Read On Wings of Song by Thomas M. Disch Online


In a disturbing vision of the future, Daniel Weinreb leaves behind the repression and censorship of the Midwest to pursue a career in New York, despite the famine and poverty of the overpopulated East Coast....

Title : On Wings of Song
Author :
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ISBN : 9780881844436
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 359 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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On Wings of Song Reviews

  • Manny
    2018-12-27 05:21

    Thomas Disch is, in my humble opinion, the most underrated author of the last 50 years, and a reasonable number of people consider this to be his best novel. You'll gather that it's quite good. I read it not long after it came out, and have re-read it a couple of times since then.Like many of Disch's books, Wings uses an SF framework to make a point about society and religion. In his dystopian future US, life has been transformed by the invention of a device which, in principle, allows anyone to have a transcendental spiritual experience. You hook yourself up to the machine, and sing in a particular way. Somehow, the singing brings the two halves of your brain into perfect balance, and the machine does the rest: it liberates your astral projection, which is then free to depart where it will. The body is left alive, but without consciousness, and needs to be tended. Usually, the spirit returns to its body after a few days, but some spirits never return.The invention has split the country, roughly down the red/blue faultline. In some states, everything that has to do with music is strictly forbidden. In others, people believe that access to "flying", as it is called, is an inalienable right. The hero has a complicated life, living in both types of environment. He starts off in repressive Iowa, where flying is an illegal activity, but later moves to New York, where it's permitted. He wants to learn to fly, but it doesn't quite work for him. He does all the right things, he takes singing lessons from masters, but despite all his efforts he can't liberate his astral projection. He does, however, become a gifted singer. He starts giving concerts, where he is hooked up to a flying rig. He pretends he's flying to please his fans, who are taken in. One day, at a concert, a deranged religious fanatic shoots him while he is hooked up to the rig, and the display is showing him flying. He's instantly killed.The story is told in a low-key, matter-of-fact way, and another reviewer here complains that it isn't as overtly brilliant as Camp Concentration and 334. That's true. But I've thought about it, on and off, ever since I first read it. Surely "flying" must symbolize something, but what? Is it drugs? sex? alternative lifestyles? spiritual growth in general? Somehow, I can't put my finger on it. Nothing quite seems to fit.And what does the ending mean? That if we keep putting off the truly important thing, one day we'll suddenly discover it's too late? That he finally managed to fly for real, and that's exactly when he was killed? That no one except him ever knew whether he was faking as usual during his last performance, or whether he did have the experience he'd been seeking all his life? I thought about these questions again today, while we were having a walk, and as usual I couldn't decide.

  • Christy
    2019-01-05 09:23

    Thomas Disch's On Wings of Song is a multi-layered, interesting novel because it addresses issues of power (familial, governmental, disciplinary), the value of art, the relationship between mind (or soul) and body, and the relationship between appearance and reality.Power: The protagonist, Daniel Weinreb, has grown up in the repressive society of Iowa. While still a teenager he is arrested for selling forbidden out-of-state newspapers and is sent to jail where he nearly freezes and starves because the prisoners are essentially left to fend for themselves, prevented from running away by having a bomb implanted in them that will explode if they cross the perimeter of the prison. Daniel encounters abuses of power within the prison, within the government and school systems, and in the family of his girlfriend, Boadicea, as her father, a wealthy leader of the community, manipulates the world to his liking. This issue is dealt with directly by Disch. He shows us how pervasive abuses of power are while never leading us to believe that they are completely inescapable or unchangeable.Art: One major means to escape these abuses is art, specifically singing, and flight. In this world, there are machines that allow those hooked into them to sing their way out of their bodies and into a transcendent state of being. Daniel describes this experience: "The moment one leaves one's body by the power of song, the lips fall silent, but the song goes on, and so long as one flies the song continues" (357). Boadicea, far more intimately acquainted with flight, also describes it: "What other choice can there be, after all [but to fly]? It is, as my father might say, a business proposition. Here one finds, at most, only a little pleasure; there, there is only pleasure. Here, if my body perishes, I must perish with it; when I am there, the body's death will cease to concern me" (332). At first, singing is only meaningful to Daniel as a means to learn to fly. As the narrative progresses, however, singing becomes its only reward. He reaches the point where he could fly while singing, but he chooses not to. Body & Soul: But why, after a lifetime of wanting nothing more than to fly, why does he choose not to fly once he is able to? Why not abandon the body, the meat, the flesh, that which is accompanied by pain and embarrassment and failure? Why not soar into this transcendent space? A conversation with Mrs. Schiff, a composer and supporter of the arts as well as his roommate for a time, may begin to answer these questions. She tells him, "Merely to be striving, ever and always, is no distinction. That's what's wrong with German music. It's all development, all Sehnsucht and impatience. The highest art is happy to inhabit this moment, here and now. A great singer sings the way a bird warbles. One doesn't need a large soul to warble, only a throat" (286-7). In this light, singing is its own end and its own reward. This realization is also, however, the key to flight. Daniel says later, "It was as Mrs. Schiff had said about music, that it must be a warbling, and willing to inhabit this instant, and then this instant, and always this instant, and not just willing, and not even desirous, but delighted: an endless, seamless inebriation of song. That was what bel canto was all about, and that was the way to fly." (292)The equation of bel canto [beautiful singing] with flight does more than reinforce the necessity of singing to take one into flight here; it also places bel canto on the same level as flight. In Daniel's mind, bel canto is at this point no longer a means to the end of flight, but an experience as transcendent and meaningful as he'd always hoped flight would be. He acknowledges, during his final concert, that "he was willing, at last, that this [singing] should be his life, his only life. If it were small, that was a part of its charm" (355).Finally, he chooses not to fly but instead to sing because, as he tells his brother-in-law, "When you're out of your body that long, you stop being altogether human" (355). Although the novel diminishes the body for hundreds of pages, putting a premium on the escape from it, in the end Disch puts the highest value on the full human experience, both body and mind/soul, and on the aesthetic experience, which is able to make people understand:"It took hold of each soul so, levelling them all to ashes with a single breath, like the breath of atomic disintegration, joining them in the communion of an intolerable and lovely knowledge, which was the song and could not be told of apart from the song" (70).Appearance & Reality: Perhaps the central theme, that which brings all the others together is that of the relationship between appearance and reality. Daniel repeatedly is told and learns the lesson that reality is created by one's actions. In other words, if you pretend something is true, it is true or will become true. His mother pretends to be a normal Iowan housewife and eventually becomes one; Grandison Whiting, Boa's father, pretends to be larger and more confident than he is (with a fake beard) and eventually becomes a powerful individual who is feared and respected by the entire community; Van Dyke, a Christian speaker and writer, says, "if the way we become the kind of people we are is by pretending, then the way to become good, devout, and faithful Christians (which, admit it, is a well-nigh impossible undertaking) is to pretend to be good, devout, and faithful" (57); Daniel pretends to be black (which is a whole fascinating subplot in and of itself), pretends to be in love with a castrato (another fascinating subplot), and, finally, pretends to fly and these acts create a new self, open new doors for him, and free him to truly sing. Even in Daniel's final performance, he does not actually fly (though he knows he could); instead he pretends to fly. He has made his decision to value the here and now instead of striving for something outside of his body and his self and so he will not fly, but even in this refusal he reinforces the strength and significance of his singing by acting the part of the man having a transcendent experience of flight. The act is, in many ways, the reality. This truth is an ambivalent one, however, when it comes to the question of flight. If appearances create reality, should not flight be the ultimate reality where what you think you see is more real than the real world? On the other hand, the mechanism of flight requires the appearance of death for the physical body, which creates a different reality altogether. But--and here's the crux of the matter--the appearance is not the same as the act. Daniel, his mother, Grandison, and Van Dyke do not merely appear to be what they wish to be; they act like the thing they wish to be. It is an active process not a passive one and one that requires an embodied subject, which is something that is impossible in flight. For Daniel, finally, singing trumps flight because in it he is complete, both body and soul, as well as part of a larger community. Boa chooses flight over "real life" and has a very different experience: she experiences pleasure but she is incomplete and isolated by the experience. She does not grow, but only finds a delightful stasis.

  • Lobstergirl
    2019-01-13 08:05

    This is an odd book. If I recounted the entire plot, you would think I was on drugs. It swerved back and forth from fairly horrific dystopia to comedy to fantasy to what seemed like, but turned out not to be, a gay coming-out story. It's set in the future, where there is ample political repression, but it's worse in some states than others. Iowa is highly repressed, Minnesota much less so. The whole East Coast is in a decline, sending dentist Abraham Weinrib and his young son Daniel to Iowa. The mother has abandoned them, but she shows up five years later and all their lives continue on as if nothing remarkable happened. Teenage Daniel has a paper route, but in Iowa this particular newspaper turns out to be obscene and seditious and he is sent to prison. There are no fences, gates, or razorwire; everyone is fitted with a stomach lozenge containing a plastic explosive that will be detonated by radio waves if one ventures beyond the confines of the prison yard.After his release from prison (the Supreme Court has overruled Iowa's seditious newspaper law), Daniel marries a wealthy young woman named Boadicea. (Her father offers her hand in marriage after he has secretly watched them having sex.) On their honeymoon, they attempt to fly; some people are able to fly if they sing songs in a highly meaningful way. Their souls leave their bodies and fly around, sometimes rejoining their bodies, sometimes not. Boadicea is able to fly, but Daniel, who has wanted desperately to fly for years, is not.At this point, Disch goes haywire and brings in insanity belts (chastity belts for men), castrati, people called "phoneys" who dye their skin black (short for faux noirs) except for one pinky so people will know they're not actually black. Food rationing is severe, so Daniel and the elderly woman whose apartment he shares concoct a delicious bread pudding made of dog food, Hyprotine powder, and artificial sweetener.There's a Donald Trump connection. (What??) Yes. In prison, a former music teacher sends Daniel a book by a Reverend Van Dyke titled The Product is God, which advises uncertain devotees to deeply pretend to be Christian. This will be just as good as being so. Van Dyke is a preacher at The Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, "founded in 1628, of the oldest continuous Protestant congregations in North America" according to Wikipedia. What real life minister was pastor of Marble Collegiate Church for 52 years? That would be Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of the enormous bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking. Trump's parents attended the church, and apparently Trump did as a youngster, or at least he claims he did. “Donald Trump has had a longstanding history with Marble Collegiate Church, where his parents were for years active members and one of his children was baptized. However, as he indicates, he is a Presbyterian, and is not an active member of Marble,” the church clarified last August.“Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ was my pastor,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday. “To this day one of the great speakers I’ve seen. You hated to leave church. You hated when the sermon was over. That’s how great he was at Marble Collegiate Church.” Now I'm convinced Trump never heard Peale speak.

  • Larry-bob Roberts
    2019-01-13 13:20

    I first read this when I was in Junior High (probably too young for some of the subject matter.) I identified with the main character -after all, I was also a paperboy who delivered the Minneapolis Tribune. As my life has developed, more coincidences have developed - for instance, the main character became the kept boy of an African-American castrato opera singer, while I became the piano accompanist of an African-American countertenor singer. I figure I probably should re-read the book and see what other parallels I can find.

  • Aaron
    2019-01-14 11:11

    wonderful. shelved in sci-fi, but is among the best of all american novels published in the 70s. RIP, Tom Disch

  • Esther Meneses
    2018-12-27 11:24

    (4,5). Este libro tiene el final más demoledor, desesperanzador y desgarrador que he leído en mi vida. Por favor, si os gusta la ciencia ficción, dadle una oportunidad a Disch, es un autor extraordinario y muy poco conocido e infravalorado. De nuevo, por favor, leed a Disch.

  • Don Naggie
    2018-12-20 07:28

    On Wings of Song left a deep impact on me in many ways. It is, if memory serves me correct, divided into three sections that serve as three unique aesthetic visions of the life of the protagonist. His childhood, his falling in love, and his final isolation. Devastating, a deeply moving and powerful work. I will need to write a more serious review of this work when I have the time.

  • Timothy
    2019-01-07 07:28

    Weird, good. Disch themes in common with Camp Concentration: unjust imprisonment, the police state, drugs, dandies. Despite some inherent corniness -- like how singing beautifully turns people into a magical flying fairies -- I find myself thinking about this book pretty often.

  • Aleksandra
    2018-12-25 13:30

    Niesamowita książka. Od dłuższego czasu nie mogłam znaleźć książki, która pochłonęłaby mnie w takim stopniu, że nie mogę przestać o niej myśleć. Disch stworzył arcydzieło, które na długo pozostanie w mojej pamięci. Polecam!

  • Victoria Gaile
    2019-01-04 06:08

    I read this book years ago and remember nothing about it except the intensity with which I hated it, especially given the title, which sounded like it would be a beautiful uplifting story! I was mad at Disch for years over this and never read anything else by him.

  • G Steve
    2018-12-23 09:18

    I don't know if I'd list is one of the 100 Best but it is a uniquely matter of fact dystopia. And the characters are a step above SciFi fare. Beutifully written, but a little heartless. I never got as attached to Daniel as I would have liked.

  • Uriha
    2019-01-18 08:08

    another of those rare finds in literature that can be read and re-read throughout a lifetime

  • Abe Something
    2018-12-28 11:26

    Honestly surprised to find that Bloom included this work in his Western Canon. It's structurally underwhelming, which is my primary gripe. It's wholly unsurprising at every turn. It is, however, extraordinarily prescient making it a worthwhile read, if only to marvel at Disch's remarkable ability to project a future and hit so much of it on the head. If you like Disch's other works, read it. If you're new to Disch, try Camp Concentration, or 334.

  • Neven
    2019-01-10 05:20

    What a mess!Disch can usually write well, but the novel he chose to write here just wasn’t worth writing at all. It’s a ludicrous mish-mash of ideas, styles, and characters. And even on the level of paragraphs and dialog, he often fails, writing some of the most tortured exchanges I can remember. There’s half a good book in here, but you’d have to dig for years to extract it.

  • Jean-Michel Smith
    2019-01-09 10:22

    A dark allegorical view of near-future America that (with the exception of "flying") seems all too plausible these days. Concentration camps for abortion providers and small time youth criminals, right-wing religious oppression by the "undergodders," etc. The novel is imperfect, but excellent for all that, and oddly timely today considering it was first published in 1979.

  • Mjhancock
    2019-01-19 12:32

    I found this book interesting, though I'm not sure I liked it. In a future America marked by fits of poverty and revolt and fundamentalism, Daniel Weinreb essentially spends the entirety of the novel and his life attempting to transcend his Iowa roots, through dating the rich, through escape to the poverty and show business of New York, and, above all, through flying (which I'll explain in a second). In that sense, you could take out the sci-fi future part of it, and the story isn't that far from the "farm kid moves to the big city" kind of thing. Along the way, we get a lot of what this future America's like--the prison camps Daniel spends nearly in a year in for selling an unlicensed newspaper, the rich excesses of the upper class, the bizarre New York music scene, which seems to involve a lot of opera and a lot of blackface (it's uh, weird, and occasionally, kind of gross.)Ultimately, though, the book is about Daniel's movement towards flying, towards understanding what that means. Basically, in this future, there's a mechanical hook-up that, when you enter into the right mindstate (usually reached while in song), carries you out of your body, and leaves you free to mentally fly around the world, in a state of bliss; it is so much bliss in fact, that many people enter the state and never come out again. Daniel wants to fly, but something or things holds him back, and so he devotes a large portion of his life to learning the songs that may take him there. It becomes pretty clear immediately that flying is a metaphor, for giving yourself permission to let go, to living your truth, whatever that may be. I would argue that it's a bit of a metaphor for homosexuality--Daniel himself is open to both sexes, and I hardly think Ditsch was unaware of the connotations of using "fairy" as a derogatory term for fliers. Ultimately, it's a story about reaching transcendence, and outlining a vision of the future world.I respect what Ditsch did here, although I'm not sure I liked it. I think the problem for me is that I never got over the gap between Parts II and III, wherein the book skips ahead thirteen years. That's a long time, and obviously Daniel as a character would have changed greatly in that interval, but the character on the other side was just never someone I could entirely care about. (If I'm being fully candid, it didn't help that it begins with a passage about how likely it is that a failure at 30 will be a failure for life--a little close to home, that one.) The entire book takes an immersive approach to science fiction, wherein the future world is presented without explicit explanation, but for parts I and II, it felt like the blanks were eventually filled in to something that made sense; the New York world of castratos and black faces, in contrast, never stopped feeling inexplicable, and kind of silly to boot. So you've got a setting that's kind of weird that never really comes together, and a character I don't care that much about.On the other hand, I can't deny the book had an effect on me. Early Daniel is immensely sympathetic, and I quite liked his beau Boa as well (which may be another reason why Part III left me cold.) It's enough of a near future book to feel prescient. Most of all, I can tell Ditsch's tone really got to me, as I find myself defaulting to his tone and wording when writing this review. A large portion of the book didn't work for me, but a larger portion kept me going.

  • Allan Dyen-Shapiro
    2018-12-27 07:08

    A truly brilliant novel, despite a disturbing premise. Disturbing, mostly because the guy lived it. All spheres of life have their ridiculous, corrupt and oppressive aspects, but to have a decent life of some sort, you must accommodate to it. Nonetheless, in the long run, it's impossible. Death is the only way out. The guy was a well-known writer within the SF community, pioneering actually, had a long term relationship with a man he loved, and then killed himself several years after his lover died. The book follows a protagonist from boyhood to death. In each phase of his life, he embodies Dish's worldview. Living in Iowa as a fascist, fundamentalist police state, he finds a job smuggling in a newspaper from Minneapolis. He's sent to prison for it. After years in prison, he's let out when the law changes. He meets a woman who is the scion of a wealthy family. From their, Dish illustrates the impossibility of wealth as an "out." The title reflects "flying"--an escape from the body facilitated by song. The girlfriend/wife escapes; the protagonist doesn't. The hypocrisies of the NY arts scene in which mediocre bel canto talents cavort in blackface is highlighted.Crossing the borders of absurd and realist, filled with irony and social commentary, one revels in it's beautiful prose. And yet, from the third person limited perspective, one can't see all of Disch. The man was a progressive; in the book, all attempts at overthrow or reform of the system are largely dismissed. Well, you can't do everything in one book.The ending was a true shocker, but well justified in retrospect.Prepare to think, prepare to enjoy good writing: read the book.

  • Kirk Macleod
    2019-01-09 09:03

    My relationship with the stories of Thomas M. Disch have been varied, but always interesting. From the strange work of hope that was The Brave Little Toaster (1980) to the incredibly thought provoking Camp Concentration (1968) and the creepy The Businessman: A Tale of Terror (1984).Disch was really great at looking at the world through a new lens, although ON Wings of Song is clearly closer to the jaded world of Camp Concentration than the hopeful one of The Brave Little Toaster.The Novel follows a young man called Daniel Weinreb, a youth in a future Iowa where music and free speech have been outlawed by local government. At the age of 14 Daniel is sent to prison which effectively sours him entirely on living in the Midwest. Setting his sights on New York, we follow Daniel throughout his life in this strange version of North America, one in which the government has draconian levels of control or simply ignores its citizens all together.Much of the book focuses on "flying", a term used for astral projection that many people have access to, but is again, outlawed in many areas. As a story in which a young man from a small town attempts to make it in the big city, the story is fairly straightforward, but the interesting thing about Disch's world is just how strange and off everything seems.I'm not actually sure if I can say I liked On Wings of Song - the story was definitely affecting, but it didn't resonate with me the same way Camp Concentration did. An interesting read, but not sure if it's one I'd want to revisit.

  • Roberta
    2019-01-04 09:30

    I didn't think it was possible for an author of fiction to be able to insult & intimidate his readers. But that was before I read this book.I enjoy a book which has a few challenging words mixed in here & there. For me, it confirms the author's elevator goes all the way to the top. But in this case, the author must've laid awake nights searching the dictionary for every rarely-used, uncommon word. He then inserted one or more into at least every third sentence within the book. Talk about an ego trip!The story itself was so-so - the ending was worse.A boy has two goals in life: one is to be able to fly while singing (his soul temporarily leaving his body & roaming the earth while his physical body remains alive in a semi-conscious state awaiting the return of the soul); plus he dreams of being be a masterful singer. He only accomplishes the latter.He marries & on his honeymoon only his bride accomplishes the first. After far too many pages, we learn that she's been in an unconscious state for 15 years after her first 'flying' trip. He's been paying for her medical care first with savings & then with sordid means to keep her alive in various medical facilities, awaiting her awakening. She finally awakens only to tell him that she wants to go back, but never had the chance to say goodbye previously. He's heartbroken, but accepts her wishes & she ends her physical life completely.You'll have to read the book to see how the story ends - but don't hold your breath waiting for a spectacular ending. It's just not there.

  • Daniel Salvo
    2019-01-12 11:21

    No es ciencia ficción hard, ni soft, ni distópica... Es un producto personalísimo de la mente de Thomas M. Disch, una ciencia ficción (por que no deja de serlo) que sólo podría ocurrírsele a él. Una historia situada en un futuro cercano, en el cual los cambios más apreciables están vinculados a la cultura y costumbres humanas antes que a otros fenómenos. Hay una máquina, si, que permite "volar", alcanzar un estado superior de conciencia mediante el canto; y buena parte de la novela consiste en el esfuerzo del protagonista, Daniel Weinreb, por lograr alzar el vuelo "en alas de la canción", aunque carece de condiciones para ellos (no todos pueden lograrlo), y para colmo, vive en un entorno que ha involucionado política y moralmente, dando lugar a un estado de cosas entre inquisitorial y retrógrado, que Daniel sólo podrá superar buscando otros horizontes. Mientras tanto, damos un vistazo a una Norteamérica en la que aún es posible el sueño americano, pero cuyos soñadores son hijas de gangsters en decadencia o "castratos" que buscan el éxito entre lo más encumbrado de la jerarquía eclesiástica, pasando por los cínicos y exitosos hombres de negocios que creen tenerlo todo bajo control. No apta para melancólicos.

  • M
    2018-12-22 13:28

    No clue how many stars to give this, even though pieces of this are shockingly brilliant. Others are total mess. I've read other Disch, but this is more like PKD trying to write a near-future Delany novel. OR SOMETHING. I will later toss in a fair-use-sized quotation to give you a flavor. But till then, look at my earlier update, or consider that it didn't mention the kooky parody of liberal Christian theology where the whole planet is pretending the Resurrection is real as a form of morally valuable method acting, the disciplinary prison without walls where everyone has an implanted bomb in his/her stomach if they leave the perimeter or start violence, or the deeply unsettling but moving sense of exactly how it feels to want to be one thing in your life and realize you are somehow intrinsically deficient (the realization was like carrying "a skull in his hand").This is destined to be forgotten, but it is destined to have an impossibly fierce tiny cult around it. I'm just not sure whether I'm in it or not.

  • Richard
    2019-01-05 07:26

    I read this book in 1997,and don't really remember much about it now,not just because it's so long ago,but simply that I didn't really like it very much,which I can remember clearly.The reason I'm reviewing it is because I've just read and reviewed "Camp Concentration",which wasn't that marvelous,and I only rated it one star higher than this one,but was still far superior.Prehaps I rated OWOS too highly for what it was worth.It seems too long a book,a weakly imagined homily laced in a literary broth that simply seemed pretentious and boring I thought.The other book is far from faultless with it's rambling prose that sounds as if Disch's brain is becoming as disintegrated as Satacchi's,but is still a more readable and powerful piece.

  • CJ
    2018-12-26 12:28

    The first half of this book is amazing. The world that he paints, of a slowly collapsing dystopia, is plausible and recognizable. I especially liked how there were shades to the oppressive elements in government; most dystopian novels show just one unified oppressor, but this book has factions at each other's necks, but still opposed to the freedom of the common man. Then... NYC. The only good parts were the descriptions of the power of music, and the description of Daniel's utter debasement of himself for the woman he loved. But the rest of it just had no pressure, no conflict and no real emotion for any of the characters. I'd rate the first half at four stars and the second half at two.

  • Brian
    2018-12-29 07:23

    A class war in the not so impossible future finds the US reverting to a feudal-based farming economy in which warring ideologies have an unlikely victim: music. Music is villified (especially in the Christian midwest) as it can lead to flight, literally, through the invention of fairy-making machines that allow one to escape the body during emotionally charged music, typically by singing. It is a lust for flight which consumes our protagionist, and his struggle to fulfill this dream that defines his life. He finds himself a survivor, a prisoner, a trick, and a husband. The ending is striking, well written, and moving.

  • prcardi
    2018-12-26 12:08

    Storyline: 4/5Characters: 5/5Writing Style: 4/5World: 3/5--Below information added approximately a year after original reading--It is after this book that I learned of the subgenre of "New Wave." I like the subtlety, the hinting, and the allusion in the genre and this book here. I like the mystery of trying to determine what is going on in this world, why it is accepted as normal or how it is different. Stylistically I liked a lot that went on here. I don't find any pleasure in homoeroticism, though, and domination games contained here were too weird and perverse for my preferences.

  • Sabrina
    2019-01-09 08:16

    Disch manages to pack in completely thrilling experiences of adolescent friendships; and love; and also shows less intense, more distant, adult friendships and some sexual relationships. In the background there's always the tantalizing possibility that the main character can literally take off "on wings of song," following his own true heart. It's compelling stuff. It's all set in a backdrop of an America divided along conservative and liberal lines in an unexpected way--Disch's imagined America never falls into a neat conservative/liberal; red state/blue state divide. Good stuff. Sticks with you long after reading it.

  • Aidan Fay
    2019-01-18 08:32

    This is such an exceptional book. Ignore corny cover and plot synopses, they only suck because this book is impossible to categorize. The "Song" referred to in the title is mostly opera-centric which I disliked but it turns into something much weirder by the end. Every idea in this book seems half assed viewed by itself but in the context of the whole it turns into something very strange and balanced.

  • Violetta Vane
    2019-01-07 10:26

    I was recently reminded of this book by a lyrical review at SF Signal. Disch is (or sadly, was) a prose master, and like his other work, this is challenging, dense, and incredibly rewarding. "Anti-escapist" is the perfect word for this. I read it more than a decade ago, and certain moods and feelings still remain with me very strongly. Read the review here:

  • Lysergius
    2019-01-01 06:10

    This was Disch's first SF novel in a long time when it came out in '79. Some consider it to be his best work, but I don't know about that. It certainly deserved the 1980 John W. Campbell award for best novel of the year that it won, though. It's a shame it didn't win a Hugo or a Nebula, this is far superior to Arthur C. Clarke's "The Fountains of Paradise."

  • Chris
    2019-01-06 12:22

    I wish I could give this book three stars. The first 2/3 were wonderful and a joy to read...but the last third lost me, and left me wondering what the point of the novel was. As a whole, I'll have to settle on two stars for this one. Generally excellent writing throughout, and some interesting/great speculative fiction ideas. I was left feeling that Mr. Disch wasn't sure how to resolve this one.