is a 1964 novel by William S. Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th...
. It was written using the cut-up method
The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. Most commonly, cut-ups are used to offer a non-linear alternative to traditional reading and writing....
, developed by Burroughs with Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.He is best known for his discovery of the cut-up technique, used by his friend, the novelist William S. Burroughs...
, of enfolding snippets of different texts into the novel. It is the third book in The Nova Trilogy
The Nova Trilogy, The Nova Epic or The Cut-up Trilogy is a name commonly given by critics to a series of three experimental prose novels by William S. Burroughs...
, preceded by The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine is a novel by William S. Burroughs, first published in 1961, two years after his groundbreaking Naked Lunch. It was originally composed using the cut-up and fold-in techniques from manuscripts belonging to The Word Hoard...
and The Ticket That Exploded
The Ticket That Exploded is a novel by William S. Burroughs first published in 1962 by Olympia Press and later published in the United States by Grove Press in 1967. It is the second book in a trilogy created using the cut-up technique, often referred to as The Nova Trilogy...
. Burroughs considered the trilogy a "sequel" or "mathematical" continuation of Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...
was nominated for the Nebula Award
The Nebula Award is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America , for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year...
for Best Novel
Winners of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The stated year is that of publication; awards are given in the following year.- Winners and other nominees :...
is a social commentary on human and machine control of life. The Nova Mob—Sammy the Butcher, Izzy the Push, The Subliminal Kid, and others—are viruses, "defined as the three-dimensional coordinate point of a controller." "which invade the human body and in the process produce language." These Nova Criminals represent society, culture, and government, and have taken control. Inspector Lee and the rest of the Nova Police are left fighting for the rest of humanity in the power struggle. "The Nova Police can be compared to apomorphine
Apomorphine is a non-selective dopamine agonist which activates both D1-like and D2-like receptors, with some preference for the latter subtypes. It is historically a morphine decomposition product by boiling with concentrated acid, hence the -morphine suffix...
, a regulating instance that need not continue and has no intention of continuing after its work is done." The police are focused on "first-order addictions of junkies, homosexuals, dissidents, and criminals; if these criminals vanish, the police must create more in order to justify their own survival." The Nova Police depend upon the Nova Criminals for existence; if the criminals cease to exist, so do the police. "They act like apomorphine, the nonaddictive cure for morphine addiction that Burroughs used and then promoted for many years."
Burroughs not only uses the Nova Police as a function for catching the Nova Criminals, he also adds satire about his own life and addictions. Control is the main theme of the novel, and Burroughs attempts to use language to break down the walls of culture, the biggest control machine. He uses inspector Lee to express his own thoughts about the world. "The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals. In Naked Lunch
, Soft Machine
and Nova Express
I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. [...] With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly." As Burroughs battles with the self and what is human, he finds that language is the only way to maintain dominance over the "powerful instruments of control," which are the most prevalent enemies of human society.
While Naked Lunch
was an initial shock to the literary community, Nova Express
was considered the end of Burroughs’s stylistic experiment and of the Nova Trilogy. The novel received more praise on its own, as it was often compared to the other books in the trilogy and Naked Lunch
. Eric Mottram
Eric Mottram was a teacher, critic, editor and poet who was one of the central figures in the British Poetry Revival.-Early life and education:...
stated that although "Burroughs’s repetitive narcotic and homoerotic fantasies become tedious in sections of his third novel ... it is from these obsessions that his most powerful work develops."
Reviewing the novel for a genre audience, Judith Merril
Judith Josephine Grossman , who took the pen-name Judith Merril about 1945, was an American and then Canadian science fiction writer, editor and political activist....
compared Nova Express
to "the surreality of certain dreams, or the intense fascination of of a confusion of new impressions in real life."
- A late-night coffee shop/diner called Nova Express Cafe existed at 426 N. Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles in the early 2000's, until closing in March 2008. (http://laist.com/2008/03/02/nova_express_closing.php)
- An arcade computer game, developed in 2011, called Nova Express featuring many references to the novel. (http://www.kongregate.com/games/TJEisemann/nova-express)
- The left-wing magazine in Watchmen
Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book limited series created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colourist John Higgins. The series was published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987, and has been subsequently reprinted in collected form...
is named "The Nova Express".
- At least two bands have used the name Nova Mob: an unrecorded Liverpool group featuring the young Julian Cope
Julian Cope is a British rock musician, author, antiquary, musicologist, poet and cultural commentator...
and Pete Wylie
-Studio albums:- Extended Plays :-Singles:-External links:***...
; and a 90s grunge
Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle area. Inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal, and indie rock, grunge is generally characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars, contrasting song...
rock group led by Grant Hart
Grant Hart is an American musician, best known as the drummer and co-songwriter for the influential alternative rock and hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü. After the band's breakup in 1987, Hart formed the alternative rock trio Nova Mob, where he moved to vocals and guitar...