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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  6,897 ratings  ·  464 reviews
These are [at least some of] the ways you can read NOVA: as a fast-action farflung interstellar adventure; as archetypal mystical/mythical allegory (in which the Tarot and the Grail both figure prominently); as modern myth told in the S-F idiom... the reader observes, recollects, or participates in a range of personal experience including violent pain and disfigurement, se ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1968)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  6,897 ratings  ·  464 reviews

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mark monday
flawed but heroic space captain, on a mission that is part vengeance and part noble quest, assembles a disparate crew to fly through a nova. this is Samuel R. Delany so that synopsis just barely scratches the surface.

I'm going to copy & paste a post regarding this book that I just made in a group I moderate. hopefully the pasted post will eventually turn out to be notes for an actual review, but who knows, I'm whimsical. and lazy!

Delany's prose reminds me of a couple musicians I like, John Cage
Oct 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“NOVA!” – Queen sings – Ahhh-Ahhhh!

Reading this, I could not help thinking about the 1980 Mike Hodges film Flash Gordon starring Max von Sydow and Sam Jones. Many critics and reviewers have used the term “space opera” to label and describe Samuel Delaney’s imaginative Hugo nominated 1968 science fiction novel, and I think I will join those ranks.

Wikipedia defines “space opera" as follows:

Space opera is a sub genre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure,
Nova: A New-Wave Grail Quest space opera from the 1960s
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Nova is Samuel "Chip" Delany's 1968 space opera with mythic/Grail Quest overtones. It is packed with different themes, subtexts, allegorical and cultural references, and literary experiments, and the young author (just 25 years old) is clearly a very talented, intelligent, and passionate writer.

But I didn't enjoy it, sadly. While I thought Babel-17 was a very fast-paced, vivid and engaging space opera t
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-by-friends
Finished a reread of Samuel R. Delany's Nova for my reading group. I'll post a longer review later, but for now...

Nova is considered by some critics as the last of Delany's early period, "lesser" novels. I think it is the first of his masterpieces insofar as he fully embraces what will become a trademark in the next several---Dhalgren, Trouble On Triton, and all the Neveryon books, ending with Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand, namely the full use of metafiction. Many mainstream literary no
Kara Babcock
Ah, classic space opera: futuristic setting, oddball characters with oddball philosophies, and ships and science well beyond what we ken. Unlike a good deal of space opera, Nova is not a doorstopper. It is more modest in length and in focus, though not in scope. The cast of characters is small, but the events have large repercussion. Captain Lorq von Ray certainly has much in common with Captain Ahab, and obsession is an important motif in Nova. I hesitate to compare it to Moby-Dick—not because ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Nova does not cease telling you how clever it is. It does this with plenty of the goobledigook that can mar any narrative, sci-fi or not. First: the neologisms meant to indicate that the writer really thought through his futuristic world ("sensory-syrynx" and "psychorama" are among the plenty). These are meant to broadcast the legitimacy of his imagined world and that, yes, he took care to note that language evolves with the times. Yet the dialogue and language otherwise has timeless problems: s ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Sprung from pirates, reeling blind in fire, I am called pirate, murderer, thief.

Kudos to Delany for writing, in 1968, one of the first space opera stories with real substance and serious cultural and sociological underpinnings, as well as some interesting mythological overtones. It is also considered a major cyberpunk forerunner, introducing the concept of direct interfacing between man and machine. Clearly this can be viewed as groundbreaking sci-fi. However, perhaps because of it's age and New
Leo Robertson
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those of you unfamiliar with Delany, let me explain to you what it's like reading one of his novels. (And Delany is a clever PLUS, so I think there should be way more raving about him than there is- I don't quite hear enough!)

Here's the blurb they give you:
"The balance of galactic power in the 31st century revolves around Illyrion, the most precious energy source in the universe. The varied and exotic crew who sign up with Captain Lorq van Ray know their mission is dangerous, and they soon l
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: your spinal socket
Recommended to S̶e̶a̶n̶ by: the beating of black wings overhead
Shelves: science-fiction, 2019
Direct-seeming in the mythic way, Nova still belies its modest page count, bursting at its seams with Delany's muscular world-building prowess. How could it come to an end so quickly, I thought, with how full it is growing. And Delany's world! Constructed with an innate faith in the ability of his readers to keep up, or perhaps simply not caring if they do. Having only read Dhalgren prior to this, I wasn't sure what to expect. More of the same? And that I did find in certain ways. How he only ha ...more
Juho Pohjalainen
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
A grizzled young captain and his ragtag crew go on the biggest and deadliest refueling trip in history. Stakes: entire galactic economy, massive inflation should they succeed. It starts out promising, introduces the main characters effectively, gets us to hate the bad guys properly, and outlines enough of the life in the early fourth millennium to give us a good stage of where we are now. And it ends well, too, with a great climactic finish, triumph attained with sacrifice, and lessons learned.

Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's so much one can say about this book, but I'm not nearly smart or eloquent enough for all that. So here's my sad attempt:

I think Nova is my favorite book by Delany - and that's saying a lot given how much I love Dhalgren. Being the fourth time I read it, I realized that it's really quite a short, quick book if you let it be. There's not so much to the plot itself; rather, most of what's in the book is devoted to scene or world(s)-building. But in the prose there's so much richness: Nearly
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of 60's Lit and Sci Fi
Bizarre psychedelic jewel of novel that sometimes reads like prose poetry. Allusions to Bester, Holy Grail, Moby Dick, tarot, City of the Dreadful Night add to the enjoyment all with interesting thoughts on film and music, the future of the novel, humanity and technology, work and other weird thoughts.This book has an especially chilling finale alleviated by the humurous last line and an unsuspected conclusion. First Delaney I've made it through but maybe this will give the urge to tackle more(I ...more
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was ok
SF. Space miners! Space ships! Weird syntax! Sadly, it's the weird syntax that stuck with me after reading this.

Most of the action is set in the year 3172, in a universe where most of the galaxy is colonized by humans. In the Pleiades Federation, natives speak a dialect that always puts the verb at the end of the sentence. It gave us a lot of dialogue like: "I if his advisory meeting over is will see." The entire time I was reading I was wondering what kind of a culture puts its verbs last, and
Nate D
May 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010, sci-fi
This was fun. Samuel R. Delany is a talented writer with a lot of ideas and a good sense of character and social context. He's certainly not reaching here like he did in his masterpiece, Dhalgren, and a lot of this boils down to a drama cast in archetypes: bold, vaguely Ahab-esque captain, back from previous failed expedition plans next. Semi-amoral rival with a beautiful sister. Street-smart orphan who tries to live in the present without introspection. Etc. Except Delaney manages to make most ...more
Maggie K
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
wow-a very charismatic space captain somehow gets a crew to take on a near-suicide type mission that's both greed and vengeance oriented...and it is so believable you will think its possible to fly into a nova!

I find it so awe-inspiring that Delany stuffed all this into a 200 page book, but there you are. The most content per word book ever!
When reading/reviewing this novel, you need to ignore the "science" parts of science fiction, as this was published in 1968, before the moon landing, let alone feasible space mining or colonization. Yet, Delany's ideas are not so out there to be considered improbable (or at least distracting to the story). Illyrion is quite properly described not as a substance, but as a superheavy material - that is, something more akin to particles than something you can hold in your hand (worst explanation ev ...more
Jedediah Smith
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel might be off-putting to readers of current SF or fantasy novels. Its approach to prose and plot is very different from contemporary works, and I note that SF novels of the 50s and 60s often approached plot as an exploration of ideas. It's not that they weren't often entertaining and well structured. But novels by Delaney, Spinrad, Dick, LeGuin and many others seemed to develop their characters and setting and plots in the service of theme, developing and testing ideas, and extrapolati ...more
Nutshell: always already dashing petit bourgeois outsider seeks to break interstellar monopoly of Old Money aristocrat via innovative stellar semiotics.

Text is kickass in its presentation of celestial objects and outer space, “where night means forever and morning’s a recollection” (18). Space itself: “the vermillion rush, in which hung the charred stars” (90). Each star is similarly “a furnace where the very worlds of empire are smelted” (86). One planet’s inhabitants speak with a dicked-up Yod
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TL;DR Review:
A wonderfully satisfying read, Nova rewards any and all effort expended to read it. Science fiction that is truly "literature" though not without a few weak points. Recommended.

The rest of it:
Nova is a master's piece that consciously strives to be literature. As such, when reviewing, I'm mentally holding it to the same standards set by Tolstoy, Dickens, and the like. I'm comparing it to The (nebulous) Canon.

To best understand it, I recommend a previous (and close!) reading of Moby D
Tudor Ciocarlie
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jo-waltons-rec
Wow! Nova is one of the greatest pieces of art that I've encountered in my life! ...more
Jun 13, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, scifi
I grabbed 'Nova' off the library shelf as I've been meaning to read Delany's Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia and SF Masterworks are generally a safe bet. 'Nova' was published in 1968 and gives a rather fascinating insight into late 1960s counterculture. The world-building features footloose freelancers, frequent tarot readings, and a multi-sensory musical instrument that I think Futurama parodied as the Holophonor. The plot is essentially an economic conflict between the super-rich, ...more
Griffin Alexander
This is Delany at the height of his genre-writing game, after he momentarily returned from his obfuscatory break-out with the very strange The Einstein Intersection. This is a fun read, truly a space opera of interfamilial feuds and political power in a proto-cyberpunk cyborgish future. Other reviewers seem to find the dialogue stilted (it's genre, so it is largely expository--this isn't Gaddis, and the people complaining wouldn't like it even if it were), but it works fine for me. Is it campy? ...more
Jun 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I still believe that this may be Delany's best novel, his other (far) more acclaimed works notwithstanding. I've always been impressed with the number of levels it works on; as a space-opera, as a grail-quest, an an introduction to Tarot, as a character study using sf as an exploration of myth and/or the drug culture... Mouse rocks. ...more
Meredith Anne
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first read Nova when I was a teenager. I just decided to start reading it again, almost 40 years later. Unlike many "vintage" Sci-fi books, nothing feels dated; it reads as fresh and original as it did decades ago. I rated it "amazing" because it amazed me. To not have forgotten it after one read for 4 decades says it all. ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was not impressed. I didn’t like the writing style, I wasn’t a fan of all the “flashbacks” It felt, to me, like most of the book was flashbacks and I disliked how nearly every chapter just “stopped”.

No one I liked, crappy dialogue.

Chaunceton Bird
Great premise, themes, and ideas, but wandering writing and clunky structure.
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've enjoyed some of Delany's later, more experimental books (such as Dhalgren and Triton), but I had yet to read one of his earlier works. Nova's greatness lies in the fact that you can see Delany's literary genius at work, but you also get a more conventional plot that sits within and yet expands many space opera tropes. It's all the more impressive that Delany wrote this in his mid-20's.

There's an eccentric star ship captain, Lorq, with grudge and a plan as well as his rag tag crew of misfits
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I’ve meant to read this for so long, because it’s a total classic and everyone seemed to expect me to love Delany’s work. Although the writing is clever, the way some of the characters speak (verb last) just got infuriating, and I don’t think any of the characters are really there to be liked. As for the grail story narrative that’s supposed to be there, well; knowing the grail story as well as I do (clue: very well, thanks to Cardiff University’s medieval lit tutors) it didn’t really feel like ...more
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...If I had to pick a favourite I would probably pick Babel-17, simply because the subject appealed to me more. Nova is a superb example of what the new wave accomplished in the genre however. It's a story that on the surface connects with much of what has gone before in the genre. If you look under the surface however, new ideas, elements and themes enter into the narrative. Add to that Delany's distinct voice and you have a novel that is bound to attract attention. It's easy to see how this no ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Trippy, poetic, swashbuckling, full of ideas. All the things great science fiction aspires to be.

Sometimes, even great science fiction can seem to be outside the world of Literature and more akin to technical writing. Not so with Delaney. His work bristles with allusion to the greater literary universe and not just to the insular world of science fiction.

The final unfinished sentence gave me chills of enjoyment.
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Discourse in a Di...: Samuel Delany and Nova 10 8 Apr 13, 2016 04:01PM  
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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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