The Jewels of Aptor – Samuel R Delany (1962)
‘Was their leader a mistress of science or a witch of mutants?
QUEST AMID FUTURITY’S RUINS
What was the strange impetus that drove a group of four widely different humans to embark on a fear-filled journey across a forbidden sea to a legendary land?
This was Earth still, but an Earth of a future terribly changed after a planet-searing disaster, a planet of weird cults, mutated beasts, and people who were not always entirely human. As for the four who made up that questing party, they included a woman who was either a goddess, a witch, or both, a four-armed boy whose humanity was open to question, and two more men with equally ‘wild’ talents.
The story of their voyage, of the power-wielding ‘jewels’ they sought, of the atomic and post-atomic terrors they encountered, is a remarkable science fiction Odyssey of the days to come.’
Blurb from the Ace Doubles F-173 1962 paperback edition.
Delany was an experimentalist who employed various styles throughout his career although, like Dick, a pervasive sense of quality usually shines through.
‘The Jewels of Aptor’ forms part of the thread of hybrid SF/fantasy novels which runs through the Twentieth Century from Burroughs and Clark Ashton Smith through to M John Harrison and China Mieville.
In the far future, following a devastating nuclear war, the Argo Incarnate (a high priestess) encounters two sailors and a four-armed thief. The thief is in possession of a jewel, whose twin is held by The Argo.
She hires the men to work aboard the ship she has hired, and to carry out a mission; to travel from their current location on the island of Leptor to to the isle of Aptor, there to steal the third and final jewel and to rescue the Argo’s sister who has been kidnapped.
Despite its superficial pulp Science fantasy storyline, Delany uses the story to examine theories of motivation, and in so doing questioning and examining the motives of all the main characters for their actions.
The protagonists and the readers are set the task of discovering who is spying for whom and why, which at times gets thoroughly confusing.