Res's Reviews > Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delany
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May 25, 2011

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bookshelves: sff, slash-interest

The one where Rat Korga (the only survivor of a destroyed planet) and Marq Dyeth (the happy product of a multicultural, multi-species, collectivist utopia) are brought together by a strange confluence of sex and politics.

This is probably my fifth or sixth reading of this book, but it's the first in quite a long time, and certainly the first time I've read the book when I was older than the characters.

I'm not actually sure this is a good book. Some of the scenes in it are very fine -- the dragon hunt, the disastrous dinner party, Rat's awakening (though that one is weakened by being delivered third-hand rather than simply portrayed). Rat in the back of the transport learning to read! -- that one almost makes me cry with joy. And many of the ideas are fascinating.

But so much of the book is so very, very talky, and so much of it is almost impenetrable essays. And ultimately, I'm afraid I just don't find Marq a very compelling POV character.

This time through, I found myself wondering: Is Marq a good industrial diplomat? It's hard for me to imagine that she could be (lookit me using the in-story pronoun method) -- she's laughably naive about fame and politics, there are quite a few really important things happening that she doesn't notice, and she just plain doesn't ask questions. Her narration is full of little self-important asides about all the things an ID knows, or experiences, or notices. I find myself wondering if we're intended to find all that silly, or if it's accidental.

I had a much better time in Rat's POV, even though Rat has so little emotional response to anything.

The pronoun setup -- the way, on most worlds, 'she' is the generic pronoun and 'woman' is the word you use when you mean 'person,' and 'he' is only used to refer to someone whom the speaker desires -- is not very convincing as linguistics. I can completely believe that there are things pronouns could indicate other than gender, but I can't really imagine the series of historical developments that would be required to make sexual desire be so all-important as to need to be indicated in the grammar itself. However, if you leave aside questions of how it came to be that way, it does have interesting effects; it's interesting how much time I spend wanting someone to tell me what physical sex every character is, not to mention whether she's human or not.

The Velm scenes do a good job of portraying real alien-ness -- the way the humans have spent so much time mixing with the evelmi that their sensory language all revolves around taste, the casual violation of taboos I hadn't even been aware of (here's a tongue full of water I've been carrying around in my mouth all day! politeness requires you to taste it!), the descriptions of foods and manners. The way the most prestigious profession is basically collecting garbage.

Every time I read this book, I want to have work the way they have work -- a profession(1) that centers my working life, plus an ever-changing set of jobs(2) that allow me to explore other things. A big family where some of my parents and siblings were 'dragons' wouldn't be bad, either.
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Reading Progress

May 25, 2011 – Started Reading
May 25, 2011 – Shelved
May 25, 2011 – Shelved as: sff
May 25, 2011 – Shelved as: slash-interest
June 1, 2011 –
page 110
30.9% "Anyone else find themselves wanting to pronounce Dyeth as "death"?"
June 2, 2011 –
page 140
39.33% "Oho, Dyeth = death is canon. I'd forgotten."
June 10, 2011 – Finished Reading

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