The Jewels of Aptor (1962) by Samuel R. Delany


“Was their leader a mistress of science or a witch of mutants?”       I don’t know, Ace Books. That was never the question.

Since I purchased this book, and for the rest of my life beyond that moment, my brain has decided to call this novel The Sword of Aptor instead of The Jewels of Aptor. I don’t know why. I don’t remember many swords in the novel—knives mostly—but this is what my brain has decided to call this book, every time, for whatever reason. I have to correct myself in my head. It’s about jewels! There is no sword! The title of the book is very straightforward!

In a vague, post-apocalyptic future with no electricity, a group of freelance sailors, including a poet and a four-armed psychic mute, are beckoned by the goddess Argo to steal back her mystical jewel from the dark god Hama. The mission takes them to the island of Aptor, a place where few men can escape, and no man wants to return. (And what about the women, ahem?) While there, the group encounters strange sights, consequences of a long dead and forgotten nuclear age, while uncomfortable changes in perception cloud their judgment, and cause them question their assumptions about good and evil. Continue reading

Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 1st“’All the misunderstandings that tie the world up and keep people apart were quivering before me at once, waiting for me to untangle them, explain them, and I couldn’t’” (ch. 2).

Talk about a novel that transcends that limited retro-future aesthetic, Babel-17 chugs way ahead of its respective decade as even authors today fumble to attain the ethers of a world like Samuel Delany has dreamed. Strange, beautiful, and futuristic, Babel’s lingering noir tone coalesces with a techno-background that brings to mind the cyberpunk of the 80’s and 90’s, without so much of a “jacking-in” or a singularity event. Laser lights and crystal interfaces streak the scenery while disembodied ghosts and surgically-accessorized lowlifes aid our unflappable heroine as she chases down a mysterious language, all while wearing copper lipstick. Continue reading