Friday, September 8, 2017

The Hermit of Houston, by Samuel R. Delany

★★★☆☆ Average

(SF Epic) The narrator describes his life in a very different North America, where everyone is male. (12,257 words; Time: 40m)

Recommended By: GDozois+1 RHorton+2 JStrahan+2 Locus+2

"The Hermit of Houston," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 09-10|17, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The future world is a strange mix of the familiar and the bizarre. Sometimes the people seem to lead very primitive lives, but other times things seem very advanced.

Con: There’s no actual plot here. The narrator simply describes his life and then ends when he’s done talking.

It’s never clear what it means that everyone is male but some are women.

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5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Way too obscure and rambling for me.

  2. just won the Locus Award for Best Novelette of 2018...

    1. It was widely praised by people I usually agree with. But not this time. I usually love Delaney's work, for that matter, even Dhalgren, which many people find too confusing. But this one was too confusing, even for me. I still have no idea what anyone saw in it.

  3. This story profits a lot from an inmediate re-read after the first one. Also, it improves with each re-read. Much as with Riders of the Purple Salary, by Philip Jose Farmer, or Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones, by Samuel S. Delany. If you like those stories, there is a good chance that you enjoy this one as well, but remember to give it a re-read, it is practically a must.

    This is the story of a life in a not-too-far future where our future eventually collapsed. Bits of information here and there allow for a glympse of what is going on in that future society. The comparison between the position of the narrator and the reader in our own world is inescapable. How much do we know and in what ways are we shepherded.

    There are hints of what might be the evolution of current thrends (much as in Riders...). Some critics have mentioned satire, others have been frightened by what the tale seems to be telling us. Melville veiled some of the meaning in a number of his stories, to be digged by those really interested. This tale seems to follow that tradition.

    A very powerful story all in all. Not for the faint of heart, though, and it requires at least one re-read.

    1. I very much enjoyed both "Riders of the Purple Wage" and "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones," but I still hated this one. Perhaps I'll give it another look, now that I've got time. :-)