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Nova Express

(The Nova Trilogy #2)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  2,872 ratings  ·  101 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 3.67  · 
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 ·  2,872 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi, 2017, american, fiction
"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, metho
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. ...more
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 same
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, drugs, satire
Hands-down the best of the nova trilogy (The Soft Machine is a close second, though), and the most coherent. That being said, attaching words like "coherent" to a description of any of Burroughs' avant-garde novels is pointless distraction, ignoring how these books are meant to communicate to the reader thoughts, ideas, and visions that transcend what is and is not traditionally coherent or comprehensible to the average human when in a state free of psychedelic influence. Burroughs' language is ...more
Angus McKeogh
Probably my least favorite of the “cut-up” trilogy. I should have known when the foreword was almost as long as the novel that there was bound to be an issue with quality. And a large portion of the foreword centered around Burroughs stating Nova Express was a mainstream sci-fi novel that any 12-year-old could read. Nor can I imagine them wanting to. On the whole, there was a lot less “anal mucus” than the other two books, but there was furthermore a lot more missing that would’ve tied ...more
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 revie
Angie Dutton
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it
I had a pretty tough time with this one, it took me a while to read it because I kept rereading bits that I didn't immediately get... but when I did get it then I really got it but my God I don't think I'll be able to explain it. Love the concepts though, and feel like just by writing this review I'm contributing to that darn Word Virus! ...more
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 - su

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
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 un
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. ...more
Sep 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Kevin K
One of Burroughs' best. His obsessions in this work — virus, CO2, inability to breath, aqualungs, nova crime, "rushing the life boat in drag" — are especially resonant against the backdrop of 2020. Burroughs is often regarded as an obscure, repetitive novelist, but I see him more as a 20th century sibyl. A work like Nova Express isn't a failed novel or story. It's an oracle. An occult vision of the future.

One striking example:
"Two Lesbian Agents with glazed faces of grafted penis flesh sat sippi
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
Steve Garriott
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm labeling this one as a "what did I just read" book. It's one where I had to do some research to discover what the author was doing, what his point was. I had my ideas (and they were mostly correct), but learning the context of this one helped. Stylistically it reminded me of Gravity's Rainbow and maybe a lot angrier Kurt Vonnegut. There are some lucid parts that are easier to understand than others. The disjointed nature of the prose is intentional. ...more
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.
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.
Billie Tyrell
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it
I read Naked Lunch a few years back.. but don't really feel as if I really read it... a lot of it went over my head. So in a weird way reading this for my reading club did make me feel like I was having a kind of acid flashback to reading Naked Lunch. So in a way I was prepared but not as prepared as I thought I would be... but I loved it (in places). Hard to describe it and its the 2nd part of a trilogy, though I'm told it doesn't matter what order that trilogy is written because it deals with ...more
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. ...more
Laura Brower
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is less of a book and more like a carousel but also a manifesto. There's a sense that Burroughs was really trying to change the shape of narratives and also the world and the way we structure thoughts... it gave me a lot to think about. It's best to go in without any spoilers. ...more
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.
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 som ...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.
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. ...more
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
Mister Snail
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
Ralph Jones
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 20th-century
Nova Express by William S. Burroughs struck me in a way. The book is a social commentary on human and machines.

In the story, Nova Mobs go about making crimes and they produce language. With every criminal there is always police. Nova Police acts as a regulator for what is happening in the city. When Burroughs said language is a powerful tool in life, he has a point.

Language is how we communicate with each other. While language barrier exists, that didn’t stop how businesses and research had been
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
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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 century ...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 #3)

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“The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals.” 4 likes
“Listen to my last words anywhere. Listen to my last words any world. Listen all you boards syndicates and governments of the earth. And you powers behind what filth consummated in what lavatory to take what is not yours. To sell the ground from unborn feet forever -
"Don't let them see us. Don't tell them what we are doing -"
Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth?
"For God's sake don't let that Coca-Cola thing out - "
"Not The Cancer Deal with The Venusians - "
"Not The Green Deal - Don't show them that - "
"Not The Orgasm Death - "
"Not the ovens - "
Listen: I call you all. Show your cards all players. Pay it all pay it all pay it all back. Play it all pay it all play it all back. For all to see. In Times Square. In Picadilly.
"Premature. Premature. Give us a little more time."
Time for what? More lies? Premature? Premature for who? I say to all these words are not premature. These words may be too late. Minutes to go. Minutes to foe goal -
"Top Secret - Classified - For The Board - The Elite - The Initiates -
Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth? These are the words of liars cowards collaborators traitors. Liars who want time for more lies. Cowards who can not face your "dogs" your "gooks" your "errand boys" your "human animals" with the truth. Collaborators with Insect People with Vegetable People. With any people anywhere who offer you a body forever. To shit forever. For this you have sold out your sons. Sold the ground from unborn feet forever. Traitors to all souls everywhere. You want the name of Hassan i Sabbah on your filth deeds to sell out the unborn?
What scared you all into time? Into body? Into shit? I will tell you; "the word." Alien Word "the." "The" word of Alien Enemy imprisons "thee" in Time, In Body. In Shit. Prisoner, come out. The great skies are open.”
More quotes…