**Slightly spoilery and full of pretension.**
You remember the legend of the Beatles? You remember the Beatle Ringo left his love even though she treated him tender. He was the one Beatle who did not sing, so the earliest forms of the legend go. After a hard day's night he and the rest of the Beatles were torn apart by screaming girls, and he and the other Beatles returned, finally at one, with the great rock and the great roll.
Given a long enough time-span, our reality will turn to myth. When we are lucky, what we know about our lives will survive in stories, fuel the imagination of others, being re-lived in the grand tales and the small.
There is no death, only love.
On the surface, The Einstein Intersection is a quest. Lobey loses his beloved Friza and goes on a journey to wrestle her back from death. He has monsters to fight, cattle to tend to, and underworlds to enter. He has to leave old friends behind, to make new acquaintances and foes. Just like every hero, he has to confront his arch-nemesis, Kid Death, a read-headed child-devil.
It's a quest, a coming-of-age story, and a re-enactment of myths. Lobey and the other characters channel mythic figures, more than one at a time. Lobey is Orpheus and Theseus, further we have Minotaurs and oracles, a Cyclops who is also Jesus, the traitor who is every traitor combined, Persephone who is Jean Harlow who is every dream you ever had, and Death who is Billy the Kid who is the Devil. Through re-enacting, Delany confronts our myths and our myth-making. He uses the hero's quest as a rumination about differences and how we come to terms with them. These differences are the heart of the story, as are the contrasts: live and death and the in-between, village and town and city, feral Minotaurs and cattle-like dragons and tame dogs, the old tryst and the lost love and the object of pure desire. Lo and La and Le.
There is no death, only rhythm.
Delany creates an irrational universe in spellbinding prose. His writing is lyrical; it has rhythm. Poetic descriptions are juxtaposed with action sequences channelling classic pulp, in the best tradition of Alfred Bester (I have been told Delany is a fan).
While the prose is beautiful on a sentence to sentence level, and the individual episodes of Lobey's quest are fun to read, they don't connect all that well. I have too little familiarity with ancient myths to say if Delany was trying to imitate them here, or if he was simply making things up as he went along.
Each chapter – or rather episode, as there are no real chapter breaks – starts with an epigraph, some of them taken from Delany's own author's journal. That's more than a bit pretentious; but Delany was just in his mid-twenties when he wrote this book, a young author very full of himself (and, to the most part, rightly so); I'm willing to cut him some slack.
There is no death. Only music.
Lobey is a musician. His flute is also his machete, an instrument to create and to destroy. It's one example for Delany's surrealist, metaphorical writing. It sometimes reaches obscurity and leaves the reader with an ending that is, just like the author wanted it to be, inconclusive.
No answers, but are the questions really that important? Endings can only be inconclusive, because there are no endings. This post-apocalyptic world is peopled with aliens who have taken over humanity's legacy, trying to walk in our shoes. But just like Lobey must transcend his role as Orpheus, earth's new inhabitants must learn to transcend the old myths and go on, making their own stories, to fully become themselves. A new beginning.
The appropriate soundtrack here would be the Beatles. But I'm really not that into the Beatles, so I chose the Orpheus tale from someone who is one of the greatest storytellers the great rock and the great roll ever had: The Lyre of Orpheus