The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R Delany: Review

The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R DelanyTitle: The Einstein Intersection
Author: Samuel R Delany
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: 1967
Length: 147
Series: Stand Alone
Audio or Book: Book
Reason for Discovery: Sword & Laser Book Club

From GoodReads:
The Einstein Intersection won the Nebula Award for best science fiction novel of 1967. The surface story tells of the problems a member of an alien race, Lo Lobey, has assimilating the mythology of earth, where his kind have settled among the leftover artifacts of humanity. The deeper tale concerns, however, the way those who are "different" must deal with the dominant cultural ideology. The tale follows Lobey's mythic quest for his lost love, Friza. In luminous and hallucinated language, it explores what new myths might emerge from the detritus of the human world as those who are "different" try to seize history and the day.
This tale is about Lo Lobey a sherpherd in his small village. Lo Lobey and his fellow villagers are an alien species that have chosen to make Earth their home after humans have abandoned it many years ago. Due to radiation and fickle genes, this species has trouble reproducing functional children. Those that are deemed functional receive the title Lo (for men), La (for women), and Le (for the androgynous). Those that are non-functional do not receive a title. Lo Lobey falls in love with Friza, a villager with no title. Soon after, Friza is killed by Kid Death. The village elders feel Lo Lobey is the chosen one to go after Kid Death and bring Friza back.

This is a hard book to review. This is one of those books that you know that you need to read at least twice (if not more) to truly understand everything that is happening in this book. This book is less than 150 pages, so you can read this book in one sitting, and then read it again if you want. :) I should mention that I started this book, and I had to put it down for a week or so before picking it up again. I feel like I would have a better grasp of how I feel about this book, if I had read it in one sitting.

This is a beautiful book to read. It is like reading a mythological dream written in the form of a poem. The book is not written in verse, but you feel like you just float along as you read it. This feeling is definitely helped along by the fact that Lo Lobey is on a hero's journey and he, like the Greek hero Orpheus, is going to the underworld to rescue his love (Friza for Lo Lobey and Eurydice for Orpheus). I wish that I was a bit more up-to-date on my Greek mythology to make more connections.

Besides the song-like quality of the text, I really liked the messages in this book. In particular, a major focus of this book is on difference. Early on in the book, the villagers have a long conversation about whether Friza should be given the title of La. Friza doesn't speak, but she is smart and has special powers like being able to keep dangerous creatures away. Some villagers argue for La because she understands others, but others vote against it because she does not speak. 

Overall, I enjoyed this short book. It was thought-provoking but comfortable (i.e., the mythology context of the story made the story feel relate-able). I have read a few reviews of this book, and most of them note that the book feels like it is going over the heads of its readers; however, it is not done in a condescending way. When you read this book, you just get the feeling that you need to reread it, because there is so much in it and you can't absorb all of it.

Delany won the Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo for this book. If you were considering trying Delany but were not ready to jump into Nova or Dhalgren (his more popular books), this is a great starting point.

I give this book a 4 out of 5.
Very Good


Chene Sterckx said...
January 22, 2014 at 8:50 AM

Great review Pamela. The cover would of put me off this book but your review is wonderful :)

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

Charlotte said...
January 22, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Waaa. When you mentioned that you have to re-read the book, I can't help but feel a little bit skeptical. I want a book that is easy to comprehend and wouldn't give me a head ache.

It sounds like a very good story though particularly that the prose is lyrical.

Great review, Pam!

Pamela D said...
January 22, 2014 at 1:34 PM

This book was originally published in the 1960s, so the cover choices aren't so fantastic.

Pamela D said...
January 22, 2014 at 1:35 PM

This book is definitely for people who like a more "head-y" SF&F book. It is not a light read. :)

Chene Sterckx said...
January 23, 2014 at 1:27 AM

Lol well the saying is true, don't judge a book by its cover!!

Pamela D said...
January 27, 2014 at 1:09 PM

No worries. I judge books all the time by the cover. My kindle does help me get past this a little bit though.

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