Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand
Written by: Samuel R. Delany
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Science-fiction has always been a haven for the weird, strange, and unconventional. Still, few authors have pushed these boundaries far as Delany. Best known for his great book, Dhalgren, Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand is something completely different yet equally great.
With subject matter so pertinent to our current times, it’s difficult to believe this novel is 35 years old. But the elegance of its aging is only one aspect among many that affirm this as a classic.
It has one of the oddest narrative structures I’ve ever seen, yet it works fluidly. It is easy to grow confused with the plot’s many starts and stops, twists and turns, but everything always clears up within a page or two and you’re left pondering how the book took such obscure, untraveled routes to where it arrives, whereupon the previous confusion turns to reverence for the writing. The only other current writer’s style I can compare this book’s to is that of the great China Miéville, but that’s only stretching for connections. This book is truly unique and special, interesting and exciting, thoughtful and meditative.
More philosophy than action, Stars still manages to make ideas and images dance together in your mind. There is travel, intrigue, and mystery, but it’s all explored at a leisurely yet prompt pace that paints a clear yet alien picture.
Perhaps most glaring about this work is that its unfinished. In the foreword and according to Delany himself, it was planned as a duology, but the conclusion has never been published. I will not guess why, but it’s difficult to fully assess the book due to this incompleteness. However, though it’s not a full picture, it’s a beautiful one.
Fun to read, original, thought-provoking, gender-bending, species-questioning, and timeless, Stars remains a classic book by a great author.