Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Ballad of Beta-2 & Empire Star

By Samuel R. Delany

The Ballad of Beta-2: Set in the far future, when mankind travels the galaxy via hyper-space drive, this is the story of an anthropology student Joneny, who is given the assignment to investigate the Star Folk. They are people who are living in old spaceships dating from the pre-hyper drive days. They set out to colonize a new world only to find that they were passed long ago by the hyper drive ships. They had been voyaging for generations, and their descendants had degenerated terribly, no longer fit to colonize anything. So they stayed in permanent orbit, pretty much left alone by civilization, left to moulder away in their decline. Joneny is specifically to investigate a folk song of the Star Folk, the "Ballad of Beta-2," and see if he can unravel the truth behind the events related in the song.

This was a pretty good story. It was exciting and the technology was strange and different and the puzzle of the song was quite interesting.

Empire Star is also set in the far future and is the story of a simple farm lad, Jo, who finds a jewel-like alien and who takes on the task of taking the alien and an important message to Empire Star. He meets lots of different people and a few more aliens and learns a lot and eventually sort of ends up back where he started.

I didn't like this story. It keeps going on about simplex and multiplex, people keep trying to teach Jo, who starts out as simplex, how to be multiplex, whatever that is. And Jo has various rather tame adventures, and then the ending is some complicated time-twisting something or the other, I don't know what, and was just not very satisfying to me.
So since the first story was good and the second story was bad, I'll rate the book as a fair read.

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