Robert Silverberg!!!

tylenol4000

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Couldn't find a thread about Silverberg.

I know this guy has written a lot of books. Like Phil Dick numbers.


So far I've only read Dying Inside. Not what I was expecting. Very 'literary', as they say ;) interesting. But as typical of a lot of first person narratives I've come across, it was more like I was being told what was happening, instead of actually experiencing or watching as they happened. But that's just me.


I know there was a period some time in the 60s that people say is when he wrote the best of his works. I've heard that Lord Valentines Castle, and Majipoor books in general, were written to mainstream and sell something commercial. But I've also know some people consider it one of his best. I'm considering reading it, but can't guarantee I'll finish, as fantasies like this usually bore me. I often find them dull.




What are some books of his I should read? Any that aren't written in the 1st person? Or maybe some that are, but are different in approach then how I described Dying Inside?


Also, I'm wondering how his books and his style compare to other authors Iv read, like PKD, Vonnegut, Delaney, van Vogt, etc?
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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Dying Inside may be the most "literary" of Silverberg's SF novels. I happen to think it's great, but your opinion may vary.

Somewhat similar is The Book of Skulls, which is borderline fantasy, which I also love.

You might want to try the novella "Born With the Dead," which represents Silverberg at what I think of as his peak. It's not first person, and it's just a shade less "literary" than the two listed above.

Other novels I particularly like from this period (1967 to 1972) include A Time of Changes, Downward to the Earth, Tower of Glass, The World Inside (several stories blended into a novel), and Thorns.

Lord Valentine's Castle left me cold.

Silverberg has also written tons of excellent stories, so any collection of his works is of interest.
 

Abernovo

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I got into Silverberg with The Silver Locusts (the odd UK title for The Martian Chronicles), when I was ten or so. I was hooked.

My favourite remains The Book of Skulls. It was the right book at the right time, for me. As Victoria says, though, there are many excellent stories to choose from.
 

Abernovo

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But that book is by Ray Bradbury. Maybe I'm missing a subtle pun on "silver."
Good grief! You're right. My memory must be going. My excuse? I have none. :eek:

Well, they were two of the writers that got me into sff at the same time. And, it is late at night. But neither is a good excuse.
And, I'm never that subtle. ;)
 

J-Sun

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Well, here's another thread on Silverberg that's been kicking around for a while:

http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/7033-robert-silverberg.html

I'll report back again soon when I have some more time to formulate my thoughts...
Forgot about that thread. :( I'd have probably written this post differently if I hadn't but oh well.

I know this guy has written a lot of books. Like Phil Dick numbers.
Way more than Dick - more like hitting on Isaac Asimov numbers.

I know there was a period some time in the 60s that people say is when he wrote the best of his works. I've heard that Lord Valentines Castle, and Majipoor books in general, were written to mainstream and sell something commercial. But I've also know some people consider it one of his best. I'm considering reading it, but can't guarantee I'll finish, as fantasies like this usually bore me. I often find them dull.
That's the historical consensus regarding Silverberg's periods: commercial story factory, artsy great guy, more popular like-em-or-don't Majipoor, and the autumn of the post-Majipoor period. I don't regard the Majipoor books as fantasy, though. The original trilogy, at least, is planetary romance/science fantasy/science fiction but definitely not pure plain fantasy, though it should also appeal to fantasy fans.

What are some books of his I should read? Any that aren't written in the 1st person? Or maybe some that are, but are different in approach then how I described Dying Inside?
Well, I can describe what I've read and you can judge how they sound to you.

  • Master of Life and Death (1957) - not bad but not required - more serious than one might expect given the rep of his early stuff.
  • Thorns (1967) - supposed to be the first of the "new" Silverbergs - it was okay but disappointing given maybe unrealistic expectations. Dark, though.
  • The Man in the Maze (1969) - Decent retelling of the Philoctetes story.
  • Up the Line (1969) - Bad mess of a very 60s time travel yarn. First-person.
  • Nightwings (1969) - A fixup novel of a far future earth that's not as good as the title story.
  • Downward to the Earth (1970) - The first part of this riff on The Heart of Darkness is some of the best writing around before it concludes in an obvious and disappointing way.
  • Tower of Glass (1970) - Another book - Tower of Babel riffs - with some brilliant writing that didn't quite end perfectly for me.
  • A Time of Changes (1971) - An anti- (or ultra-?) first-person novel of a society that disapproves of "I". Won a Nebula - it's more consistent but doesn't ascend as high peaks as some of the previous books.
  • The Book of Skulls (1971) - Not SFF at all - some college students seek immortality. Great book, if highly thematically problematic.
  • The Second Trip (1972) - This is an odd book - I don't remember it well but remember it being one of my favorites all the same.
  • Dying Inside (1972) - Almost certainly his masterpiece. But, if you don't like it, never fear - he's got plenty more worth reading and different.
  • Unfamiliar Territory (1973 coll) - Silverberg's more famous as a novelist but I agree with Victoria that his stories are great - I find his 70s stories (maybe going back to the late 60s) to possibly be his best stuff. This is some excellent examples of those.
  • Born with the Dead (1974 coll) - A collection of three novellas whose famous title story is disappointing vs. expectations but still interesting and whose other two novellas are excellent.
  • The Feast of St. Dionysus (1975 coll) - Another great 70s collection of five novellas and novelettes.
  • The Stochastic Man (1975) - If you didn't like Dying Inside you'll probably want to avoid this, as it struck me as something of a related variant (and also first-person). On the other hand, the very fact that it has commonalities but differences might make it work for you. Probably not, though.
  • Capricorn Games (1976 coll) - More great shorter stories.
  • Lord Valentine's Castle (1980) - Piqued at not getting a sufficient number of awards, Silverberg retired for all of maybe three years. On his return, he wrote this. Not my kind of thing and I loved it. Works well enough stand-alone.
  • Majipoor Chronicles (1982 coll) - A collection of stories whose linking story takes place between the two Majipoor novels - provides a historical mosaic of the world and society.
  • Valentine Pontifex (1983) - A lesser novel than the first but a satisfying conclusion to the series.
  • The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party (1984 coll) - Arguably just a shade off his 70s stories, but the early 80s stories are still excellent and are probably more similar to their predecessors than his 80s novels are to his 70s novels.
  • Tom O'Bedlam (1985) - A story of a sort of psychic alien invasion - kinda neat, kinda minor.
  • Star of Gypsies (1986) - A really annoying marysue of the Interstellar Gypsy King. First person, but completely different from Dying Inside.

(I've still got The World Inside (1971 fixup - overpopulation), and Secret Sharers (1992 coll - the collected post-Conglomeroid 80s stories) in the Pile and actually just ordered Shadrach in the Furnace (1976 - his last pre-retirement work) because I got tired of looking for it.)

Also, I'm wondering how his books and his style compare to other authors Iv read, like PKD, Vonnegut, Delaney, van Vogt, etc?
He's less psychedelic (generally - there are exceptions) than Dick or van Vogt. He has a dark, sardonic streak, but it's very different from Vonnegut's "and so it goes". I haven't read a whole heck of a lot of Delany and don't really care for him but, of the authors cited, he may have more in common with him than the others.
 
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Sourdust

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On a topical note, apparently he had a heart attack the other week after travelling to the UK for the World Fantasy Convention, but recovered and has returned to the US.
 

J-Sun

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Yeah - I'd heard it but just came across it again in Ansible. Great quote from him in the hospital: 'Lunch was lousy. I think I'm going to stop eating in hospitals and go back to restaurants.'

Good call. :) I hope he sticks to that.
 

neopeius

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Silverberg is interesting. In the '50s, he was prolific, but his stuff was uninspired. I liked his Nidor series that he wrote with Randall Garrett though (as Robert Randall). In the '60s, Fred Pohl let him stretch his legs. I enjoyed Up the Line and To Live Again a lot.
 

Fried Egg

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My favorite Silverberg novels are "Book of Skulls", "Dying Inside" & "A Time of Changes". "Nightwings" was also very good although more science-fantasy than science-fiction. "Tower of Glass" and "Thorns" were a little weaker in my opinion although I've not read any novels of his I haven't liked at all.

I also really enjoyed the short story collection: "The Songs of Summer".
 

jastius

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i really enjoyed the lord valentine series and majipoor chronicles. (and his short stories are super.)
 

Bick

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Another big Silverberg fan here, as some will know already. I'd basically echo what Victoria and J-Sun wrote. My top picks from his best period would certainly include:

The World Inside
Downward to the Earth
Dying Inside
The Masks of Time

For more pulpy, wolf-it-down-in-one-sitting, early Silverberg, try something like "The Silent Invaders" for pure fun. I'd also second that his short stories are worth investigating. I thoroughly enjoyed the Majipoor books a lot when I read them (30 years ago), but I cannot really remember them too well now.
 

tylenol4000

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Well, there's definitely lots to check out. I remember listening to one of the audio PKD interviews that exist, and he didn't seem to think too greatly of Silverberg. Apparently the guy, Silverberg, was really taking over the SF market at the time.

Strangely, what I did read of Dying Inside somewhat reminded me of something Vonnegut would write. But not as witty. To be honest though, Iv always preferred Vonneguts more pulpy or SF- ish works like Sirens of Titan and Player Piano. So maybe it's the same way with Silverberg. Like I said above, I prefer books where I'm watching the events happen, rather then being told what happened. This usually means I prefer 3rd person narratives, but not always. 1st person stories can work like this, but much less often in my experience.
 

james lecky

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I haven't read a lot of Silverberg's work (and from what I gather, it pays to be selective, or perhaps it's to do with what type of Silverberg you prefer - the pulpier early work or the more thoughtful later work) but Hawksbill Station is a very entertaining read, Born With the Dead is excellent and Nightwings is simply stunning.
 

Rodders

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I read a few Silverberg/Asimov collaborations back in the nineties and found them enjoyable enough. Star of Gypsies and Kingdoms of the Wall I have read and enjoyed too.
 
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