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Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,530 ratings  ·  260 reviews

The only survivor plucked from a world where life has been burned out from horizon to horizon, Rat Korga is a very unusual human. On his own world he was subjected to Radical Anxiety Termination-a synapse-jamming technique banned on many planets.

Now the officials of the Web must find a new world for him. Their first choice is the planet Velm: a world on which humans co-ex

Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published May 20th 2013 by Gateway (first published 1984)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Richard Derus
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
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
Mike Puma
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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

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
Megan Baxter
This is not a great book. There were times when I wasn't even sure it was a good book. But it's trying so many interesting things, testing the boundaries of science fiction, and perhaps, the comfort of the reader, to get at some truly fascinating things. Some of these experiments may have failed, but I'd much rather read an interesting but failed experiment than an unambitious sufficiency.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You
Wrey Fuentes
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kara 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
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
100th book for 2019.

A wonderful mediation on gender, family and desire.

Feb 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hailed as a "masterpiece," I dove in not knowing what to expect. What I found was a book with enough inventiveness for dozens of novels and lacking sufficient plot for even one. I don't require the proverbial "page turner," but if whole sections could be removed without making a difference then this isn't a work of fiction, it's a literary exercise. It is highly regarded by many, but it was a long hard slog for me, and I won't be returning to his work any time soon, if ever. ...more
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is a tragedy trees have been cut down for the sake of this absurdly overrated, plotless, pretentious garbage.
DNF at 40%

In the opening scenario of this book, a scientist is offering to give a man minor brain damage so that he will be happy. And a slave. He will be happy and unquestioning in his slave-tasks. It seems like a pretty obvious metaphor for psychiatric medicine. It instantly offers things to say that seem relevant and prescient to 2020. The man doesn't believe in other countries. Three times more women have this dumb-ifying procedure than men. The story follows the man after the procedure, and
Another excellent novel. Worth it alone for the 1990 afterword about Frederic Jameson and Kim Stanley Robinson where Delany situates his own writing in the "fragmentation of the self."

From the afterword:
"Moreover, I think that any time when there was such a notion of a centered subject, especially when related to the white, western, patriarchal nuclear family, not only was it an ideological mirage, it was a mirage that necessarily grew up to mask the psychological, economic, and material oppress
Geoffrey Fox
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, kindle
2 stars is a VERY generous rating for this book. No point, no focus, and a world that we're expected to already understand even though it's only ever "explained" through the characters' interactions with it. It's great that Delany "predicted the internet" in this book, but to try to parse that out of the obtuse writing was a chore, and certainly not a pleasure that I expect to get out of reading.

1.5 stars at best.
Easily the most fascinating book & the richest reading experience, I've had all year -- it's one that I know I could reread again and again, and would get entirely new things out of each time. Much of the time I had no idea what was going on or why it was relevant, or at least knew I was only getting a few layers of the context at most, but each sentence was, in turn: a bafflement, a delight, an oddity, a thrill, an obscurity, and this was more than enough to dazzle. Few sentences within seem li ...more
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
Alec Lyons
Truly this was a strange journey, and I don't know still how exactly to feel about it.... but overall I guess I can say that I was charmed and swept up by its strangeness. And it was strange. I did not know where exactly it was leading me, and truly, I don't believe it really lead me anywhere in the end.

In the end I feel as through the reader is opened up to layers and layers of information and lore, but that honestly goes nowhere? In the end the importance of all of that is left uncultivated.

Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, scifi, homoerotic
I definitely wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this book, as the whole time I was terribly worried about my Nana being ill in hospital. When preoccupied by worry, I either need fast-paced plot-driven fiction or dense non-fiction to act as a distraction. ‘Stars in My Pocket’ is a meandering sci-fi novel of ideas, with a great deal more world-building than plot. It has aged pretty well and remains interesting and original, with many striking details. I liked the drama of the dinner party scene ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book was amazing. Delany has created a masterpiece here. The prose, the narration, the emotion, the imagery. This book is a work of art. This is a book about becoming human, and a book about being human. Some look for a deeper meaning, I don't think you should. That's all there needs to be.

The plot isn't the point. The setting isn't the point. The people are the point. Don't read this looking for an Earth shattering story. Or a truly unique setting. Or a prediction of humanity's futur
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So amazing. The only slight problem I had with the text, and this is just my preference, is that the ending is indefinite. I see why he does it, though, and it makes sense. The idea that there could be such a thing as someone's "perfect erotic object" calculated mathmatically...that's a powerful reworking of Disney's "prince charming" myth, and I love how he Delany uses the embodied Queerness to examine it. ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Delany I've read, and I haven't been this excited about a novel for a good while. Looking forward to reading more Delany. ...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
David Agranoff
Oh boy, where to start here. Let me start by saying that I think this is a masterpiece but I am not entirely sure. This is the kinda science fiction novel that you just have to accept that you are not going to get every single aspect of it and just go along for the ride either way. On our best days that is what the women and men behind the genre should reach for. This experience was mind and universe expanding. Absolutely what you want in a Science Fiction epic.

Samuel "Chip" Delany is one of the
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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GeekOutsider: Prologue: A World Apart --B**ches & Slaves 1 6 Nov 11, 2013 08:20AM  
GeekOutsider: Kicking off the Geeky Outsider Marathon 1 3 Nov 07, 2013 04:25PM  

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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 7th Av ...more

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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.” 14 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.” 10 likes
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