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Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders Paperback – 17 Apr 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 804 pages
  • Publisher: Magnus Books (17 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193683314X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936833146
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,449,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve Craftman on 30 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've slowed up on reviewing books. This one is a reason for it: I was recommended it through a kink website, so be warned: if your vanilla personality is in control, you aren't going to like this. The homoeroticism doesn't get through to masturbatory standards (Though I've had a few damn good dreams since reading this book!).

It's almost like a new genre: a life where sexuality is irrelevant, where race is as relevant as the guys Involved: I couldn't keep track of who was white and who was black. Mills and Boon with dirty, nasty (I'm quoting the characters) homoeroticism. If the Dump existed I'd move there in an instant.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In fact do not read this book while thinking about eating.

Excise the sex scenes and you'd have an elegant novella...

Um... It's probably brilliant. It's certainly affecting; the last third constantly made me want to weep (not cool when reading during smoke breaks at work).

A 70 year gay love story. Beautifully written prose, utterly real and absorbing.

Side note of irritation: if Delaney can write this why can't he write the once-promised sequel to Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A lifetime of beauty and desire, perversity, love and joy 22 May 2012
By S. Maxey - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I only just finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and it feels in some ways too soon to write about it.

This is not an easy book. There is something to take virtually every reader out of his or her sexual comfort zone. And yet it is deeply suffused with love and the joy of living in a community that accepts you for who you are, quirks and all.

The story starts in 2007, just before 17-year-old Eric Jeffers moves to the small seaside village of Diamond Harbor and meets the love of his life, 19-year-old Morgan Haskell (who goes by a nickname that cannot be quoted in this review). The book unfolds from Eric's point of view, following the two men into the 2070s through various careers, the loss of family members, the gradual evolution of the seaside community as more (and different) residents move in, and a rich and robust sex life. The sexual play between them follows repetitive, slowly evolving patterns--but that is part of the point. What is so often elided in fiction is here presented as an integral part of the warp and woof of their relationship to each other and to the community, and in the end the accumulation of the quotidian salacious details adds up to something greater than the sum of its lubricious parts.

It is also about community--how it supports us, how we support it, how it changes over time--and about memory--about the bumps and gaps of individual memory as well as of community history. It is also about the ongoing thread of sensual and sensory experience--full of precisely described moments and details of food, weather, light and clothing. It lets you closely observe the lives of a handful of people who never are in the spotlight or at the turning points of history, but who view all of that from a distance.

Spending 800 pages with Eric and Morgan feels like it has been a richly rewarding and touching experience, but one that is in some ways difficult to articulate because it is in some ways experiential, expressed through the lived details of their lives revealed over a lifetime.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Not Your Grandmother's Porn 25 Aug. 2012
By dcozy - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Unusual love story, amid raunchy content. 19 May 2012
By Bob Lind - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a young teen, Eric Jeffers was no stranger to gay sex, living with his former stepfather in Georgia. Right before his 17th birthday, in 2007, he was sent to live with his mother in rural Florida, and discovers the area is wide open fantasy playground for gays of all ages and races, courtesy of a black millionaire who financed it all. Eric immediately hooks up with a black young man just a couple of years older than him, and soon begins living, working, and playing with him and his father. The couple remains together for over seventy years, supported by jobs such as collecting garbage, managing the local porn sex club, and being handymen for an island colony of lesbians.

This is not an easy book to read. Besides being a mind-numbing 804 pages, the book is filled with graphic depictions of extreme raunchy sex, including taboos such as father-son incest and bestiality, and more. Since it is mostly dialogue driven, it drags a bit at times, and you can't help but wonder what is the point of the detailed descriptions given, if something other than to shock the reader. Yet, taking a step back and looking at the story, one can't help but notice that it actually provides a case study of a unique activism, with accompanying psychological, sociological and spiritual nuances, as well as a sci-fi like look at the future, since it ends 60+ years from now (In case you are wondering, gasoline then costs $160 a gallon, according to the author.) But, most of all, this is essentially a love story about an unusual same-sex couple, and their life together, exactly as they wanted it.

Delany is an accomplished author with dozens of titles released over the past forty years, none of which I have read before this one. Being such a unique work, it's hard to rate this as one would a regular romance or historical novel, because it is much more than that. Putting aside content I was uncomfortable reading, it is still undeniably well-written and weaves a complicated tapestry of the lives of two simple yet complex individuals, and those who affected their lives along the way. I'll call it four stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Delany's Latest is a Challenge That Pays Off 19 Jun. 2012
By Nick - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Challenging and off-putting, transgressive and liberating, mundane and joyous, "Through the Valley . . ." is Delany at his frighteningly honest best. Mixing elements of sf, pornography and journalistic epic, he weaves the tale of two life companions from their first meeting through the end of their days.

This is not an easy read, but life is not often easily lived, and the pay-off is the beauty of Delany's language - his eye for the odd but telling detail and the social comment ever-present but never didactic.

Delany is our Wolff, our Joyce (and sometimes our Sacher-Masoch) and this is a truly memorable, even epic, ride.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Delany in finest form 10 Jun. 2012
By Brian - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As "Internet puppy" Charlie Stross blogged the other day, "We're living in the 21st century: it's not possible to write a novel that seriously explores modern life without a background that includes rapid, cheap international travel: the commercial space industry: smartphones and the internet and spam: social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter: the rapidly shifting reference points of life expectancy, gender roles, and politics." Thus my first impression, reading the first half of TTVOTNOS, was that the young Eric, who turned 21 in 2012, was not such a well-formed character. For one thing, he was always looking for ways to break taboos in secret without ever once Googling the search-friendly fetishes he professed. Mid-way through, it became clear that Eric knew full well about computers and was actively avoiding them. This works as fiction because Delany's novel is more transgressive than what teenagers find on the Internet.

The prose is also beautiful. The incorporation of passages from a 17th century philosophical work, Ethica, is particularly effective; it might even prompt a few readers to pick up Spinoza.

However, after sitting through the long lessons on coprophilia and so forth, Delany's subsequent restraint in building the world of the 2030s through 2070s was disappointing. Colony on Mars, check. Clothes wash and repair themselves, check. Gay marriage common and polygamy on rise, check. Thin gruel. Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand virtually invented the internet; or rather, offered a vision of what a fully networked society might look like. That book was published something like a year before Rock Hudson died; Delany retrenched and never completed its sequel or any new science fiction novel at all until now. Since this book opens on a hedonistic note, I suspected he was picking up where he left off. In the end, I was surprised by his conservative touch. Despite having lesbians on the Moon, this world seems partly mired in our turn-of-the-millennium cultural swamp despite the passage of seventy years. Memory of the past weighs on protagonists Eric and Morgan, of course, but also on subsequent generations, due to factors like an offstage global tragedy Delany drops in abruptly two-thirds of the way through. Eric at the end of his long life is interviewed by a historian of sexual practices, yet he omits the worst out of deference to the young scholar's fragile sensibilities, and warns the youth of the far future about parasites.

Though it is interesting to consider why Delany didn't go farther with his world building, this book is excellent. It makes me hopeful he has another great science fiction novel or two still on the way.
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