The Jewels of Aptor, Samuel Delany’s first novel, opens with a poet and scholar named Geo and his sailor friend Urson wandering the docks of Leptar, a nation existing fifteen hundred years after a massive atomic war. Geo and Urson are looking for work on a ships crew. Snake, a four-armed mutant, steals Geo’s purse. Snake flees, but the sharp voice of the priestess Argo stops him. She is standing on the gangplank of a nearby ship, and she makes Snake give back Geo’s purse. While questioning Snake, she discovers that he possesses a milky pearl, a match to her own. These are two of the three jewels of Aptor, powerful instruments that can modify and control thoughts.
Argo asks the men to sail with her to Aptor, the realm of technology and the dark god Hama. She wants them to help save her kidnapped daughter, also named Argo, the incarnation of the white goddess Argo. The priestess Argo also hopes to capture Aptor’s remaining jewel, thereby preventing an invasion of Leptar. Leptar captured its first jewel when Aptor invaded Leptar five centuries previously. The second jewel came into Argo’s possession during Aptor’s abduction of her daughter. Later, Snake stole this jewel from Argo, during the first, disastrous attempt to save her daughter.
The trio accepts the priestess offer, and the ship sets sail. Tensions soon develop between Jordde, the ships first mate, and Geo’s friends. Jordde already hates Urson because Urson had stirred up fights on other ships. For mysterious...
(The entire section is 620 words.)