Samuel R. Delany has written a beautiful and important book, and one of the best novels I've read in a while. One aspect of what makes it important (if not always beautiful) also makes it a book I won't be recommending to just anyone.
That thing is the sex, particularly the sex that occupies a great deal of the first three-hundred or so pages of the book (and never disappears altogether). Surely, you say, a little of the old in-and-out, even a little of the old gay in-and-out, or--in these fifty-shaded days--even a little kinky BDSMish in-and-out, won't be as off-putting as all that, and you'd be right. Your grandmother reads books that feature all those things.
And that's precisely, I believe, the reason Delany felt the need to go beyond the warm and fuzzy every-day "deviance" with which we've all grown comfortable. He needed to go beyond it, because the philosophical point of this book, has to do with tolerance, and if we're talking about tolerating something we're already comfortable with--gay people, for example, who are willing to adopt the social mores of straight people and not talk too much about what they do in the bedroom (or the men's room)--then our tolerance doesn't really amount to much.
Thus, in scenes that go on for pages, Delany trots out pederasty, bestiality, coprophagia, urophagia (the squemish should not run to their dictionaries to look up these terms), the ingesting of one's own, and others' mucous, and . . . the list could go on. None of it is condemned, and none of it is gratuitous. Though readers may be titillated by one or two of the practices Delany details, no one could possibly enjoy them all, and most will be actively repulsed by at least another one or two. But Delany makes it clear that the people who do enjoy whichever of the acts disgust us are--people. They are us. There is no circle marked "normal," when it comes to sexuality or anything else, outside of which these people exist. So attached are we, by the end of the novel, for example, to the two characters whose seventy-plus year relationship the novel chronicles, so richly human has Delany made these two simple working-class men who are in the thick of much of the sexual action, that we can't not understand this.
Delany's novel is richly philosophical--Spinoza is the presiding deity--but I'd hate to give the impression that it is only a vehicle for conveying ideas. Much richer than that, it is, first and foremost, art, a vehicle for conveying beauty: the last couple-hundred pages, where we see the two central characters grow old and approach death, are unbearably moving.
I won't be recommending this book to everyone I know, but I do wish, with open minds and good will, everyone would read it.