A plot summary of Davy neglects one of the novel’s pleasures and important themes: the richness of the English language. Davy and Pangborn love language, from coarse prose to beautiful poetry, and the novel reflects that love. Davy often sets off on delightful Melvillean digressions on such topics as bedbugs. Additionally, a transformed language adds flavor to his narration. The transformed language appears in neologisms (mahooha), portmanteaus (prezactly), contracted forms (Febry), and distorted forms (sack-religion). Even cultural icons appear changed: Davy’s world has a Saint George Washington. Pangborn uses such language to engage the intellect, make readers laugh, and show how fragments of civilization persist through time, transformed to suit new ages.
Pangborn returned to the world of Davy in The Judgment of Eve (1966), The Company of Glory (1975), and short stories such as those collected in Still I Persist in Wondering (1978). Davy, written in the middle of his career, is Pangborn’s most defining and enduring work. Davy was runner-up for the 1965 Hugo Award for best science-fiction novel and placed on the 1972 Locus poll for best novel of all time. Critical opinion of Davy is favorable. George Zebrowski writes that Davy “is one of the lasting works of SF,” and Spider Robinson says that “reading Davy has measurably and significantly, and...
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