Robert Silverberg

shabeg

New Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2011
Messages
4
Silverberg wrote so much -- you should read what Malzberg has to say about him, apparently he had two or three distinct careers, starting in the 1950s.
 

GOLLUM

Moderator
Joined
Mar 21, 2005
Messages
9,035
Location
Australia
I have "Nightwings" of his next to read. Hopefully that will live up to my expectations.
That's possibly my favourite Silverberg novel along with Dying Inside and to a lesser extent Behold The Man. He is also quite good in the shorter form. I have a five decade retrospective collection of his shorter fiction I keep meaning to get into but as yet have not. To be honest if you read Nightwings and Dying Inside for the first time and aren't grabbed by either it may be you are destined not to be a Silverberg fan. I'm also a big wrap for his Majipoor series, one of the best 'large scale' science fantasy series I've read...:)
 

GOLLUM

Moderator
Joined
Mar 21, 2005
Messages
9,035
Location
Australia
"Behold the Man" is by Moorcock, not Silverberg! :p
Yep....DOH....:rolleyes:...my bad it's getting late here..:p Anyway, I did enjoy that Moorcock book. As I said though, if you don't like Nightwings or Dying Inside you may not be destined to be a Silverberg fan, his shorter fiction notwithstanding.

Nite.
 

Fried Egg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
3,517
Well, I loved "A Time of Changes" and "Book of Skulls". I just want to read something of his again that will live up to those two.
 

GOLLUM

Moderator
Joined
Mar 21, 2005
Messages
9,035
Location
Australia
Well, I loved "A Time of Changes" and "Book of Skulls". I just want to read something of his again that will live up to those two.
AH..I thought your post read that you did not like A Time of Changes" and "Book of Skulls" and therefore had it in my mind that Silverberg was on his last chance with you vis a vis my previous comments on Nightwings and Dying Inside. Apologies. I was really out of it the other night..:eek:

Going to be interested to read your comments on those 2 latter Silverberg works though.

Cheers and good evening.
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
5,035
I didn't care for Nightwings, so much, but that's not unusual for me in that I liked the novella a lot but the fixup incorporates weaker stories and isn't as strong as the core novella alone - less than the sum of its parts. And I had a similar reaction to Thorns as you, Fried Egg. It's sometimes marked as the beginning of his "great phase" but, while it may be more ambitious than what preceded it, it's not "great" itself. Not bad; not great. I've only read a middling amount (even a small amount vs. his output) of Silverberg and his best from that period seems to be Dying Inside. However, if it seemed dull and depressing and too close to mainstream, I could get someone not liking it. Not completely dissimilar, IIRC, is The Stochastic Man. If you haven't read Tower of Glass, you might try it. It doesn't quite come off but it seems like it's a masterpiece for most of it. So, depending on how you consider such semi-successes (or if it does work throughout), you might like it. And I have a special fondness for a basically unheard of novel, The Second Trip. I like that one more than many of his much more famous ones.

-- I just realized this was the Robert Silverberg thread (naturally enough) - I somehow thought this was a digression on the July reading thread ("I've just read...", I guess) - I've probably already covered the above on this thread. Sorry for any redundancy. :eek:

-- Yeah, completely redundant and you have read Tower of Glass. :) Sorry.
 
Last edited:

jojajihisc

vast and cool
Joined
Oct 30, 2008
Messages
745
Well, I loved "A Time of Changes" and "Book of Skulls". I just want to read something of his again that will live up to those two.

It could be, for you at least, that you just may have already read the two books of his you're going to like the most. And if nothing lives up to those two there are still several more that are worth reading like Son of Man (maybe his most difficult), The Man in the Maze (garden variety adventure), The World Inside (a sharply contrasted utopia).
 

jojajihisc

vast and cool
Joined
Oct 30, 2008
Messages
745
I recently read To Live Again and To Open the Sky (unrelated works published in '69 and '67 respectively) and the former is very much worth reading and not unlike something Philip K. Dick might have written in that same 60s/early 70s era. In fact, in the introduction to To Open the Sky he mentions talking with Dick (as well as Jack Vance and Frederick Pohl) at the World Science Fiction Convention in Oakland in 1964 and only three years after publishing To Live Again Silverberg moved to California. It's a story about a near future technology that can record and transplant dead people's personalities or "souls" into other people thereby giving the living host abilities, memories, etc. the deceased had in life. The latter novel on the other hand is one I'd say go ahead and skip. It's a collection of five novelettes loosely connected and spanning about a hundred years. Hard to follow and hard to care about.
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
5,035
Hmmm i wonder if there's a Majipoor omnibus out there.

There was an SFBC omnibus that is probably available second-hand.

Anyway - what I came here for was to link to an interesting interview.

Regarding what the Majipoor trilogy is (SF/fantasy) I loved this bit, as it's exactly how it struck me on first reading it mumblety-mumble years ago:

In order for human beings to live comfortably on so big a planet, the gravitational pull would have to be something reasonably similar to that of Earth — which meant a light core for the planet, very little in the way of metals. Metal-poor Majipoor therefore could not be a high-technology planet, Since it exists some fifteen or twenty thousand years in our future, though, it is able to take advantage of technological breakthroughs that seem like sheer magic to us, and so there is enough in the way of transportation, communications, and sanitation to provide a comfortable existence for the billions of inhabitants. And so forth. Each step in the construction of the planet led to the next logical development, and it was all fairly carefully worked out before I began writing the book.

Silverberg refuses to explicitly pigeon-hole the work but what does that sound like but logical SF? :) But, yes, given the futuristic alien underpinnings, it can be read like a fantasy. A nice blend. But I call it SF.

Another part I find... well, funny, isn't the right word but a bit ironic, is:

The first notes I took about the book said, “The novel is joyous and huge — no sense of dystopia. The form is that of a pilgrimage across the entire sphere. (For what purpose?) A colossal odyssey through bizarre bazaars. Parks and wonders.” Then I paused and added, “The book must be fun. Picaresque characters. Strange places — but all light, delightful, raffish. Magical mystery tour.”

I don't think I can say much without spoiling but, again, we're talking foreground and background here. If you know the history of the Metamorphs and of what's actually happened to Valentine, it ain't exactly all sweetness and light. ;) But, yes, the foreground is much brighter and more fun than Silverberg's "serious" 70s work.
 

Fried Egg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
3,517
I've just finished "Nightwings". Here is my mini review:

At first I found that I wasn't particularly engaged by the story but I was expecting science fiction when in fact this is more science fantasy in the Dying Earth tradition. Indeed, it works much more as a fantasy novel than SF and once I had made the mental adjustment to the right mode, I began to enjoy it much more.

The human race has gone well past its peak and is now in the third age in which much of the technological marvels that it attained in the previous age have been forgotten and what is left is a rigidly stratified society that is technologically backward. We follow through the eyes of the wandering protagonist as he passes through a period of intense personal and social upheaval. He moves from one guild to the next as his old perceptions and beliefs are altered by the events in the world around him, the old social structure is torn down and from the ruins a new enlightened culture can emerge.

Robert Silverberg writes well here and that helped sustain my interest in the early part of the book before I had engaged with the story. It's not among my favourite of his novels I've read from this period but still well worth reading, particularly for fans of future fantasy.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
2,931
There was a long, detailed, and interesting interview with RS in the June 1973 Vertex (copy obtained from Oxfam Southampton for 50p a couple of years ago.) Quite surprised I cannot find it on the net. Worth seeking out if interested. Interesting period SF magazine with a strong environmental bent.





VRTXJUN73.jpg
 

Connavar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
8,411
I've just finished "Nightwings". Here is my mini review:

At first I found that I wasn't particularly engaged by the story but I was expecting science fiction when in fact this is more science fantasy in the Dying Earth tradition. Indeed, it works much more as a fantasy novel than SF and once I had made the mental adjustment to the right mode, I began to enjoy it much more.

The human race has gone well past its peak and is now in the third age in which much of the technological marvels that it attained in the previous age have been forgotten and what is left is a rigidly stratified society that is technologically backward. We follow through the eyes of the wandering protagonist as he passes through a period of intense personal and social upheaval. He moves from one guild to the next as his old perceptions and beliefs are altered by the events in the world around him, the old social structure is torn down and from the ruins a new enlightened culture can emerge.

Robert Silverberg writes well here and that helped sustain my interest in the early part of the book before I had engaged with the story. It's not among my favourite of his novels I've read from this period but still well worth reading, particularly for fans of future fantasy.

You sold it to me there science fantasy like DE setting wheee :)

Nightwings ? Let it be in print easy to find for later.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
3,441
Location
Auckland, NZ
Yep, probably my favourite sci-fi author... Read The World Inside just a couple of weeks ago - its a cracker. I've only read about 6 of his - but will continue to delve into old Silverberg books until I finally expire. Fortunately he was quite prolific.
 

Matteo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2012
Messages
649
I'm a big RS fan and would love to see more of his early, short story stuff re-published.

In recent years have been actively scouring second-hand shops and the Net trying to fill the gaps in my collection (over 60 novels and around 15 collections) and have found some lovely Ace Doubles but it's not easy. One problem is that he wrote so many short stories - many of which will probably never see the light of day, another is that he wrote under numerous pseudonyms. He also wrote westerns and some (ahem) "saucy" books as well :cool:. I just collect his SF/Fantasy stuff...honestly.

If anyone is really interested in him I can recommend this website (which as this is only my second post I've just discovered I can't include - though if you type the name of the chronicles in which Lord Valentine is found and surround it by three "Ws" and a "com" you'll get there ;)) which is mindblowingly comprehensive.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
3,441
Location
Auckland, NZ
I just read "The Silent Invaders". Man, its pulpy! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It only took one evening sitting to read; its a novella really. There's a nice intro by Mr Silverberg, in which he sums up the genesis of the book: that it was quickly cobbled together in '62, from old parts (a novella from '57), because he needed to buy a heap of paint to do up his house. So refreshing to read an honest intro like that.

I've read so often that his novels from about '69 onwards showed much greater depth than his old pulp fiction (of which he was ludicrously prolific), that I thought I better read a little bit of his light old stuff so could see what the change in style really amounted to. Transpires the differences are enormous. I've read a fair few of his books written around 1970, and they are much more literary. That said, this was a hoot and I don't regret the use of those few hours at all.
 

barlennan

is people.
Joined
Mar 7, 2013
Messages
60
Hi all,

My First Post: I've only just registered after browsing the "under-rated classic authors" thread and got diverted in here at the first mention of one of my favourite authors of SF, so please be gentle. ;)

I wanted to speak up for the first Silverberg book I read, which has hardly gotten a mention; Downward to the Earth, which -- apart from a slow section at the beginning of the third act -- I found mesmerising and bizarre. Up until then I considered myself a hard SF guy, but no, I like silly things about aliens and pastiches of Conrad and Kipling; who knew?

I'm a big fan of this guy and was surprised what a pasting Tower of Glass has taken along the course of this thread; I thought it was great: it's pretty overblown and operatic, like a Shakespeare tragedy. I particularly liked how Silverberg portrayed the obsession and hubris of his anti-hero Simeon Krug.

Fried Egg is spot on about Thorns, mind you. It's time has passed, sadly.

Here's my top Silverberg picks:

  • A Time of Changes
  • The Man in The Maze
  • The Book of Skulls
  • Tower of Glass
  • Downward to the Earth
  • The World Inside (Some bad sex, but forgiveable)
  • The Stochastic Man
  • Shadrach in the Furnace
  • To Live Again (flawed but entertaining, and yes, I think it's a BIG nod to Vance)

I have been holding back Dying Inside for a special occasion and still haven't read it! Weirdly, I still haven't tried the Majipoor series either, but I'm running out of Seventies novels now, so that's probably just a matter of time.

Nightwings is well thought-of, but not for everyone; if Tower of Glass left you cold, then skip it.

Hawksbill Station made a better novella than a novel.

Some tips for the completists:

  • The Masks of Time is silly, but not without its merits
  • To Open the Sky is more straightforward SF and could be seen as a counterpoint to Asimov's Foundation.
  • The Time Hoppers is my favourite of Silverberg's time travel novels: it's pulpy and lacks the flourish of later work, but it actually reminds me a bit of Phildick.
  • Tom O' Bedlam is clunky and the science is bad, but it's charming in its way.
  • Up The Line is better written than ...Hoppers, but no less silly in the end.
  • The Second Trip struggles with clichés, but should not be overlooked by the tried-and-true fan.
  • Of the early novels, Stepsons of Terra is my favourite; it's pulpy fun, with a few nice thoughts in it and could appeal to fans of Van Vogt's null-A schlock.
  • Some of his novel-length expansions of Asimov short stories aren't terrible, in spite of the scathing reviews you'll see around.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
7,873
Hi all,

My First Post: I've only just registered after browsing the "under-rated classic authors" thread and got diverted in here at the first mention of one of my favourite authors of SF, so please be gentle. ;)

I wanted to speak up for the first Silverberg book I read, which has hardly gotten a mention; Downward to the Earth, which -- apart from a slow section at the beginning of the third act -- I found mesmerising and bizarre. Up until then I considered myself a hard SF guy, but no, I like silly things about aliens and pastiches of Conrad and Kipling; who knew?

Welcome -- from another admirer of Downward to the Earth.

I will have to follow up on one or other of your recommendations.
 

Alex The G and T

Thar! That Blows.
Joined
Jan 25, 2012
Messages
2,780
Location
Extremely Northern California
He's had a regular column in Asimov's Magazine for some years. He has been musing over re-reads of some of his colleagues, over the last year or so. Always interesting.

The current installment about his lifelong workspace, with remarks about some of his friend's ( You know their names) workspaces is amusing. Of especial interest, perhaps, to aspiring writers.

http://www.asimovs.com/2013_04-05/ref.shtml
 

Similar threads


Top