Review of 'Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand'

Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delany

stars_in_my_pocket.jpg In the prologue we are introduced to a troubled young man who is forced by society to undergo Radical Anxiety Termination (RAT) treatment that renders him effectively a mindless automaton who is sold and used for physical labour. When his planet is destroyed by an alien race “Rat” Korga is the sole survivor. Marq Dyeth is an industrial diplomat (ID) from a respectable family who has travelled the stars. After Korga's treatment is reversed he starts an intimate relationship with Marq and in the space of the day begins to question everything he has known to be true.

This was a very hard read for me. The first time I started it I gave up after only a few pages but the second time I picked it up I was determined to finish it. Largely this is because of how many times I have heard how good a book was. It had to be me that was not getting it, right, not the book? The thing that makes it so difficult is coming to grips with the depth of the prose and the completely alien cultures it describes. I really did try very hard to read slowly and understand exactly what is being said but often I found myself reading the same page over and over again, being none the wiser or, at least, believing this to be so. I don't like a novel to be like this - It is too much like hard work. I like a novel to be something that entertains or has a coherent message to the reader. Here I found neither.

This novel seems more a polemic on sexual liberation and freedom of thought than an actual Science Fiction novel with many of the pages devoted to these subjects. The rest of the pages attempt to describe in some detail the alien cultures and social norms. It is often more like reading an essay so I can't help feeling lectured to. Of the two main characters it was Korga I sympathised with as he seems to be very much along for the ride as the seas around him swirl in his wake.

I am sure this book has a lot of good things to say but you have to wade through a lot of words to get to them and I am afraid by that point it was lost on me. Having said that the epilogue goes some way of explaining the impact that Korga has had on Marq and, perhaps slightly, explain what it has all meant. At that point, I am sorry to say, I was just happy to finish the book and put it down after all of the confusion I had during its reading.

Rating: “Not great, but not the worse”

Review Date: 2017-10-05

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Bantam Spectra

Publication Date: 1984

ISBN: 055325149x