Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, March 18, 2012

1970: The Fall of the Towers (Delany, Samuel R.)

Semi-coherent, character fueled, radioactive thrill (4/5)
From March 11, 2011

I've only read two Delany novels prior to picking up the Fall of the Towers trilogy: The Einstein Intersection (2/5 for its incoherent quest) and Dhalgren (3/5 for its impressive length and inventiveness). The synopsis for The Fall of the Towers sounded like it may be an interesting story/test/pursuit so I decided to gamble on this for my third, and maybe last, Delany novel. Beyond the first book's near-incoherent ending, the rest of the trilogy is an intricately woven future Earth, the plot full of rich characters and the backdrop exposing an interesting history. It may well be the most un-Delany-like novel yet, which is perhaps why I liked it so much, but is was an articulate, inventive, and flexible read altogether.

Rear cover synopsis:
"The Empire of Toromon was the last hope and refuge of mankind. Sealed off the the charred radioactive wastlelands by the radiation barrier, the Empire survived to face new adversaries deadlier even than the Great Fire. The Lord of the Flames, a force of evil devoid of physical substance. The berserk computer which guided the Empire's military complex. And an alien intelligence which crossed the abyss of space in search of new worlds to conquer."


The Fall of the Towers 1: Out of the Dead City (1966) - 3/5 - An unknown planet is host to a radiation barrier. On one side are the humans which have a historical reminder of the terrible war and the other rests a glimmering yet dead city. The feudal kingdom is home to a weakened king and a promising heir to the throne. When the prince is kidnapped by a menagerie of colorful characters, the kind announces war on the unknown enemy beyond the radiation barrier. One man has been gifted a crystallized body structure to be withstand the barrier's radiation but also enables him to become transparent in certain light. It's with his gift and abilities that lead the colorful assembly to forge through the barrier in hopes of disarming the coming war.

Typical of a Delaney novel, from the onset the initial pattern of events is difficult to fathom--characters are disjointed and events are timelessly situated. But once the grooves begin to merge, an excitement unseen in other Delaney novels brings unsurpassed witticism and a powerful plot flow. A ravenous surge of power is witnessed. The falling of the pieces was epically plotted, great stuff. This is wondrous stuff but it soon lost me towards the ending pages when, like typical Delaney, the plot takes on ethereal essence with very little synchronization of the plot just laid out pages prior to the ambiguity.


The Fall of the Towers 2: The Towers of Toron (1964) - 4/5 - Where as Out of the Dead City accumulated the characters and plot into a semi-coherent flow (utterly disregarding the ending) and bestowed its density into its pages, The Towers of Toron ushers in a sort of comfort with the way things have been laid out in the previous book. The characters are recognizable even after three months and the plot is familiar, the vibe is easy is see. The plot's cadence isn't bewildering or enigmatic as with most other Delany novels. The Towers of Toron is as simple as a Delany novel must get, a derelict trilogy from his earlier days prior to his success with Dhalgren and The Einstein Intersection.

Though I was loathing the start of this book after the semi-disappointing previous novel, I was quickly encompassed in the plot yet still held a reserved doubt as to the rational of the fantasy/sci-fi mix. The ever present Lord of the Flame is on the loose with the its greater-good nemeses close on the heel, unveiling its subterfuge of war and suffering. The convergence of personal story lines is a fine addition, combing the many walks of life which The Fall of the Towers world provides: the military beyond the barrier, the traveling circus, the palace grounds and the forest dwelling. The plot's unfolding is coherent and interesting, only briefly meandering into a surreal realm which Delany is so fond of penning.


The Fall of the Towers 3: City of a Thousand Suns (1965) - 4/5 - From the onset of this third book in this trilogy, its obvious that Delany is taking a different literary route than the previous two books. Book one was more artistic, bordering on avant garde in some areas. Book two was more adventurous, expanding the horizons of possibility for the trilogy. And finally, Book three is a mix of humor and philosophy. City of a Thousand Suns is much more fun the previous two books with a surprising cavalcade of half-forgotten characters crossing paths and Delany's imperial insight into the expanding world of old Earth. Combine this with a heavily philosophical last five or ten percent, the contrast is both impressive and captivating.

Having actually liked Book two, I was eager to start Book three and was met by the familiar scene of the alien entities in The City conversing about three humans on Earth impressed upon by the powerful tri-entity, what is needed from the said humans and how the Lord of the Flames may act to disrupt their plans. The Lord of the Flames takes a backseat in this novel, allowing the story to focus heavily upon character interaction (a real highlight) and the quest to gain access to the psychotic computer (the same computer which fabricated the war in Book two). With the city of Toron under fire from remote controlled armaments, a quest is began which will take the reader from the Devil's Pot, over the sea, into the newly established city of which the title takes its name from and into the realm of the computer. Pretty good stuff!

No comments:

Post a Comment