(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The title is explained in the final section of the novel. Lobey is told that Einstein, a human mathematician, defined the limits of perception by expressing mathematically how the condition of the observer influences the thing observed. Goedel, Einsteins contemporary, noted that there is an infinite number of true things in the world for which there is no way of ascertaining their truth. At the intersection of these two theories, humanity left the confines of Earth for “somewhere else . . . no world in this continuum.” Then Lobey’s ancestors, an alien civilization, came to Earth, taking human forms and souls. Their descendants strive to discern their own trajectory while confined to human form, thought, and mythology.

Delany blends an intoxicating brew of myths. The Orpheus/Eurydice story is only one ingredient. Lobey may also be read as Odysseus on a journey. Kid Death is an obvious Lucifer/Satan cognate, and Delany adds to the outlaw archetypes character a soupçon of Billy the Kid. Other archetypal, yet uniquely drawn, characters appear. Spider, a four-armed driver of a dragon herd, is identified also as the Betrayer, Judas Iscariot, Pat Garrett, and King Minos. Green-Eye, a prince working as a dragon herder, has only one eye. He may be read as a cyclops guarding a flock or as the son whose eye is “single,” intent on its own perception and purpose. He is a Christlike savior and redeemer. Contrasting with Friza as the unique beloved is The...

(The entire section is 514 words.)