I read a novel in highschool (2002) that I'd like to go back and read again, mostly because I can't remember what it was about. I remember some scenes from it, and I remember that the last few lines or words were deliberately left unspoken by the protagonist.

I think the book was a first-person narrative, but it might have just been the last part that was first-person. I take that back, it might have been third-person. I seem to remember the feeling of being shocked that the protagonist was the narrator... but that might be a figment. I can't remember the reasoning, but the protagonist had some kind of idea that if his story were left incomplete that he'd live longer? or be remembered? or something. But he stopped in the middle of a sentence, and that's the end of the book.

Other than that, I remember some "images" from the story. He was apparently part of a crew that piloted a solar-sail ship, and they had to plug their brains into the ship in order to pilot it via some kind of psychedelic experience of solar radiation. I seem to remember that when they plugged in, they couldn't see the ship, only the surrounding space and solar winds...

In part of the story, they were on a planet where some gas was dense enough to float on and sort of swim in, maybe in a gaseous river?

Someone played a "musical" instrument that was very difficult to play and did way more than just music.

Part of it involved a sensory deprivation chamber.

Definitely futuristic, sci-fi or sci-fantasy.

That's all I've got...

OH! I can't remember if this was the same book, or a different one, but I think the beginning of the book was super weird because they used lots of odd jargon and alien words without explaining them. The alien terminology gradually became less common, and the remaining words were explained by context and usage. Might have been a different book...

  • 1
    Space Scheherezade? :-P
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 5, 2016 at 18:27
  • Do the characters spend some time on Earth?
    – LAK
    May 5, 2016 at 18:51
  • I don't remember if they do or not.
    – Matt
    May 5, 2016 at 18:57
  • Did the plot involve a ship (with the crew that plugs in) that goes into a dangerous or unexplored area of space to get some kind of... treasure maybe (possibly near a black hole?)? What you describe sounds familiar to me, I'll check through my books at home in a few hours. Can't think of the title or author right now.
    – LAK
    May 5, 2016 at 19:02
  • 1
    I keep thinking of "The Void Captain's Tale" by Norman Spinrad, but that's definitely not it.
    – LAK
    May 5, 2016 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


I think this is "Nova" by Samuel R. Delany. I don't have a copy handy, so I can't confirm everything.

  • There's definitely a crew, and they plug in to pilot a spaceship. I don't think it's quite "sailing" but they do refer to "vanes," so that's close.
  • There's an instrument called a "sensory syrynx" which produces sound, scents, and holograms
  • I'm not quite sure about the floating in/on a gaseous planet, but at the end they fly the ship into the expanding gas of a nova and one of the characters says something like "you just float around in there and scoop up the stuff."

I'm pretty sure the book ends with the last few words omitted. One of the characters has aspirations of being a writer and says something about why he'd want to leave the last few words out of his book.

Or you (and I) could be getting this part mixed up with another Delaney book, "Dhalgren," where the end of the book wraps around to the beginning.

  • Yeah! It's Nova! That's the one! At least explains why Dhalgren kept coming up ;-)
    – Matt
    May 5, 2016 at 21:46
  • Doh! You beat me to it :-).
    – LAK
    May 5, 2016 at 22:33

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