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Empire Star | Study Guide

Samuel R. Delany

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Empire Star | Chapter 9 | Summary



Comet Jo, Lump, D'ik, and Jewel are in Lump's organiform spaceship, drifting about 170 miles away from Prince Nactor at Journal Square. The prince has just announced over the radio that all humans in the region—this includes Comet Jo—are to be conscripted into the Empire Army. Comet Jo places Jewel, the crystallized Tritovian he is taking to Empire Star as well as the story's narrator, on a desk and asks Lump, "What am I supposed to do with it?" Lump suggests that Comet Jo ask Jewel questions directly. It turns out that Jewel can indeed communicate with other beings when he is asked direct questions.

Jewel tells Comet Jo that he will be traveling with the Empire Army to Empire Star. He also says that Jo's message is "someone has come to free the Lll." Comet Jo asks more questions, which, this being a very multiplex situation, only leads to confusion over when the message should be delivered and whether or not it is Comet Jo who is supposed to free the Lll. Comet Jo wants to be the one to free them but, from what Jewel said, it seems more like he is supposed to deliver the message at the same time the person who is supposed to free them arrives. But not knowing who that person is means Jo still doesn't know when he should deliver the message. Lump tells him to analyze Jewel's statement to figure it out, but Jo quickly becomes frustrated and discouraged when he tries to do so.

Lump then suggests that Jo "see through someone else's eyes." Lump specifically means Jewel's. Lump then guides Comet Jo through the process enabling him to do just that (by replacing Jo's right eye with what will later be revealed as Jewel himself). Comet Jo's point of view expands. Jo can now see himself, D'ik the devil-kitten, Lump, and Jewel, along with Prince Nactor and the battleship on which Jo will be traveling even though the battleship is 170 miles away. This new perspective disorients him, and Lump suggests that he walk around and play his ocarina to get his bearings. Comet Jo can even see himself playing the ocarina.

A little later, Comet Jo tells Lump that he still remains unclear about the message he is supposed to deliver. He has discerned, however, that "the only way [he] will be ready is if [he] makes sure whoever is going to free the Lll is ready." Lump confirms Comet Jo's assessment of the situation and adds that Jo will have to "impart a good deal of [his] education to somebody as simplex as [Jo was] when [he] began this journey." Jo wants to know if that means he will "lose whatever uniqueness Ni Ty left [him] with." When Lump says it will, Comet Jo says he won't do it then. His "old life was stolen," Comet Jo says, and he "won't give [his] new life to somebody else." Lump tells Jo he is being selfish and that he will show him something that might change his mind. Lump will take Comet Jo to see San Severina.


This chapter's essential function is to move the plot forward and clarify a few threads for the reader. Lump's purpose in the scheme of things becomes apparent. He wasn't just looking to "have an adventure" as San Severina put it in Chapter 6; he has all along been actively helping Jo complete his mission and expand his consciousness. Other people have been orchestrating Jo's entire experience, from Chapter 1's spaceship crash on Rhys to whatever his fate turns out to be. It is also apparent that in Lump's judgment, Comet Jo is multiplex enough to be ready to communicate with Jewel directly and merge with his consciousness, which has likely been the plan all along. The largely unexplained process of expanding Jo's vision physicalizes Jewel's "omniscient observer" point of view. It will be clarified in Chapter 11 that Jewel himself is now literally living in Jo's right eye socket.

Even this leap into multiplexity, however, does not prompt Comet Jo to change his mind about wanting to abandon his mission. If anything, he is even more reluctant to go through with it, feeling that his "new life" will be taken from him if he does. Comet Jo feels that Ni Ty somehow stole Jo's old life and that Comet Jo's new life has somehow come from Ni Ty. Whether this entails some history of actual interaction—or whether, in fact, the two of them are indeed the same person—is unclear. It is likewise unclear precisely why Jo fears he might lose "whatever uniqueness Ni Ty left [him] with" by imparting education to someone else. Whatever the specifics, some sort of life force or intellectual exchange between the two seems to be taking place. Read in light of Lump's observation in Chapter 8 of the "recurring literary pattern" in which younger and older writers have love affairs and then part and "something wonderful is given to the world," the dynamic becomes reminiscent of the ancient Greek custom between male teachers and students. In ancient Greece it was common for older men to become the teachers and lovers of young boys to mentor them in politics, military, and social practices, generally preparing them for manhood.

It may also be the case that Ni Ty and Jewel are in some respect the same person. A subtle clue is given in Chapter 8 when Jewel hears Ni Ty Lee say the exact same thing Jewel had said to Norn when their spaceship was crashing on Rhys at the story's beginning. Norn is likely in some sense an alternate version of Comet Jo (and in fact characters with those names are explicitly identified as the same individual in Chapter 12). Therefore, it may be that Jewel/Ni Ty Lee and Comet Jo/Norn have known each other and been connected in multiple and simultaneous lives. Delany seems to be inviting readers to consider that humanity is linked in more ways than they may perceive.

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