Home > Book Reviews > Review: The Ballad of Beta-2 by Samuel R. Delaney

Review: The Ballad of Beta-2 by Samuel R. Delaney

I have started to develop a fondness for some of the science fiction novels/novellas of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I find that many of the ideas are clever and the writing is very tight.  I had read two of Delany’s novellas, Empire Star (highly recommended) and Babel-17 which you can find together in an omnibus edition. I ran across The Ballad of Beta-2 at a local used bookstore recently.

The conceit of this story is an anthropological study of a ballad composed by the people of a multi-generational colony ship. A student is assigned the task to decipher the history and meaning of the song. The words of the song are intelligible, but have either highly stylized meanings or the original terms have evolved over time, making the real message obscure.

The protagonist travels to the site of the surviving ships in a small research vessel which has the technology to create temporal bubbles. Once there, he attempts to locate records, both written and sound recording, to explain what happened to the ships and their inhabitants.

I found the novella very original in its themes of language shifts, idioms, and imagery, which rendered the original song mysterious to other civilizations.  Like Empire Star, it’s a story that almost has to be read again immediately after finishing to fully enjoy the book.

4 out of 5 stars (finished January 2, 2012)

Advertisements
Categories: Book Reviews Tags:
  1. January 4, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Mike, I a big fan of Delany, but I haven’t read this one–it sounds like quintessential Delany. I’ll have to see if I can find it. If you haven’t read “Nova” yet, I recommend it. It’s my favorite Delany novel.

    • michaelldennis
      January 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      I checked my online catalog of books and found that I don’t have Nova, nor have I read it. May keep my eye out and read it this year.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: