A story about another race inheriting the earth, struggling to make sense of human mythology through the lens of humanity’s modern ruins, and struggling with their own place in society and the universe.
I bought this book at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in Saugerties, NY, the largest independent bookstore in the Hudson Valley. Amanda and I were up there for a weekend getaway. I love buying books on trips. A lot of our evening downtime is usually spent reading, so whenever we revisit the books we usually relive a piece of our vacation. I browsed the sci-fi section there, looking for something short. I had just finished a few long books and wanted something I could knock out in a few sittings. This 135 page book sounded interesting, and Neil Gaiman (an author I highly respect) wrote the intro, so I picked it up.
The original title was borrowed from a Yeats line: “A Fabulous, Formless Darkness” - the publisher changed it. This book has nothing to do with Einstein.
The premise is that humans left the earth long ago and another intelligent race has taken over. A cross between a wolf, bear, and human. There are also lots of other creatures around. Delany tells the story of this race working through figuring out the mythology of humans through the ruins of their once thriving but now dead cities. The main character is on a literal and metaphorical journey after losing his love. Along the way he struggles with his place in society and how society treats those who are different. There is tension between city folk and country folk, nature and structure, useful and useless people, rich and poor, strong and weak, “different” and normal.
Delany wrote this while traveling around Europe and the Mediterranean, so mythology and travel were definitely on his mind. There is a whole subplot about non-binary sexuality and those who are different from the rest of society, which is makes sense in retrospect. The main character struggles with his sexuality in a way that must have been similar for Delany at the time. Delany wrote this while married to a woman in 1967, has since dabbled in polyamory and bisexuality, and is now in a gay relationship. His wife now identifies as lesbian. This book seems to partially be an outlet for the two of them struggling with those feelings in a time where it was not safe to be public about them.
I really liked that some of the author’s notes from his journal were included at the beginning of each chapter. Sometimes passages he found inspirational, sometimes travel notes, sometimes conversations.