Delaney I've ever read, was pretty much this: it feels like something I might have read for a college course on influential SF authors, rather than something I'd ordinarily have read for fun. I have a very definite respect for the language, but there are a lot of aspects of the plot that just didn't work for me.

The core of this story is essentially a romance between Rat Korga, a man who'd submitted to voluntary slaver
...more
Tomas Herbertson
Picked back up and finished Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, after only reading the initial prologue some months back before something brighter and shinier occluded my vision.

Well worth the read, to me in my subjective position. Quite interesting to see a "monogendered society defaulting to the she/her pronoun" that predates (say) Ancillary Justice by so many years--and especially from the point of view of a gay male author writing a gay male character.

The "enjoys a well-crafted
...more
Matus

Unfortunately, this review only really discusses the first half of the book.

The first half has Delany in full flight, and the book is dazzling in the depth and quality of characters and scenes. I think it's the best world-building I've encountered with Delany (Triton #2?), with whole alien conspiracies (what do we know about the Xlv?), cultural extremes (what is "cultural fugue"), and just a constant rush of details. (Oh, and I can't miss one of the neatest things whose constant presence makes i
...more
Jim Mann
I've often had talks with folks about books we really like which we know really aren't that good, but are still fun. In fact, it's a topic of panels at SF conventions from time to time. But sometimes it's worth talking about the opposite: books that we admire but don't love. Late Delany often falls into that category for me. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is a case in point. It's a beautifully written book. The prose sparkles. The situations and worlds are well done. The examination of h ...more
Wintermute ~*eloquence is sexy*~
As many others have commented, Stars... is definitely not your average space opera, although there is a lot of space. And a lot of opera, so to speak. Instead, Delany deals excessively with topics like gender and linguistics, with intercultural communication, information and information control, with economics, religion, culture and politics. Above all, Stars... is a book about desire that might, or might not, be Love (or maybe that's just me being hopelessly romantic after all^^).

It's a difficu
...more
Gary
This is a book that will stay with me for long time. It does take an effort to get through but it is ultimately very satisfying and moving. Those seeking an action novel should look elsewhere! He is a visionary like Arthur C. Clark but fleshes out his tale with much more detail.

Some may find that the great level of detail is too tedious as many pages have long descriptions of customs( food and meals included), architecture, and formalities in this far future tale. I found it incredibly inventive
...more
Tamahome
May 04, 2012 Tamahome marked it as lemmed  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads lost my old review, when I stalled on the book. I thought the first part with chilling with the slave. Then I found the 2nd part with the diplomat to be unreadable. I just tried it again and I can't get into it.
Leila
The problem with Samuel Delany is that he is intermittently brilliant and incomprehensible. What's more frustrating is that the "incomprehensible" parts are, half of the time, completely unnecessary to the story at hand. A reviewer commented on Dhalgren that perhaps he was not smart enough to understand it - I don't think its a question of solely of intelligence but of preference for clarity and not feeling as if you have ingested mind altering drugs and only half understand what is going on a q ...more
Sean McBride
Really in depth book on the relationships between people, and between people and their environments. This is not a book for everyone, I cant stress that enough. If you are in the slightest homophobic, or dislike the idea of sexual activity between two consenting sentient beings (there is sex between aliens, between humans and between spider like beings. Being male or female doesn't have a factor in this world. In fact it is even mentioned that bestiality is NOT taboo and a regular practice.) do ...more
John Gillespie
Delany is one of the SF writers Morwenna mentions in Jo Walton's exquisite Among Others, so I looked to see what our library has by him. I chose this one because of its lovely title. Delany explores some intriguing ideas about language, culture, gender, and sexuality, but I couldn't get too deeply engrossed in the characters and plot in this one. Sometimes those do get sacrificed in pursuit of an idea in SF, and I am looking forward to reading the copy of Triton I just received from paperbackswa ...more
Jeff
Apr 12, 2015 Jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Delany fans
Recommended to Jeff by: the sexually curious teen perusing the drugstore(!) bookrack c.1984
[from May 1996, back when i tried to help the editors of What Do I Read Next?]

Main Characters
Mark D'yeth (pronounced "death")—industrial diplomat from the planet ? and our trusty narrator.
Rat Korga—sole survivor of ? and Mark's "perfect erotic object to six decimal places" (no joke).

Plot
Korga's decision to undergo "Radical Anxiety Termination" (i.e., become a "rat"); his employment as a slave laborer; his escape from slavery; the destruction of his planet; D'yeth's life as an industrial diplomat
...more
William Ramsey
If you want adventure and action in space a la Star Wars, don't read this book. Basically nothing happens.

This books is largely an exercise in queer world building. Delaney goes to great length to paint the varied customs of what might be described as a post-gender future. He makes a powerful literary choice by referring to all characters, male or female, by female pronouns and titles, rather than inventing a gender-neutral pronoun. Had he done the latter, readers would have defaulted to male c
...more
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GeekOutsider: Prologue: A World Apart --B**ches & Slaves 1 3 Nov 11, 2013 08:20AM  
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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
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Babel-17 Dhalgren Nova The Einstein Intersection Babel-17/Empire Star

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“You've blotted the rich form of desire from my life and left me only some vaguely eccentric behaviors that have grown up to integrate so much pleasure into the mundane world around me. What text could I write now? It's as though I cannot even remember what I once desired. All I can look for now, when I have the energy, is lost desire itself-- and I look for it by clearly inadequate means. At best such an account as I might write would read like the life of anyone else, with, now and again, a bizarre and interruptive incident, largely mysterious and completely demystified-- at least that's what it has become without the day-to-day, moment-to-moment web of wanting that you have unstrung from about my universe. Without it, all falls apart. In a single gesture you've turned me into the most ordinary of human creatures and at once left me an obsessive, pleasureless eccentric, trapped in a set of habits which no longer have reason because they no longer lead to reward. And if I had enough self-confidence, in the midst of this bland continual chaos into which you've shunted me, for hate, I should hate you. But I don't have it.” 10 likes
“We're plotting to steal time itself from you.... We're going to spike it to the floor as it slips by. And just as you come over to see why it's so still, we'll pull it out from under you--and send you spinning off around the galaxy's edge. We're planning to pluck all the best stars out of the sky and stuff them in our pockets... so that when we meet you once again and thrust our hands deep inside to hide our embarrassment, our fingertips will smart on them, as if they were desert grains, caught down in the seams, and we'll smile at you on your way to a glory that, for all our stellar thefts, we shall never be able to duplicate.” 4 likes
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