Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand

Samuel R Delany

One of the backlog of Delany novels I’d bought about a year ago after reading The Motion of Light in Water and Dhalgren. It’s amazing: a vision of galactic civilisation in which human society has split into clades, philosophically if not biologically incompatible. It feels like a lost foundation text (1986) of Ken MacLeod’s post-Collapse anarchist societies or Banks’ Culture, but has a broader scope than either of these: Delany’s focus is much more on culture and politics than on technology. His depiction of GI – General Information, basically a wireless implant-mediated version of Google – is remarkable.

It plays more interesting and jarring games with gendered language than any novel I’ve read since Brigid Brophy’s In Transit. It won’t please readers who like their plots all neatly resolved, especially since it’s the first novel in a diptych, the second part of which won’t be published, but it’s much less perplexing than Dhalgren. I found it emotionally satisfying, and the reasons for Delany’s not completing it, which I didn’t try to find out until after I’d read Stars, seem to be to be justified (and heartbreaking). I’d recommend not trying to find out before reading the first part.

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