Libby's Reviews > Dhalgren

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
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's review
Mar 31, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: year-of-genre-fiction, sci-fi
Read from March 31 to April 23, 2010

to comment on the massive book.(ha ha)

An acknowledged as a masterpiece of avant-garde science ficion, Delaney's "Dhalgren" has much more in common with Pynchon and Joyce than it does with Asimov and Heinlen- the book is massive, complex, idiosyncratic, enigmatic, grounded in the language of a very particular place and time, and seemingly unconcerned with its portrayals of graphic sexuality. I would call this hands-down the most creatively constructed and beautifully-written science fiction book I've ever read. However, the book is decidedly not for everybody. Between the nonlinear form, stream-of-consciousness passages, ultimately unsolved mysteries, violence, salty language, racial epithets, and loads of sex, there's plenty here to offend many different tastes.

My biggest criticism of the book is that the protagonist is not only passive but also a speshul snowflake/Gary Stu/Bella Swann. He's a reluctant poet (talk about your red flags) whose random connections get him published, has a mysterious past that even he doesn't recall, somehow becomes the head of a gang, turns into a folk hero and villain, has an endless capacity for sex and no shortage of partners, and doesn't understand why everyone's so interested in him. All of these things seem to be beyond his control. However, Delaney's world is so vividly and beautifully rendered that we, like the protagonist, enjoy the simple act of experiencing its stark beauty.

I'm confident that if you make it all the way to the end, you will want

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03/31/2010 page 300

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