The novel “The Einstein Intersection” by Samuel R. Delany was published for the first time in 1967. it won the Nebula Award as best novel of the year.
Lo Lobey is an alien who’s trying to get to know the ancient culture of the Earth after it was abandoned by humans. He’s part of a wave of alien colonizers who took possession of the planet with its many electronic devices left behind and still running.
In this situation, Lo Lobey goes looking for his beloved Friza to bring her back to life like a new Orpheus. During his quest he meets other aliens who absorbed something from ancient human culture taking on the roles of mythological characters. The reletionships among them are not easy and sometimes they end up in a clash.
The original title by Samuel R. Delany for this novel was “A Fabulous, Formless Darkness” but the publisher decided to change it into “The Einstein Intersection”. The author was inspired the 1959 movie “Black Orpheus” by Marcel Camus, in turn inspired by the myth of Orpheus.
“The Einstein Intersection” was written by a truly unique writer, among other things being a bisexual African American on a European trip in the 1960s, at an important historical moment for student protests and the counterculture developed by new generations. In the field of science fiction the New Wave movement was being born. These are crucial circumstances because the novel is strongly the product of that author and of that historical moment and that must always be kept in mind to understand its meanings.
The aliens who occupied the Earth of the far future after it was abandoned by humans have three genders. A theme related to their procreation is that of mutations, a metaphor of being different as Samuel R. Delany probably felt. The protagonist Lo Lobey also feels somewhat different and when his beloved Friza gets killed, he starts a quest to bring her back to life.
From the beginning of the novel, the reader can see the importance of the myths of ancient humans and for the aliens living in the Earth in the future myths are not just those of Orpheus and similar but also those told in stories such as that of Billy the Kid. In the 1960s young people were almost aliens to previous generations and after breaking up with pre-existing traditions they someway created new myths.
In this particular setting, the protagonist Lo Lobey is the equivalent of a young country boy who goes to live in a big city but this sort of coming-of-age story is developed through his meetings and confrontations with other people of his species and more. The plot is actually someway vague because it proceeds mostly through dialogues between Lo Lobey and other characters and this is one of the problems for the reader.
Despite references to Einstein and Gödel, genetic mutations and various technologies, “The Einstein Intersection” is not a hard science fiction novel and the science fiction elements are used to tell a very humanistic story. The chapters begin with quotes from very different sources confirming Samuel R. Delany’s intentions but at the same time further diminishing the already poor connection between the various parts.
I honestly often find it hard to read New Wave works for their styles tending to experimentalism that make them difficult to read. Today they look terribly dated but my problem is also due to that fact that often their themes are not I’m looking for in science fiction stories. “The Einstein Intersection” is no exception, a novel that for me that is very uneven in its level: sometimes it seemed great and even poetic but at other times it seemed to me a mess.
This is a very short novel even for the standards of the time but it’s very dense with contents with meanings and even meta-meanings. The fact that the plot is vague can leave the reader puzzled and the almost dreamlike impression it can give might be annoying for some readers. That’s because the plot, as well as the characters, serve to develop the various elements connected to myths and more.
In some ways “The Einstein Intersection” suffers from its age, in others reading it can be difficult because of its many elements that are sometimes added in a chaotic way. For these reasons, I recommend it to those who appreciate this kind of novel.