Review: The Einstein Intersection

The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. DelaneyThe Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany
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My Rating2 out of 5 Stars2 out of 5 stars
First Published: 1967
Read from: February 22 to March 08, 2014

Can’t You Just Let a Story Be a Story?

“The Einstein Intersection” by Samuel R. Delany won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1967 and was nominated for the Hugo Award for 1968. I had read some things that piqued my interest in this novel so I managed to get a copy through an inter-library loan — strangely my huge local library system did not have a copy of their own.

Sadly, this book continues a trend I’ve noticed recently where many “award-winning classics” are not really all that good. It seems that genre novels that do something for the first time — whether it is for artistic effect, to state their often biased opinion on current political or sociological trends, or to capitalize on some popular fad of the time — books that do stuff like that so often become award winners… whether or not there is actually a decent or engaging story wrapped around all that “stuff”.

It reminds me of a quote by Stephen King. In the novel “It” a character who is a writer and taking university writing classes in the 60’s is getting frustrated by the teacher and other students always over-analysing everything, looking for some kind of profound context. Finally the character stands up in class and says:

“Why does a story have to be socio-anything? Politics . . . culture . . . history . . . aren’t those natural ingredients in any story, if it’s told well?… I mean . . . can’t you guys just let a story be a story?”
– Stephen King, “It” pg. 151

The Einstein Intersection apparently attempts to explore human mythology, not just specific myths but our need to create and believe in them even today. The story is considered to be science fiction as it is set in a far future where aliens inhabit a Earth long abandoned by humanity and attempt to emulate the long dead humans for no reason I can clearly discern. The sci-fi elements are merely set-dressing though. To top it off the story is occasionally interrupted by snippets from the author’s personal journal during the time he was writing the novel while traveling through Europe in the 60’s. I actually liked these brief story “interruptions” as they did help to set the mood of each section of the story, but ultimately they just added to the overall feeling of “artsy” pretentiousness.

The narrative “voice” of the story was written well and kept me reading on. But the story really seemed to go nowhere, and the ending utterly confused me. Maybe I’m just not “smart enough” to “get” this story, and I’m sure it is rich in symbolism and such, but really I wish I had skipped it.

To borrow yet another Stephen King quote:

“Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not to create an artificial sense of profundity.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Since the story is short and it kept my interest for so long and the prose was well written I’ll give it 2 stars instead of the 1 star that the frustrating ending and incomprehensible plot tempts me to deliver.

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