Return to Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #4)Return to Nevèrÿon by Samuel R. Delany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fitting ending, bringing us back to where this all started, literally, by repeating the initial tale in the series.

Again, very concerned with language and power, but so much more.

This series is just beyond brilliant to me. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in the way language shapes and constructs and orders civilizations and peoples and where power comes from, the forms it takes, and deep, erudite plunges into the psychology, not only of sex, but of desire, of lust.

The series is a hall of mirrors, infinitely reflecting itself, and, in this way, it is ever-expanding, partly because it doesn’t end. While the series very clearly deals with certain characters, it is not so much about those characters as it is about the nature of language and narratives. That’s not to say we don’t feel connected to the characters. Nothing could be further from the truth, really. It’s engrossing, not only for its ideas [which are monumental and numerous], but for the sheer pleasure it takes in telling its stories, in giving us these characters, who are drawn meticulously. These are powerful stories in their own right, but, more than that, they’re beautiful. But then when combined with the ideas present: it’s similar to Dostoevsky despite being so obviously different from him in every imaginable way. I think the comparison’s useful. Dostoevsky was a writer of profound ideas, and that same kind of brilliant mind is behind these stories, though maybe more academic, and certainly more playful and lighter in tone.

The series is a constant critique and exploration of itself, too, with the stories deconstructing one another, commenting on one another, even completely undercutting and subverting each other. And, really, it is a retelling of the world we live in now, and so Neveryon is our mirror that we look into, watching our reflection fragment and deconstruct and reconstruct itself endlessly.

It’s truly an amazing literary feat, to do so much philosophically while remaining entertaining. Though, to be fair, these are not the kind of stories that will excite you with action and adventure and daring [though there is that here, too]. More than that, they are very real stories about very real people doing very real things in a world that’s almost real but feels, somehow, realer.

Too, these stories, individually, are much less than them combined. So while one story or the other may miss for you, the overall effect is dazzling. It’s for this reason that I’ve refrained from giving the books five stars, individually. Now that I’m finished and the whole shape is in my head [or at least the small amount I’m able to keep there], it becomes so much more. The stories are good by themselves, but, together, man, they’re truly just something else entirely. And it’s important to count every page of these books together, from the quotes that introduce each story, to the appendices and afterwords and acknowledgements, which are, oddly enough, just as much a part of the overall narrative of the series [which, I mean, even though it’s a reflection of our world, it also exists in our world, so the lines really start breaking down to the point that the reflection becomes what the object is, and vice versa: a mirror is a reflection but it is also a mirror] because they all add up, all form a greater whole, something that reaches towards an almost perfect novel, despite, essentially, being a collection of eleven stories over four books.

Highly recommended.

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