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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand

Copyright 1984 by Samuel R. Delaney

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point    Superb (5/5)

I first read this in 1986 and most recently in July 2001

The thousands of human and alien worlds of the far future are politically aligned either to the conservative "Family", or to the more liberal "Sygn", the believers in free and open information. Sometimes the political differences spill over into more serious conflict and sometimes war. However both parties, indeed all people, have one common fear - the awful apprehension of "Cultural Fugue" an unidentified, unknown, societal sickness that has led to the complete destruction of an increasing number of worlds.

On the planet Rhyonon, the young Kerga got himself into quite a bit of trouble, largely due to his (in his culture) perverted sexual preferences. He's is eventually encouraged to undergo "Radical Anxiety Termination", a medical procedure banned on most worlds. The treatment removes anxiety but as a consequence removes self-will. As a "Rat", Korga has simply become an uncaring slave, to be abused and cast-away at his owners' whims.

Marq Dyeth is an Industrial Diplomat. Sophisticated, civilised and of the aristocracy, insofar as such exists on his world. He travels between the worlds resolving major problems, spends time when he can with his large and loving family and in general leads a very satisfactory life.

All that changes when he meets the very unusual person that is his perfect erotic object, the exact embodiment of all his sexual desires.

Incredible - a tour de force of brilliant imagination and scintillating writing that flips you round with its subversive views of culture and sexuality. This is up there in my top one hundred books - of course it still lags behind "Dhalgren" (but just about every book is behind that masterpiece).

This is the most tactile novel I've ever read - you believe the world Delaney has created because he's described how to touch it, how it feels to your fingers. Delany's writing is so astonishingly imaginative and powerful. You just start reading and you're lost in the language. Look at when Korga starts reading the books and can't stop. You feel the Korga's breathless rush as he absorbs the information from first one book then another, faster and faster relating one book's context to the next. Or what about the formal dinner party, with its dance steps and mobile cooking machinery and where the rudeness of the Thants causes a paralysed panic among their fellow guests, and where you really don't want to think too much about what they're eating.

So it's got culture, politics and haute cuisine, powerful emotions, nail-biting and superb writing, Heck, at least half a dozen other books must have that. So what else has it got? One thing it certainly doesn't seem to have is the then-intended sequel: "The Splendor And Misery Of Bodies, Of Cities". But just to finish off, it does have a little more: Sex. Lots of it. Gay sex, Alien sex. wild profligate sex. Yep, there sure is a lot packed tight in this book. but perhaps it's not a book for prudes. Or homophobes.

Loaded on the 7th July 2001.
Cover of Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand
Cover art by Mark Salwowski

Reviews of other works with covers by Mark Salwowski:
To Bathe In Lightning
The Day Of The Triffids
The Cassini Division
The Sky Road