A reissue of Delany’s (Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, 2012, etc.) first three novels is accompanied by a new preface and afterword by the author that welcome the reader into the works and offer broader reflections on art, writing, and life.
This omnibus volume contains The Jewels of Aptor, The Ballad of Beta-2, and They Fly at Çiron, each one a relatively short novel that explores different territories of science fiction and fantasy. Aptor and Beta-2 were originally published in the 1960s; Çiron has a more circuitous history (detailed by Delany in an accompanying note), being a failed attempt at a second novel that later appeared in various heavily revised incarnations. Aptor reads like a swashbuckling fantasy adventure set on a “monstrous Island” where the remains of a technologically advanced civilization crumble under decadence and power struggles. Beta-2 follows an academic whose analysis of an old ballad takes him to an isolated set of spaceships inhabited by the relics of a mysterious and violent past. Çiron throws the reader into the bloody conflict brought to an idyllic village by a conquering army set on consolidating an empire. Despite their differences, the novels are all engaging reads with vivid, likable characters and satisfying plots. They entertain, confident in the power and pleasures of solid storytelling, while also unabashedly tackling various ideas, both troubling and idealistic, about society and culture with rigorous intelligence.
Delany’s preface and afterword are substantial and enjoyable; far from being mere treats for the committed fan, they are fascinating in their own rights and offer some of the most interesting writing in the book.