(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Some critics have called Nova one of science fiction’s greatest novels, most notably Judith Merril in her review of Nova in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Seth McEvoy in his book Samuel R. Delany (1984). One important reason for the strong critical response is that Nova can be read on many levels.

On the surface, Nova—with its starships, exotic planetary landscapes, and interstellar intrigue—is a deep space adventure in the tradition of Isaac Asimov’s The Stars, Like Dust (1951). As one peels back Nova’s layers, deeper interpretive zones appear.

Nova builds on Marxist concepts, with Draco representing the aristocracy, the Pleiades the bourgeoisie, and the Outer Colonies, home of the Illyrion miners, the working class. The shifts in power from Draco to the Pleiades to the Outer Colonies follow Karl Marx’s dialectic progression of aristocracies to capitalist democracies to classless proletariat societies. This concept of transformation is central to all aspects of Nova. Samuel Delany parallels a star’s radical metamorphosis when it goes nova to the deep changes experienced by cultures and individuals when they go through a crisis. This transformative crisis occurs on all three levels—astronomical, cultural, and personal—when Von Ray plunges The Black Cockatoo into the nova.

Nova partakes of...

(The entire section is 458 words.)