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Publisher's Summary

In Dhalgren, perhaps one of the most profound and best-selling science fiction novels of all time, Samuel R. Delany has produced a novel that rivals the best American fiction of the 1970s.

Bellona is a city at the dead center of the United States. Something has happened there...the population has fled. Madmen and criminals wander the streets. Strange portents appear in the cloud-covered sky. And into this disaster zone comes a young man - a poet, a lover, and an adventurer - known only as the Kid.

Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and a groundbreaking work of American magical realism.

©1975 Samuel R. Delany (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Poor choice for audiobook

The selling points of this story require a written version. It’s just confusing otherwise. It’s confusing with... but at least you have all the facts.

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  • kwdayboise (Kim Day)
  • 08-04-2017

A classic I return to every few years

I am required to go back to this book every few years. The first book by Delany I ever read was Babel-17 when I was in high school. I enjoyed it. I and several high school friends also read Einstein Intersection and were blown away. One step closer to fanboy. Shortly after high school it seemed like every time I went to the drug store or supermarket the book rack had a copy of Dhalgren. This gigantic book with a strange cover. I finally broke down and bought it and was immediately hooked.

It’s interesting coming back to the book after several years. The book is overtly sexual. And not just sexual but polyamorous with what ends up being a threesome among the main character Kidd, a woman named Lanya, and a gang member named Denny. I think that was a partial draw, but the book in general with its setting in a mysterious city of Bellona and the odd interaction in the entire city kept me sailing through what, at that time, was the longest book I’d ever read.

It’s important to state that the book makes no real sense. It’s as psychedelic a book as you might get from the era (it was first published in 1975). I worried that I might be missing something or was too dense to understand some subtext. I was relieved, then, that the latest edition I read included an introduction by William Gibson, no illiterate regarding science fiction, in which he said that as much as he loved the book he didn’t understand it. The book is an enigma, It has a plot, carries along that plot. But what happened in Bellona? No one knows. It’s a city with its own individual apocalypse that doesn’t seemed to have gone beyond the city’s borders. The inhabitants are drawn from different places as if the city demanded their presence. They also seem to have difficulty leaving, or at least of finding their way out. Within the city limits there are codes but no laws. People scrounge for food but no one goes hungry. It’s a dangerous place and yet there’s a newspaper, a higher society, and some semblance of being a city but with no true government. Sexuality is casual and random, but Kidd’s threesome has familial affection for each other.

Kidd is a mystery throughout the book. Arriving in the city with amnesia after an apparent stay in a mental hospital. He finds a partially filled notebook and begins writing poetry on the blank pages. Almost as suddenly he stops writing but a book of his poems manages to get published. He takes work with a family in which the wife, at least, seems to be in denial about what’s happening around her, trying to live a normal life despite the strange noises outside her apartment. Even the name of the book is a mystery, with one fleeting reference to a man with the surname Dhalgren on a list of names.

After finishing the book I became a Delany addict, tearing through all the books I could find. (I’ve seen similar obsessions with Frank Herbert fans.) But I don’t think until I read Aye, and Gomorrah: And Other Stories that I got a grip about what I loved in Delany and sought out in other science fiction or fiction in general: a sense of freedom and a traveler’s eye. I don’t think one really understands their surroundings until they leave them for awhile. And while travelling or experiencing another country (or another world) one gets perspective on what has been so entwined with you that it becomes invisible. The new world, too, seems brighter. Every small detail has meaning and consequence that have been lost in the things you leave behind. This is wonder. This is magic. Delany’s writings have that sense of wonder and magic while still managing to have taken on some of the deeper themes in literature.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael W
  • 11-02-2016

Yeasayers say yes. Naysayers say no.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. It is experimental literature that has worn the test of time. If we shall fall for the fallacy of credentialism, Umberto Eco, Theodore Sturgeon, David Bowie, endorse this delicate fragile, imperfect yet bold unabashed and honest work.If it ain't for you then you don't have a place in Bellona.Go somewhere else.As for the rest of us, you are welcome here.Look, you'll know right away if this is not for you. Don't expect anything from Dhalgren. It is more suggestive than expressive. If you expect anything, be prepared for disappointment.However, if you take it as it comes, if you say yes, you are in for a treat. This is something unlike anything that came before it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Dhalgren?

Sex with trees, the banality of prose. The beauty of it.

What about Stefan Rudnicki’s performance did you like?

His deep cadence plays well with the essence of this peculiar and noteworth work..

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

What you see is incomparable to what you think.

Any additional comments?

This is a landmark work that while imperfect, its contrivances suggests so much it must not be overlooked.All you have to do it let it.

19 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • T. J. Mathews
  • 08-05-2016

An enduring classic or the Emperor's new clothes?

Any additional comments?

Dhalgren is one of those books where I was left wondering if it was a “literary marvel and a groundbreaking work of American magical realism.” or a literary version of the emperor’s new clothes. Based on hundreds of glowing reviews and its placement high on most must-read sci-fi lists, there are many who believe this is a classic. One reader in my discussion group said “It's enough to me that odd and interesting events happen, characters have interesting conversations/insights, and there are occasional hot sex scenes.”

I’m not so sure.

Weighing in at over 800 pages, much of what happens takes place in Bellona, a city devastated by some unknown calamity and follows the wanderings, adventures, discussions and passionate encounters of a homeless young man who cannot remember his name and assumes the moniker Kidd, or Kid depending where you are in the book. While Bellona and the people Kidd encounters are interesting, the book is essentially plotless with Delaney teasing readers frequently with inexplicable events and possibly profound insights that flutter just outside of the reader’s understanding.

Written in the mid-1970s , Dhalgren shares the aimlessness and lack of purpose that permeated that decade between the sexual revolution and the AIDS epidemic, when physical passion replaced the passion engendered by a sense of purpose. The conversations about such still-debated topics as race, gender and sexuality may have been groundbreaking and original when written but now seem to be shallow and selfish. Maybe the most profound thing Delaney says is his statement on page 685 that “balling a couple of dozen people in one night is merely a prerequisite for understanding anything worth knowing.”
William Gibson was known to say that Dhalgren is a riddle never meant to be solved. Maybe it is, like Russia, a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Or maybe, like several of the denizens of Bellona, the Emperor has no clothes. Who’s to say?

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • W. Allen
  • 11-05-2016

The Human Story Always Captures the Reader

I find the depth of character emersive. The level of detail is astounding. One could make a movie, but you would lose the ordinary motovations of the characters. I'm not keen on the perverse as sodomy pervades the book. I think it provides a bleak normal the characters must accept to stay alive since sodomy appears to be a currency as does sex. Most stories have people running away from their bad circumstances, but these young people appear more willing to adapt to it. One has to wonder what has happened to the rest of the world. Dalgren is a deeper look into people than Ben Bova's "City of Darkness", which I enjoyed grearly. I'm sure I wil listen again!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • epiphanyp7a
  • 28-02-2016

Not for casual readers

Would you try another book from Samuel R. Delany and/or Stefan Rudnicki?

Samuel R Delany's Sci-Fi books are great. However Dhalgren is not really a sci-fi book. It is an exploration of experimental prose and poetry. Don't get me wrong, there are moments of genius in the chaos.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

There are a handful of powerful scenes in the book that are highly realistic. In fact, it is believed that some of the content has been adapted from Delany's own personal experiences. This would not be surprising.The weakest aspect of Dhalgren is it's length. If the book was cut in half, it would be more mainstream.

Any additional comments?

Overall Dhalgren is worth your time if you are a general lover of the written word, who is looking for something a little bit different, maybe even slightly insane.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-08-2018

complete immersion

I type Samuel Delany's name into audible everyday, waiting for them to bring more of his huge body of work to life, which now seems to be coming true for his science fiction works anyway...still waiting for Stars in My Pocket and the Neveryon series! Not at all disappointed: whenever you press play, the narrator's voice folds you into that darkly glinting labyrinth - into its broken and erotic world trying to think myself - and I love losing myself in it. To be honest, I think I've just re-listened to blocks from the first 8 hours or so again and again without letting myself advance yet: sometimes, after an ipod error, from not recognizing what part of the book I'm in, and others from figuring I may as well turn this chunk of it over and over again while I'm here before moving on. Either way, I'm completely okay with that. Having it on audiobook allows me to familiarize myself with the confusion a bit more in a way that seems absolutely fitting. Please bring more of his stuff to Audible! And please bring some of his more gay and erotic work, too - definitely feels like audible's been playing it safe with their demographics a bit., and these later works are so philosophically robust I think folks are missing out.

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  • Jeffrey S.
  • 13-04-2018

eh? uh... Sheesh! Did I miss something?

It's pretty damn disappointing. The first half of the book is so strange, with a haunting, disjointed but flowing semi-randomness and almost a complete lack of any conventional narrative structure that would normally be employed to set up a science fiction story. This drew me in with a sense of wonder to allow for it all, even the graphic, often homo-erotic descriptions of random sex. I mistook it for a masterful forging of a completely unique platform that I expected gradually would yield amazing, phantasmic science fiction. What is really happening in this city? Who is our protagonist? What afflicts his sanity and how does his struggle fit in with these beguiling circumstances? It keeps building and mystifying with nothing suddenly making too much sense and only more questions arising. I thought that being such a long book there was no hurry. I expected that eventually something magnificent would emerge. Then by the second half of the book it keeps degrading and no longer seems to be going anywhere. The random flow of similar, pointless-seeming events (and non-events) becomes tedious. Even worse, the author has decided to introduce a new device of the narrative being collected from incomplete, poorly-edited scraps. It's the last straw. A royal cop-out that also lends itself very poorly to the audio format. And sure enough it all just drizzles on and winds down to a big NOTHING. Seesh! Boo-hisss. Just "art" or dated, feeble, counter-culture exposition. No satisfaction as a story.
Rudnicki, as always, does a great job although it's hard not getting a little tired of anyone's voice when it goes on for sooo long in such a disappointing story.

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  • James
  • 28-02-2016

The Most Disturbing, Enlightening Novel

Dhalgren is different than any book I have ever read. When it was first recommended to me, that friend told me, " This book turns everything you know on its head." That description was absolutely spot on. Delaney shows us, to an unbelievable extent, what is truly possible with language. From his poetic prose, to his vivid, explicit description of a society in the throes of social anarchy/mutual aid... Delaney astounds. This modern myth challenged me to the core - psychologically, philosophically, and morally. Hades is alive and real in the heart of America and the mind of our young Hermes, which we come to know affectionately as "the Kid".

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  • Mark
  • 24-10-2016

Gotta start checking other's reviews

I considered that, surely, the book can't be as bad as some harsh critics claimed. The book has been around for 40+ years and still manages to find it's way into print so, even though it has limited success, there's definitely an audience for it and I can appreciate it.

But, no. Dhalgren is not mainstream and is obscure for a reason. It is convoluted and rambling and reeks of 60s era drug-addled counter-culture. Any attempt at intelligence is purely coincidental.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Hillis
  • 13-03-2016

Don't

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Most disappointing book I have heard/read in a long time. I tried but half way thru the book I had to give up and jump to last chapter. It plodded along with more focus on words to paint a picture of the world but never really developed characters I could relate to or even like or dislike. Sex seemed placed in the book as a distraction and added very little ro story line.

What could Samuel R. Delany have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Make better characters, develop them and don't let them wander.

What didn’t you like about Stefan Rudnicki’s performance?

It was good and I have enjoyed him on other books.

4 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • sarahmoose2000
  • 01-03-2016

Confusing

I bought this based on the narrator as I love his work. I shouldn't really have, as it is Sci-Fi, and I just don't get that genre.

A young man named Kid appears in a new city which has been hit by an appocolypse or something. He gradually makes his way to leader of the Scorpions, a wreckless young gang not unlike Bill Sykes' in Oliver Twist.

It felt as if you were dropped into a trilogy and had missed the important introductions and necessary information. For example an orchid was some sort of weapon and there was some significance to having beads around your neck - it was never really explained, or maybe I just didn't get it, that's quite possible.

4 of 13 people found this review helpful