..as his following production was going to be.
A science fantasy novel set in post-nuclear world, where scientific laws strictly apply but are mistaken for magic by a mankind regressed into Dark Ages. The quest of a group of heroes (a poet, a mind-reading freak, a muscular he-man) must go through unnamed horrors: but the hardest challenge is to understand what they are really looking for, and why, and who their employers really are, and who their enemies.
Is the fabled land of Aptor a haunt of creepy creatures and of the dark cult of evil god Hama, or the seat of a civilization reborn from ashes only to fall in flames shortly after, or the stronghold of the last keepers of the civilization’s flame?
How many good and luminous goddesses Argo are really there, and are they really as good as thry are purported to be?
What are the jewels, and is someone really preventing our heroes from taking them?
Is Man the only dweller of the planet?
And in the end, which is a Rule Number One that even a dumbfounded team of well-meaning heroes can cling to in such puzzling circumstances?
Perhaps the best way to enjoy this even too rich novel is to just go with the flow of Delany’s images, colours, wittical and elliptical style, laced with obscurely figurate poems; and passages of dazzling beauty scattered here and there.
The wonderfully lyrical “basic religious circumstance” would suffice: “Geo flung his eyes up and tried in one moment to envelope whatever he saw, whatever it could be. Beneath the water’s roar was a still tide of quiet. The pale sand along the naked crescent was dull at some depressions, mirror bright at certain rises. At the jungle’s edge, leaves and fronds sped multi-textured green rippling along the foliage-heavy limbs. Each single fragment in that tapestry hung up in the sun was one leaf, he reflected, with two sides, an entire system of skeleton and veins, as his arm had been..”
Or would suffice the great adventure of the visit to the ironically named City of Good Hope, and its many deadly dangers and physical cruelty (in how many novels a main character is maimed beyond recovery before the happy ending? But there must be a cripple in a novel by Delany).
It is also interesting to compare this scenario of future history with the one created by Walter Miller few years earlier. There also a world destroyed by nuclear warfare had very painfully coalesced again around some monasteries, only to show again mankind’s inner folly. But those monasteries were Roman Catholic; here.. “Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci? Who was him?” “Just another painter, drawing scenes of Jesus’ life”. “But who was Jesus?” “Another god”.