What just happened? Is "The Einstein Intersection" the work of a genius or a drug-addled madman? By giving it the Nebula award in 1967, the powers that be appear to lump Delany in the genius category. I'm in the Delany-as-madman camp. I far from enjoyed the book for a number of reasons.
Delany's pop cultural references and sources were lost on me. Jean Harlow's name triggers nothing. And since I've never seen "Black Orpheus," a source of inspiration for Lobey's character and journey, I failed to grasp much of what Delany was trying to accomplish. Would knowledge of Ringo Starr really be interesting to an alien civilization 30,000 years into the future? Nope. For me, such references make "The Einstein Intersection" a dated work linked too directly to it's own decade to be considered a great work.
And don't get me started on the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Delaney includes long excerpts from his own travel log, lyrics to Dylan songs, snippets from Erasmus and Joyce, even Pepsi ad jingles. In addition to feeling self-indulgent and pretentious to me, these chapter intros go even further in dating the work.
Despite the book being (at least in my opinion) nonsensical, overly dense and self-indulgent, I did enjoy Delany's creative description of the societal implications of blowing past the intersection point of Einstein's and Gödel's mathematics:
"Two mathematicians between them ended an age and began another for our hosts, the ghosts called Man. One was Einstein, who with his Theory of Relativity defined the limits of man's perception by expressing mathematically just how far the condition of the observer influences the thing he perceives. ... The other was Gödel, a contemporary of Einstein, who was the first to bring back a mathematically precise statement about the vaster realm beyond the limits Einstein had defined: In any classical mathematical system - you may read 'the real world with its immutable laws of logic' - there are an infinite number of true theorems - you may read 'perceivable, measurable phenomena' - which, though contained in the original system, cannot be deduced from it - read 'proven with ordinary or extraordinary logic.' Which is to say, there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, ... . There are an infinite number of true things in the world with no way of ascertaining their truth. ... The visible effects of the Einstein theory leaped up on a convex curve, its productions huge in the first century after its discovery, then leveling off. The productions of Gödel's law crept up on a concave curve, microscopic at first, then leaping to equal the Einstein curve, cross it, outstrip it. At the point of intersection, humanity was able to reach the limits of the known universe with ships and projection forces that are still available to anyone who wants to use them ... and when the line of Gödel's law eagled over Einstein's, its shadow fell on a deserted Earth."
According to Delaney, humanity had broken the bonds of the rational, moved into to realm of infinite possibility, and what? Left earth behind? Become gods? Experienced a form of rapture? Become extinct? We aren't told the exact fate of humanity. But the revolutions brewing in Branning-at-sea show that the alien race wants to experience the mind-blowing potential of the limitless. Conservative forces of order hold the Einstein line. Will Gödel win again? Sounds interesting doesn't it? Unfortunately, Delany's writing style has managed to sap all the joy out of my life. In the end, I don't care what happens. Two stars for you!