The Einstein Intersection

by Samuel R. Delany

Cover image

Publisher: Ace
Copyright: 1967
Format: Mass market
Pages: 155

Buy at Powell's Books

I'm afraid I'm not a good reviewer for this one. It just never made sense to me. I understand some of the surfaces of what Delany is trying to portray, I think, but the whole picture never came together and I finished the book not really understanding the point of anything that happened. This may be a comment on the book, or it may just be a comment on my background and understanding; I'm not certain.

This much is clear: the thematic material is archetypes. The setting appears to be the far future, long after the time of man on Earth has passed. The characters are not humans, but have taken human form on a human planet and are attempting to assimilate and live with human archetypes and the ruins of human civilization. The surface of the planet suffers from radiation and blasted areas, giving the book at times a post-apocalyptic feel, but the standard post-apocalyptic plot elements fall out of it fairly early on.

Instead, the story follows the journey of a village goat-herder with a talent for music (and some other talents that become more apparent as the story unfolds). He becomes Orpheus in a mythic journey to defeat Death (or Billy the Kid) and reclaim a lost love who died under mysterious circumstances that were never explained in a way that I understood. In the process, he travels with herdsmen who echo archetypes of Norse gods, to a city with overtones of Las Vegas.

This is a good set of ideas that could have made an engaging story, but for me nothing pulled them together. I don't understand who the Dove is supposed to be in the story, beyond a beautiful woman. Lo Lobey's quest appears to have no actual ending. The way the world deals with archetypes went somewhere, but I didn't follow where. The computer AI encountered at two points in the book is amusing and interesting, but seems to be a gun left on the mantlepiece of the story, never to be fired. In short, I needed more help from the author and didn't get it, and at the end of the book, I was just generally confused.

Some of the chapters begin with excerpts from the author's journal while he's writing the story, but if those explain what's going on, I wasn't perceptive enough to pick out how. That's a good description of how I felt throughout the whole book: references kept slipping past me, events carried significance but not meaning, and references that I knew I should be drawing failed to link to anything in my mind. This may be a beautiful story for someone who understands what it's trying to say; alas, I can only appreciate the quality of the writing and the surface plot, and walk away from the book saying "huh?".

Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-05-30

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21