Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is the first book of a planned two-novel sequence. The second book, to be titled The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities, was originally planned for publication in 1985 but was still awaited a decade later. At the end of Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, many of the book’s mysteries remain unsolved, particularly the nature and intent of a starfaring alien species, the Xlv. Earlier events in the same universe are recounted in Samuel Delany’s story “Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand” (1973), reprinted as “Omegahelm” in his Driftglass/Starshards collection (1993).
Korga is an inarticulate and brutalized misfit, a nineteen-year-old member of the criminal underclass on the planet Rhyonon. It appears that his sexual preferences, and his society’s reaction to them, have brought about his miserable life. This clash between personal preferences and social mores takes an unexpected, even bizarre, form. On Rhyonon, small physical size is considered a prerequisite for physical beauty. Further, there is a deeply ingrained taboo against sexual relations between people of different extremes in physical size. Korga, who is more than seven feet tall, is attracted only to small men; his flouting of the size taboo rather than his homosexuality is the issue.
As the novel opens, Korga volunteers (with a hesitation that casts doubt on the genuineness of his...
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