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Tales of Nevèrÿon

(Return to Nevèrÿon #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,190 ratings  ·  99 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
Paperback, 264 pages
Published September 1979 by Bantam
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014

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.
Nate D
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: civilizations, barbarians
Recommended to Nate D by: Troy
There's a recurring thread in various Delany stories wherein being provincial (geographically, or socio-economically) may limit one's scope of experience, but should never be confused with intelligence. The experience will come. And so this idea may play into the very form he selected for Neveryon: the genre-provincialism of the barbarian adventure story does not, here, suggest anything simple or intellectually un-developed. In fact, Neveryon is Delany's brink-of-civilization testing ground for ...more
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a unique venture into fantasy fiction for me, as I believe it would be for most. In its settings and basest aesthetic themes it is Sword & Sorcery, filled with high adventure, barbaric people and their customs. However in execution this is more a treatise on philosophy and social studies.

The story told in an episodic fashion, introducing each individual character, and slowly intertwining their stories. Each individual story also serves as commentary on societal prejudices, like
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
Ben Babcock
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, 2017-read, fantasy
If you have read any Samuel R. Delany, you know he is a complex dude, and even his simplest stories are complex in some way. Tales of Nevèrÿon is no exception. Largely branded sword-and-sorcery, it’s actually an attempt to deconstruct this subgenre and provide commentary on the relationship between capitalism and slavery. And, for bonus points, if you read closely enough you start to see patterns and echoes from some of his other work, including Triton and Dhalgren .

I picked up what appear to
Bryn Hammond
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
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
Qiana Whitted
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 ...more
But the problem begins with trying to reduce them to all the same measure of coin in the first place: skilled time, unskilled time, the talk of a clever woman, nature's gifts of fish and fruit, the invention of a craftsman, the strength of a laboring woman—one simply cannot measure weight, coldness, the passage of time, and the brightness of fire all on the same scale.
This one was a debacle to rate. Eventually, I gave up the holistic scale and settled on the Delany scale, indicating a
I thought this would be a nice light fantasy read, however I was proven wrong from the get go. Delany creates a ancient world that puts one to thinking, and a world that is starting to civilize, money making an appearance over barter, first writings, new inventions and improved inventions, with all this the world is still most brutal. There are Dragons. And women are at the forefront.
Jared Roberts
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
From the moment I saw the epigraphs heading each section were from Derrida, Foucault, and several other academic sources, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I knew it wasn't going to be straight-up sword and sorcery. And, as it happens, that's probably for the worst.

The sword and sorcery aspects of the book are fun, like a more reflective, mellow Robert E. Howard. He divides the book into five separate tales in different times and places in the world of Neveryon. Characters from
Deborah K.
Sep 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Beautifully and lovingly written. The stories are really more literary fiction than anything. If you ask me. Great world building detail, but the action was rather slim. Enjoyable if you're in the right kind of mood.
James Debruicker
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's pulp fantasy, but overloaded with philosophical weight. Imagine halfway between Conan the Barbarian and Derrida.
Colin MacDonald
This is definitely not your typical swords-and-sorcery tale. It takes elements of classic barbarian fantasy and tweaks and twists them in interesting ways. There's hack-and-slash adventuring and political intrigue, but there's also a lot about cultural norms, gender roles, power relations, sexual identity and kinks, the impact of a monetary economy on society, mythologies which shape and are shaped by all of the preceding, and the nature of language itself in structuring our perceptions of the ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to write about what I call “postmodern” fantasy, a set of books joined very loosely by some philosophical underpinnings I try to read into them. But Delany’s Neveryon series is unambiguously capital-P Postmodern fantasy. Every chapter has an epigraph from Derrida, Foucalt, and their ilk, and the content is shot through with hints of Ideas and Themes. That’s kind of exciting, because postmodernism is great and anyone who holds that worldview is bound to produce fantasy that is at least ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delaney's sword and sandal collection builds a compelling world laden with commentary on gender, sexuality, and civilization itself. As the characters weave together across stories, we see the vicissitudes of a strange and terrible land from the perspective of outsiders, insiders, and the ignored. I can't wait to read the next entry in the series.
Matthew Rettino
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What if Franz Fanon and Julia Kristeva had written Conan the Barbarian? You get Sam Delaney's Return to Neveryon. I am not kidding. Read it.
Sword and Sorcery is turned on its head and made into a setting to explore issues of race, sexuality, slavery, economics, and language within the nested narrative that is Nevèrÿon. This is ponderous despite itself--the philosophical, talky style frequently drowns out the readability of the short fiction format and sword and sorcery genre. But going in with those expectations--expectations which the framing narrative insists on--also make it a compelling and effective experiment. It's ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Delaney fans, Feminists, Gay fantasy fans
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
I seem to read this book about once every fifteen years – the first time being around the age of fifteen, the second sometime in my thirties and the third now. I suppose it would be something of a minor miracle if I read it three more times in my life. With a lot of the books we read as adolescents, there is a tendency to “grow out” of them and find that they have lost something in the interim. With this book, it seems to have taken thirty years for me to “grow into” it. It’s just possible that ...more
Edward Rathke
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review is for the series: Set in a long ago time in a forgotten kingdom, Delany explores the structures of civilization in this four novel “sword and sorcery” series comprised of eleven interlinking stories surrounding Gorgik the Slave Liberator. At times privileging academic exercise over pure storytelling, the series nevertheless captivates as much as it elucidates. To be immersed in Delany’s Nevèrÿon is to watch him attempt to name the unnameable magic and spirit that makes humans human. Even ...more
Oct 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could not stop talking about this book when I was reading it, much to the annoyance of everyone around me. It's smart and funny and wild with big characters and sweeping settings. It feels more like alternate history than sword-and-sorcery, though there are swords, and science is presented in a sorcery-ish-way.

I loved it, is what I'm saying.

The only thing I didn't love was how sometimes the book got bogged down, and separated from the action. Lots of dialogue-driven exposition. I understand
I read this because it was in a list of essential feminist science fiction novels and I was intrigued about what that sub-genre would look like. Of what I've read so far, this was by far the most interesting, but it's frustrating that female empowerment has to go hand in hand with denigrating or ridiculing men. Most men were stupid, insecure, and envious of the powerful female masterminds. I think going to such extremes made Delany's exploration of gender roles much less convincing.
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More a meditation on our current world and it economies and gender politics than "simple" sword and sorcery. Deft and cutting. Delany has an academic style to his prose that appeals to me, though I could see others not finding it so delicious.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A promising beginning was sunk by a straight up lecture on gender, political economy and semiotics jammed gracelessly into the text -- I shouldn't feel like I'm studying for an exam when I'm reading a novel.
I was reading this one for my book club, but I was pleasantly surpried. I rarely read a more intelligent book in my life!
Bryn Hammond
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction at a future date...
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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 ...more

Other books in the series

Return to Nevèrÿon (4 books)
  • Neveryóna (Return to Nevèrÿon, #2)
  • Flight from Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #3)
  • Return to Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #4)
“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!” 12 likes
“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?” 8 likes
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