Einstein Intersection, The by Delany, Samuel R., 1967

Einstein Intersection, The by Delany, Samuel R. - Book cover from Amazon.co.uk

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The Einstein Intersection was one of the most confusing books for me, back when I read it for the first time. I was quite young, and definately not ready for what Dealny had to say, but I think that this book had quite a lot to do with the way I use SF today. I think that Samuel Dealny is one of the most interesting genre authors that we have ever had, but he is definately an acquired taste. He is very literary, and as he is pretty firmly associated with the New Wave, he is at times obtuse and overly dense. But there is no denying that he is just plain good at what he does. His language is beautiful for both the way it provokes thought and for its lyrical qualities. He seems to frequently write about language and mythology, but he is a very productive author so I cannot wait to see what other themes he used in his mid and later career phases. This book is an amazing take on revenge in a dying society that is heavily draped with mythology. Easily its a five out of five star book.

The plot and story of this book do not make themselves clear very quickly. But discovering what Delany is trying to do and say with this piece is one of the utter joys of reading it. It is set in the far, far future at a point in time when humans are gone from the Earth, probably because of a cataclysmic war. Sometime after we left or died out an alien race came to the Earth, and is now trying to take our place as humans in the remnants of what we have left. These aliens seem to have adopted our bodies, and are driven by the values that they have divined from the scraps of our culture that we have left behind. One of the most important defining aspects to this new society seems to arise from our mythology, an in fact they have blended eras of our history in the interpretation, creating for example a new version of Orpheus by blending him with Ringo Starr. The setting of this book echoes, quite loudly, in my opinion, in Stephen King's Dark Tower sequence. For example, there are carnivorous plants, crazy old AI in underground bunkers, powerful demons, mutants, and even a pair of old pearl-handled pistols, all turning up in a dying society that emphasizes a pastoral and small-village lifestyle. Id be curious to see if anyone else has ever made the connection between this book and King's Dark Tower works. The society that has managed to develop is severely hindered by very high background radiation levels. Because of this the beings prize genetic diversity, and have developed a culture that urges women to move from village to village mating frequently and leaving children in the care of mostly shepherd fathers. The mutation level is nevertheless quite high, and those that are born deformed or retarded are put into "kages" where they are cared for by volunteers until their deaths. The purpose is mostly to keep them from mating with the unaffected, but through ambivalence the kages are pretty much prisons for the unwanted.

What Dealny gives here is the story of Lo Lobey who is bent on revenge for the murder of his girlfriend, Frazia. Frazia was a mute deformed who was not so bad off that she required incarceration in a kage. But she did have some unusual mental talents, and apparently because of them a Satan figure named Kid Death killed her during a spree where he tried to kill as many psychics as he could find. Kid Death viewed himself as an agent of the society charged with eliminating offensive genetic material from the gene pool. He seemed very good at his job, but Lo Lobey eventually learned that Kid Death was responsible for his lover's death and set out to exact his revenge. Most of the story is the quest for the realm of Kid Death. Along the way Lo Lobey met several people whose became friends, then sold him out to his enemy. Sometimes they support him and sometimes they don't. Kid Death is, I think, a Satan figure who either desires the status quo and kills for pleasure, or wants to eliminate from his sight the individuals who are evidence of the problem with the survival of his race. More probably both, though. I think that the latter is probably more correct, and Dealny does seem to actually enjoy the reader's confusion over Kid Death's role. I think Death's motivation is not only to clean up society, which is striving to replace us on Earth, but also to capture some of Lo Lobey's magic as well. Lobey has plenty of it, which seems to be rooted in music. Lo Lobey carried a very odd weapon; a machete that doubled as a wonderful musical instrument. Lobey was very accomplished on his instrument, and could achieve a wide variety of effects on the other people's behavior by playing. If Kid Death is Satan, and the force of chaos, then Lobey and his music stand in representation of the forces of order, and almost an innocent wholesomeness. But his instrument was also a very effective weapon, so its penetrative power also stood for virility and force, both of those being very important to a society with a high degree of lawlessness and which was dying because of genetic disorders.

Most of the writing by Dealny that I have read I put in the "thinker" category. I am not the biggest fan of the New Age school of SF, but out of that era came some of our most important writers. Dealny is one of them, and even though this is a short work, it may be one of his most important.

Copyright 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 4 star(s)


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