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Tales of Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon #1)

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  695 ratings  ·  57 reviews
In his four-volume series Return to Nevèrÿon, 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 Nevèrÿon volumes in trade paperback.

The eleven stories, novellas, and...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published November 29th 1993 by Wesleyan (first published September 1979)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,487)
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Algernon

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...more
Bryn Hammond
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...more
Phoenixfalls
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
Don
Intellectualized fantasy. On the plus side, it merrily played havoc with gender roles, incorporated slavery into the book's universe better than most fiction, eschewed fantasy cliches, and played around with "big ideas." On the down side, the repeated discussions of reflections of reflections and whether or not money is good or bad left me cold, and overall I just didn't connect with the writing or plot the way I do with books I really love. The ending saved it all with a slave revolt led by a g...more
Edward Rathke
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...more
Qiana
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
Deborah
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
It's pulp fantasy, but overloaded with philosophical weight. Imagine halfway between Conan the Barbarian and Derrida.
Michael
Mar 23, 2014 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Delaney fans, Feminists, Gay fantasy fans
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
I first read this book when I was in High School, at a time when I was reading a lot of rather more pedestrian fantasy novels. I came back to it in my early thirties, having become a dedicated Delany-fan in the interim. In both cases, I enjoyed it, but suspected that at least some of it went right over my head. I think I actually found that experience more enjoyable as a teenager.

It is a fantasy set at a time “when the world was young,” in an indeterminate but temperate region of earth with a fe...more
Bryn Hammond
...review 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
AT
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.
Jeff
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.
Ilya
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...more
Joy
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...more
Katie
Dec 05, 2010 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Jason
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
John
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.
Quentin
An epic fantasy where there is so much more going on than at first glance. The stories in this collection float around Gorgik, a slave who is freed from hard labor through a sexual dalliance with a noble woman, and eventually becomes a revolutionary figure. But along the way, there are stories about what happens to relations between men and women when money takes over in a gift/barter economy, the cultural forms that build up during class formation in state societies, and all other fascinating a...more
Bad-at-reading
When I rated this earlier I'd read about half of it and given up. I've since finished it and my feelings on it have not changed. Far from the complexity and poetic flow of his best work, here Delany instead writes like a zombie with a preference for the brains of feminists and Marxists. In the end the metafictional truth comes out: the stories are supposed to be ancient tales committed to writing in the oldest language known, of which only a brief fragment survives. So why do the characters spen...more
Pamster
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
David Poole
Worth the price of admission just for the "The Tale of Potters and Dragons" alone, though the whole thing is wonderful. This book, the stories within it, cannot be approached as merely a sword-and-sorcery story: the tales must be taken individually and as the whole they form (and a whole they become by the final story); I expect this to remain true of the remaining books as well, but that's for another time.

Intelligent, gorgeously written, with enough idea bombs to turn your head to pieces of on...more
Andrea
One of those books that should be read over again, as much philosophy of language, money, slavery and sexuality as it is a damn good story, with quotes from Foucault and Derrida to open up the book sections. Actually, it might be more philosophy than story, but I'm not sure. The appendix alone is brilliant, and something I've never seen before in a book like this. I know I read Delany when I was a kid haunting the library sci-fi section, but can't remember it. I'm sure even more of this would ha...more
Charlie
I really enjoy Delany in general for his ability to mix academic rigor with sci-fi entertainment. The ways in which he weaves philosophy, economics, and political theory into these narratives intrigues me at the same time that the stories themselves engross me. This particular work especially tickled me with the reversal of the typical science fiction concept of projecting current trends into a distant future. Instead, he takes the present and imagines a history for it far richer and more challe...more
Kate
It took me some time to get in to this book, and the first story was hard as I wasn't used to Delany's style, but this was a brilliant book in parts, and took the fantasy trope and did something different with it.

It references various psychological theories in passing, and I'm sure there was lots that I didn't "get" as such, in fact I felt like I was only really grasping half of what it was all about. I imagine this is a book studied on English Literature courses as it has so many layers of mea...more
Ellen
I thought it was time to take a brief hardcore-sword-and-sorcery-with-superfluous-diacritics break from all that murder mysteryin'.

Hmmm... I don't quite know what to say about this book. I was just sort of skimming along for most of it and just when I started to be able to connect everything up it ended. It definitely deserves a reread, though I probably won't get around to that for a while.

The creation myth that everyone mentions in discussions about this book is pretty freaking awesome indeed....more
John
I came across this book at random in a small bookstore in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. It looked interesting, so I bought it and read it on the flight back to the States. This novel sparked a love affair with the writings of Samuel R. Delany - both fiction and non-fiction, across multiple genres - that continues to this day.

One of the best reasons to read the Return to Neveryon series, though, are the appendices in each book in which he shows us the inspiration behind his creative process, hi...more
Ezra
delany is a nut. i read some older edition of this years ago, then this one (one of the recent editions from wesleyan university press)... and its like 20% longer! i think. certainly some radical changes. sometimes the metastructure is a little heavy handed (and getting more so as i progress through the series) but its still totally stimulating, and really just makes me wish more people would take that plunge... give me some formal structures in fiction that actually make sense and are surprisin...more
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History of Consci...: CFP: Delany at 70 -- conf UMD April 1 2 Jan 06, 2012 05:59AM  
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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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“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?” 5 likes
“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!” 4 likes
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