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1969 - Year in SF&F: Reviews



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
Read other issues here

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Samuel R. Delany
"Nova" (nv)
© 1969, Bantam
--novel : 1969 Hugo
--/ fourth place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


When I was in college, it was to my great surprise that Samuel R. Delany’s “Nova” came up on the syllabus. “Nova”? Shouldn’t that be “Dhalgren”? But you know what they say: there’s no fool like a college student.

Delany is a clever man, having written perhaps the most densely subtextual literature in the genre. “Nova” holds up to a casual read, with Lorq von Ray, our physically scarred and emotionally complex protagonist fighting for the very balance of the universe - but there are layers that sneak up on the reader, a kind of devious introduction to some of the most innovative writing of the Sixties.

One of the themes most poignant is Delany’s experimentation with the long-term consequences of a technological society. It has the trappings of familiar scifi, but as a criticism of contemporary life the question still holds. We each augment ourselves significantly: high heels, iPods, medications – some are harmless, some maybe less so. But how do these “cybogisms” affect us on an intellectual level? And even deeper, how do we each relate to the machines that now make up our daily routine? Much of the novel is about class differences (or mega-gulfs, rather) and part of it is the segregation of those who have refused to be “cyborged.” Called “Gypsies,” those that don’t want any mechanical upgrades are considered throw-backs, retards, and are systematically exterminated.

Delany is more than capable of writing a rousting space opera, but it seems with “Nova” he was as interested in the existential. On the surface it is a novel about an underdog fighting to balance a universe gone slanted, the kind of place where the hyper-rich never experience any bummers other than their own inexplicable boredom, and major decisions often involve using Tarot cards. Or you know, the kind of place where folks with robot-hands claw other people in the face. But the questions that percolate up are just as interesting; what are artists to a civilization, and to what degree are we each capable of making art? In what ways are we complimented by technology, and in which ways are we being destroyed by it?

Review by Sunday Williams
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Andre Norton
"The Toys of Tamisen"
(Perilous Dreams)
© IF, Apr 1969
High Sorcery, 1970
Perilous Dreams, 1976
--/ third place sf novella
--/ wonder award

"It takes place in a future where humanity had long ago reached the stars and scattered itself across thousands of planets. The heroine, Tamisan is a 'true action dreamer to the tenth power' and she can share her dreams (for a certain fee) with others. Lord Starrex is a former space voyager who now lies crippled in the midst of luxury. He can afford the very best Tamisan has to offer and she wants to create a unique fantasy world for him because she senses that he has been everywhere, seen everything, and will not be satisfied with her usual fare. She hits upon the idea of creating an alternate history of their world, where certain key events can be altered by Tamisan to yield a different present". One of the best ever treatments of "actualized dreams" idea. Also see review of "Perilous Dreams". I liked it immensely when I read it in college.
review: 21-Jul-06 (read in 1987)


Artwork courtesy Geoff Taylor (Click to enlarge)

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