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Nova Express

(The Nova Trilogy #3)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,718 ratings  ·  87 reviews
The Soft Machine introduced us to the conditions of a universe where endemic lusts of the mind and body pray upon men, hook them, and turn them into beasts. Nova Express takes William S. Burroughs’s nightmarish futuristic tale one step further. The diabolical Nova Criminals—Sammy The Butcher, Green Tony, Iron Claws, The Brown Artist, Jacky Blue Note, Izzy The Push, to name ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 21st 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1964)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  2,718 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, scifi, 2017, american
"What scared you all into time? Into body? Into shit? I will tell you: "the word."
- William S. Burroughs, Nova Express


Writing about the Nova Trilogy is frustrating.
It feels...
a bit...
like reviewing Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

At 3:00, now 4, am it is hard to really, REALLY, get to the meat and idahosoftbones of it all. The books (all 3) are so damn knotty and naughty. Now, I'm not even REALLY comparing the Nova Trilogy to Finnegans Wake. No. They are two different beasts in scale, complexity,
Khashayar Mohammadi
Burroughs is a great writer; but the cut-up method is rather hit and miss. There were a few pages where the cut-ups were brilliant, but mostly it felt like a slap in the face. It was as if the cut-ups appeared whenever you were enjoying the book too much to say "I see you're enjoying this paragraph a bit too much. How about we mix things up a bit and put your mind to work for a bit."

I still think the cut-up method is rather ingenious; I just didn't like it in the context of a narrative novel.
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Sort of the ultimate Libertarian cranky novel (with huge experimental overtures), Burroughs is at the very least a great American Humorist in the Mark Twain category or at the very least a hard-boiled Jonathan Swift. Nevertheless you either like the 'voice' or you don't. As a younger man he was 'it' or the cat's milk, but now that I am older (and not wiser by any means) I prefer PG Wodehouse. But I will never forget my youthful appreciations for this very dark Gentleman.
Oleksandr Zholud
This is assumedly a SF book, written by William S. Burroughs. It was nominated for Nebula in 1965 and I read as a part of Monthly reads in Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels group.

It isn’t the third volume of the trilogy, as Goodreads suggests. For the trilogy actually doesn’t exist: it is attempt of the author to use the following technique: write a text, cut it in parts with no regard to sentence structure, rearrange and drop pieces, write a next part based on what resulted. Repeat. At the
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Clearest book of the cut-up trilogy and by far the best, although The Ticket That Exploded had its moments.

The first half of the book is brilliant, then Burroughs lost me for a while there talking about galactic space courts and advocates etc. but it does become easier to understand again.

This novel has fewer cut-up sentences which are hard to follow as we read the text linearly. Some of the information contained herein features in other Burroughs novels too, like the 'Clom Fliday' (slightly
Ryan Broughman
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This one made my scalp tingle. An exceptional experience of genre-transcendence pregnant with concepts and themes that have likely been an essential nutrient in the building of many other works by many other folks.

I managed to do an audio field recording of my surroundings of the last hour or so it took for me to finish reading this book; I plan to play this publicly in various spots that I will be reading more and will likely be uploading composites of these.

I'll have to come back to this
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I'm glad Burroughs did the thing that he did. Can't exactly say it's my cup of tea. Of course. Not exactly sure it's tea. Or a cup. It's probably good stuff.

new thing :: read v3 of a trilogy. first.

another new thing :: this volume kicks off a new reading=series for me. Mass=Market=Maddness (mm-maddness). Which will feature me reading mass market pb's that were probably purchased cheap and whose survival as a bound thing matters not an iota to me. Nor understanding what I'm reading. Because they
Antti Värtö
I have no idea how to rate this book. On the other had, I didn't really enjoy reading it. As a novel, it was pretty bad - it had no plot, no characters to speak of, no coherence.

On the other hand -

we want it to revolve around Nova and images - cause attempts to stop their consensus reality - Sinals were a joint project - meets media critique of Minraud - - infiltrators, they tried to experiment - crucial natural levels of violence in the arts - Only way to capture - conceptualize the limits -

Just well-written enough to be (barely) comprehensible.

Burroughs was mush-mouthed as a writer and there's plenty of mush here. The thing is, there's also some pitch-black deadpan critics of the moden control systems which are getting larger and paradoxically more insidious everyday.

Think of shit like Prozac, Botox, "focus groups", therapy culture, nuclear radiation, beaurocratic paranoia, "disaster capitalism", corporate hegemony, consumerism and all that abstract mind-waste which clogs up any
David Corvine
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have viewed and the Nova Trilogy as a self contained entity and rated it as a piece of conceptual art and an occult operation. Certainly it is not the ideal place to begin an exploration of the work of William S. Burroughs.
" Of language and writing, considered as magical operations, evocatory magic."
Intimate Journal.
Charles Baudelaire.
Sep 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
Steve Cooper
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book profoundly influenced by DMT experiences. As such, it explores barely imaginable paradoxes in the human condition which culminate in an eschaton of co-operative mutation after passing through searing Nova heat.

Burroughs' final exhortation of 'Silence!' was good advice, coming as it did in the Summer of '64.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
It's a bloody pulp mess, but it's also an entertaining bloody pulp mess for the most part.
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: burroughs, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Nova Express" one of the novels in the "Nova Express" trilogy. Warning: William S. Burroughs is not for everybody. He is not for children and he may be offensive to you. I do not want to mislead someone into reading something as though it were a book that anyone can benefit from reading.

The thing I like about the books in the "Nova Express" trilogy are the wacky voices. "Nova Express" begins with a statement from Inspector Lee, whose job is to disrupt the work of the Venusians (inhabitants of
B. Jay
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Saying that this is the most comprehensible of the Nova books isn't saying much. Like all of Burrough's cut and paste drug poetry prose, any reader will find themselves scratching their head and wondering at times why they bother. But Nova Express is the first book in the trilogy to really embrace science fiction as the Nova Police finally emerge from the shadows and their operations are exposed. Several chapters are completely legible, as Burrough's fascination with tape recordings and even ...more
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
you probably already have your own opinion on burroughs and i doubt i need to go to any great length here. i hadn't read this for a long time but found a first edition in a suitcase full of 60's porn at an estate sale the other day. i'd forgotten how much i like all the cutups in this one and how funny it is. i used to write graffiti with phrases from this book.
Tom Baikin-O'hayon
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One cannot underestimate the impact of this book on the second half of the 20th century. forget "Junkey" and "Naked Lounch", this is Burroughs at his finest. it is pure heavy metal layered on industrial techno, grunge and punk steamed to perfection.
brian annan
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
a bright chemical flash explosion / across the screens of the controllers/arm up and uravel the systems of control/reprogramming yourself for outerspace
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: counterculture
As other reviews have noted, it's hard to review this book in a meaningful way. It was hard for me to even rate it; did I really "enjoy" it enough to rate it four stars? But perhaps it isn't about enjoyment.

This is one of those books that I bought years and years ago and should have read when I bought it. It feels somehow less relevant to me now. Burroughs paints a very bleak, tawdry, nihilistic picture of humanity, which can be engrossing but also alienating to the reader.

For me, it was best to
Benjamin Hare
May 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
To call this book trash would be an insult to trash. In order to adequately convey my level of disgust with this work would require a descent into profanity, or perhaps biology. The contents are a word salad masquerading as a novel; there are grammatically correct sentences grouped into chapters, but that is the extent of it’s qualification as literature. What story exists in the smear of senseless text isn’t worth the long effort required to drag it out. I’ve read that William S. Burroughs was ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exceptionally disjointed, weird amalgam of Burroughs's obsessions, "assembled" using his cut-up and/or fold-in method, except the parts that aren't, which who knows which are which, ostensibly in the service of creating a space adventure for teenage boys, or so Burroughs described it before actually writing it. What he actually came up with is not easy to describe or understand outside of a general vibe. Which vibe seemed to me less clear and interesting than that of The Soft Machine, for ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
um .. this isn't gonna be MUCH of a review, & fairly brief. I jus wanna denote that after having read the Nova Trilogy I cuddn't ignore how glaringly misogynist & DATEDLY-misogynous it is. the FEW woman are props, & sometimes dismissed with the de rigueur "bitch .. " ('Hamburger' Mary; meaning vaj, et al). also: narrative Projection PRESUMES the reader to be male & caters to 'him;' whom ELSE wud be READING THIS?!.. oi. intergalactic viral war, invasion & mutation is tuff ...more
Thom Sutton
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
By far the most straightforward/comprehensible of the series.
Unfortunately also the most pg13, with comparatively little sex and drugs, which is where Burroughs's writing tends to be most poetic and visceral.
Nevertheless, it's a witty and enjoyable strange trip he takes you on.

The introduction and notes on the 'restored text' version are extremely enlightening and make me wish I'd found the other two Nova books in that edition.
Sara Gettel
Jul 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I picked this up for free and hadn't realized it was book 3 of a trilogy. I've done that for other series and been mildly confused, while it rendered this book completely unreadable. Not sure it's worth trying from the beginning.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: avant-corner
Explores language through a cybernetic lens with oscillating frequencies, neuro-surgery and feedback loops.
Eric Knowlson
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Don't expect your conscious mind to understand. Relay the matter to the subconscious and you'll discover how brilliant this work is.
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bltr, sf-ft
In terms of Burroughs' own imagery, reading Nova Express is somewhat like taking a large pot, putting in a lot of 50-60's sci-fi along with some gangster films, and a bunch of pornography, then boiling it together, putting into a syringe and injecting intravenously.

The themes of the trilogy really defined some areas of pop-culture for the decades to come. You get:
- "heavy metal"
- the remix culture
- dark, neon-coloured, cyberpunk(?) aesthetics
- surveillance paranoia
- conspiracy fantasies and all
Kirk Johnson
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it
this book should maybe have another star. it starts out well, like the cut-up trilogy books. then it gets more mumbly. like all the cut-up books. i figured when i started the trilogy it would take some time to get used to the method and eventually i might grok it. but i'm tired of it, relieved to have finished the trilogy, and ready to get to his less accidental writing. if you're going to read a cut-up book, i'd recommend The Soft Machine as the most successful, though i suppose Nova Express ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avant-garde
Fantastic ending (or beginning) to the cut-up trilogy by Burroughs. This one is the least sexual of the three due to the desire to publish the soon to be forthcoming (in 1962) "Naked Lunch" and ensure it did not have to go through the censorship board. Burroughs masterfully utilizes both cut up (borrowed from Scientology!) and fold-in techniques that combine everything from newspaper stories to classic and beat novels and his own early and even soon to be published work (Junky, Queer, Yage ...more
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William Seward Burroughs II, (also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th ...more

Other books in the series

The Nova Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Soft Machine (The Nova Trilogy #1)
  • The Ticket That Exploded (The Nova Trilogy #2)
“The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals.” 4 likes
“Don't listen to Hassan i Sabbah," they will tell you. "He wants to take your body and all pleasures of the body away from you. Listen to us. We are serving The Garden of Delights Immortality Cosmic Consciousness The Best Ever In Drug Kicks. And love love love in slop buckets. How does that sound to you boys? Better than Hassan i Sabbah and his cold windy bodiless rock? Right?"

At the immediate risk of finding myself the most unpopular character of all fiction—and history is fiction—I must say this:

"Bring together state of news—Inquire onward from state to doer—Who monopolized Immortality? Who monopolized Cosmic Consciousness? Who monopolized Love Sex and Dream? Who monopolized Life Time and Fortune? Who took from you what is yours? Now they will give it all back? Did they ever give anything away for nothing? Did they ever give any more than they had to give? Did they not always take back what they gave when possible and it always was? Listen: Their Garden Of Delights is a terminal sewer—I have been at some pains to map this area of terminal sewage in the so called pornographic sections of Naked Lunch and Soft Machine—Their Immortality Cosmic Consciousness and Love is second-run grade-B shit—Their drugs are poison designed to beam in Orgasm Death and Nova Ovens—Stay out of the Garden of Delights—It is a man-eating trap that ends in green goo—Throw back their ersatz Immortality—It will fall apart before you can get out of The Big Store—Flush their drug kicks down the drain—They are poisoning and monopolizing the hallucinogen drugs—learn to make it without any chemical corn—All that they offer is a screen to cover retreat from the colony they have so disgracefully mismanaged. To cover travel arrangements so they will never have to pay the constituents they have betrayed and sold out. Once these arrangements are complete they will blow the place up behind them.”
More quotes…