'Point Omega' is the latest of a group of short novels or novellas that Don DeLillo has published since the appearance of the very long and much admired 'Underworld' in 1997 underlined his claim to be the best living American writer of prose fiction. All four books are short and sparely written; all are haunted by a sense of time running out.
In one reading 'Point Omega' is an existential thriller about a disappearance, perhaps a murder. In another, a warning about the dangers of looking into the abyss. In a third, it is a meditation on cultural and psychic exhaustion.
DeLillo takes an idea of Teilhard de Chardin's - the 'omega point' of absolute concentration of information and communication towards which de Chardin believed mankind was being drawn - and inverts it. The book presents an alternative to the view of technological optimists who believe in an evolution of human consciousness towards a 'singularity' - a takeoff point beyond which humanity will begin to transcend its limitations. In DeLillo's dark parable, complexity and selfconsciousness, ever-finer attention to ever-greater detail, ever-greater knowledge, lead over an event horizon into a black hole of solipsism and ultimate insignificance. For one of the central characters, human beings want to become stones again, giving up the burden of consciousness.
As a long-time admirer, I expected to enjoy 'Point Omega', but I hadn't expected it to be so good. The book is beautifully written, in what I suppose we are obliged to call DeLillo's late manner. There is nothing flashy here, and the opening section demands a little patience as the author conceals his intentions. But there is a plain continuity of thought with earlier novels - particularly 'End Zone' and 'The Names' - that makes it very much a part of DeLillo's distinctive artistic achievement. On this showing, 'late' DeLillo still has a lot to offer.