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3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Cloudy Jewels, 3 Sep 2009
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Jewels Of Aptor (Gollancz SF collector's edition) (Paperback)
This is one of Delany's very early works. While the copyright reads 1967, his signature at the end of this work indicates it was actually written in 1962, when he was just 19 years old. And like most works written by such youthful writers, it has some flaws, and is certainly not as good as most of his later material.

But it does have some points that are quite striking. Delany would later become known for having not only finely delineated characters, but characters that are very different from the average run-of-mill people. His characters for this work follow that mold of different, from the mute four-armed Snake to the bear of a man Orson, though perhaps their characterization is not as full-bodied as a later Delany would show them. Delany's other prime characteristic, prose so sharp it can cut, poetry in prose, is quite muted here, though there are flashes of it, and here and there the sense of being in a very different time and place becomes quite forceful.

The plot is somewhat standard, a post-holocaust world with bits and pieces of the former high-technology hanging around, and a quest to steal one of the few pieces of new technology (the "Jewels") before they can be used to destroy the viewpoint civilization. But here is where the most obvious flaws are, as the plot becomes quite confusing, as various beings are dragged across the reader's view as being the enemy or spies for the enemy, but are later revealed to be perhaps not what they first seem. Trying to keep track of who are really the good guys and who are the bad is difficult, though he does tie in this confusion quite nicely with his theme of there being dual natures to every action.

Some of the creatures of this world seem like they were designed for a Hollywood `B' movie, from giant amoebas to blind harpies. And in fact, this book probably could be made into such a movie, and might actually be half-way decent, given a director who wouldn't try to add extraneous material to it. As it is, this book is a reasonable adventure, with some food for thought buried in it, and is an interesting look at the early Delany's capabilities.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hypepat)
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The Jewels Of Aptor (Gollancz SF collector's edition)
The Jewels Of Aptor (Gollancz SF collector's edition) by Samuel R. Delany (Paperback - 18 May 2000)
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