(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

As a cautionary tale, Nova Express fits into the long tradition of science-fiction works that alert readers to pending disaster or apocalypse. The unresolved struggle between criminals and police, combined with an emphasis on language and idiom, makes Nova Express comparable to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (1962), in which police and criminals are set in unending opposition, variants in idiom divide society, and descriptions of sex and violence underscore the warning. Nova Express also prompts comparisons with Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) because of the emphasis on the way the agents of control center their attention on visual images and the written word. Both Burgess and Bradbury, however, wrote conventional narratives that are comprehensible to the ordinary reader, who is very likely to be challenged or put off by Burroughs’ abandonment of the conventions of storytelling.

Nova Express reflects a middle stage in the development of Burroughs’ career. Junky (1953) introduces the reader to Burroughs’ criticism of society and his focus on criminal activity, drugs, and sex. Naked Lunch proceeds thematically from Junky but abandons ordinary narrative. Different readers find it either funny or disgusting in its descriptions of sex and violence. Naked Lunch was the subject of an important censorship trial in Massachusetts in 1965. Important literary...

(The entire section is 449 words.)