Trippy sci-fi has student tasked with tracing a poem that originated during a star-journey in which spaceship society devolved over a generations-long flight. The student makes a space-jaunt to the fleet of supposedly junked ships and finds that they aren't quite as abandoned as he thought.
I became a big fan of Samuel R. Delany last year and keep an eye out for his work. This one was the first one I nabbed from the book-swapping site www.paperbackswap.com (an improvement over BookCrossing, I think, which I used to call "Book Throwing Away Club"). I swallowed this in a single gulp on a long afternoon on the beach in Traverse City, Michigan.
The Ballad of Beta-2 is an early work and, although interesting, not as fully ripened with the wild imagination of some of his later novels such as Nova and Babel-17. In fact, its brief page count means big chunks of exposition are dealt with rather briskly.
However, a lot of Delany's trademarks are here, and there are bouts of neat ideas, making it worth reading for Delany completists like myself.