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Music and Mythology

The Einstein Intersection

Delany, Samuel R.

Sphere, 1970


Sometimes, I wonder if it’s a good thing for a book to have a comment about the author on the cover.  For some of them (and I’m thinking of you, Stephen “The greatest popular novelist of our day” King) I can’t help but think that it’s either a backhanded compliment, or perhaps it’s been taken out of context.  In any case, it’s almost certainly a publishers decision, and not something that’s come from the writer (…maybe a vain writer).  The copy of The Einstein Intersection that I have sitting in front of me as I write this has a quote from Galaxy magazine (which would go out of business ten years after this sphere edition was published, but at the time was a pretty good recommendation) stating that Delany is the “…best science fiction writer in the world.”  Kind of a big claim, right?  If this book is anything to go on, I’d say that they were right.


Okay, okay, my penchant is for ‘social’ science fiction, rather than ‘technological’ science fiction.  Give me Ray Bradbury over Isaac Asimov (though I like Asimov fine too).  Delany seems to err more into the ‘social’ side of things – the world that he creates in The Einstein Intersection is low-tech, a sort of distopian society full of myth and the remenants of an old, more technologically advanced society which the present inhabitants are having to face the consequences of.  It’s got a weird reminiscence of the films of Sam Peckinpah about it, a kind of feel of an old western, which is interesting too.  I have been re-reading Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in parallel with this book, and I have to say that Delany’s book has dated much better.  Maybe that’s the thing that curses technological science fiction; eventually the time that its set in ‘comes due’.  I like Delany’s characters, I like their struggle.  He cribs mercilessly from older mythology (the whole is pretty much the myth of Orpheus) but he doesn’t try to be subtle about it, which works in his favour.  I have to admit to being a sucker for mythology – I love seeing how it reflects a culture and a value system as well as a time-and-place kind of thing.  Wow, that was pretty shockingly bad writing just there, but hopefully you understand what I mean.

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