Review: "Trouble on Triton" by Samuel R. Delany


It happens every once in a while that I encounter a book that, despite my best efforts, leaves me incapable of making progress. Though I will have to set Delany's book aside for now, it will definitely be reaching my "try again later" shelf. As with every other book review, I will include a summary of the book and, for now, review what I have read. Once the time comes that I am able to tackle this book completely, I will re-review this book in much more depth.

In a story as exciting as any science fiction adventure written, Samuel R. Delany's 1976 SF novel, originally published as "Triton," takes us on a tour of a Utopian society at war with our own Earth. High wit in this future comedy of manners allwos Delany to question gender roles and sexual expectations at a level that, 20 years after it was written, still make it a coruscating portrait of "the happily reasonable man," Bron Helstrom-an immigrant to the embattled world of Triton, whose troubles become more and more complex, till there is nothing left for him to do but become a woman. Against a background of high adventure, this minuet of a novel dances from the farthest limits of the solar system to Earth's own Outer Mongolia. Alternately funny and moving, it is a wide-range tale in which character after character turns out not to be what he-or she-seems.

There are many aspects of Delany's story that motivated me to want to keep reading, perhaps just as many that kept dragging me back to "stuck on chapter four purgatory." The novel's focus on an almost radical new perspective of the genders as well as accepted sexualities had been the very reason why this book made its way onto my reading list. The utopian society is intriguing and full of unique flair with plenty to offer a reader, which is reasonably why my frustrations began with two major hindrances: the protagonist and the narrative. Bron Helstrom had proved to be a protagonist I had enormous difficulty relating to in any way. Sympathizing with this character had been easy enough but relating to Bron's life and the decisions he had seemingly been forced to make had been where the disconnect had begun to occur. Harboring a dislike for the protagonist of a book has never been enough to make me stop reading, which brings me to the other aspect of this book that acted as a major hindrance.

Admittedly I am not a poet, nor am I one who reads a lot of poetry for the simple reason that more often than not poems are more clever than I. As a result of this, reading novels written by seasoned poets proves to be a very hit-and-miss journey for me. Delany's language is beautiful and clever, but very dizzying to my eyes. There were many times I had to re-read passages in the narrative simply because Delany's extensive "poet-vocabulary" would appear. If context clues would not be enough, the narrative would make me scramble to find a dictionary.

For now I will have to shelf Delany's book and come back at a later time, the story in these pages is too interesting to abandon permanently.

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