Reviews of Jewels of Aptor, the (1962)
This is a straightforward post-apocalyptic tale, a much easier read than The Einstein Intersection (the other Delany book I have read to date). It addresses familiar cold war era themes of the dangers and corrupting influence of the powers given man through scientific breakthroughs.
Centuries after nuclear holocaust, mankind lives a primitive life, with high rates of small mutations. On another continent Aptor (presumably what's left of the USA), what is left of man is highly mutated, and a small group maintains scientific knowledge. At some point a set of three quasi-magical jewels were created, which serve as focus points for much of this knowledge, but the jewels always corrupt those who come to control them. Organized religion is a dominant force on this world; the leaders of the dominant religion have fallen prey to the corrupting lure of the jewels. The story follows a group of four men who have been sent to Aptor to unite the jewels and bring them back to the leaders of their religion.
Characterization is limited; we never really learn much about the motivations of the protagonist Geo and his companions, nor of the religious leaders who try to manipulate their actions. We do ultimately get a not entirely convincing explanation for the cruelty and manipulations of Jorrde, the closest thing we have in the book to a villain.
In the end, the jewels are thrown into the sea (where we know they will be hidden away for millennia while mankind has the chance to mature), when one of Geo's companions steals the jewels to gain their power for himself, but then commits an act of selfless sacrifice to save his compatriots.
Ultimately, The Jewels of Aptor is an optimistic book, with the naive and idealistic young granddaughter Argo bringing scientific knowledge back to the primitive world, and the temptation of the jewels removed.
Delany is big on symbolism, and there are many parts of the book that feel deliberately unrealistic. Overall, I'd say this is worth your time, but it far from groundbreaking. I gave it a 7/10.