Samuel R. Delany's 1968 sf novel Nova is a pirouette of poetry and physics, a tour de force that reads as well now as it did more than 40 years ago. It's a wild amusement-park ride of wealth and obsession, vision and ballad, archetypal myth and stellar nucleosynthesis, chaos and civilization, quest and question. Perfect? Far from it. But thoughtful, startlingly well-written, and inspirational? Definitely, with echoes of Liz Williams, Roger Zelazny, and Peter Beagle. A sample, from a costume party in a future Paris (Chapter 3):
Behind him a girl laughed sharply. He turned to her—
—head of a bird of paradise, blue feathers about red foil eyes, red beak, red rippling comb—
—as she pulled away from the group to sway against the low wall. The breeze shook the panels of her dress so that they tugged at the scrolled brass fastenings at shoulder, wrist, and thigh. She rested her hip on the stone, one sandaled toe touching the ground, one an inch above it. With long arms (her nails were crimson) she removed her mask. As she set it on the wall, the breeze shook out her black hair, dropped it to her shoulders, raised it. The water reticulated below them as under flung sand.
He looked away. He looked back. He frowned.
There are two beauties (her face struck the thought in him, articulate and complete): with the first, the features and the body's lines conform to an averaged standard that will offend no one: this was the beauty of model and popular actresses; this was the beauty of Che-ong. Second, there was this: her eyes were smashed disks of blue jade, her cheekbones angled high over the white hollows of her wide face. Her chin was wide; her mouth, thin, red, and wider. Her nose fell straight from her forehead to flare at the nostrils (she breathed in the wind—and watching her, he became aware of the river's odor, the Paris night, the city wind); these features were too austere and violent on the face of such a young woman. But the authority with which they set together would make him look again, he knew, once he looked away; make him remember, once he had gone away. Her face compelled in the way that makes the merely beautiful gnaw the insides of their cheeks.
Image, sharp and focused; highlights that pierce and chill.
(cf. Dhalgren (2011-07-23), ...) - ^z - 2012-10-31