Review of 'Robert Silverberg (Gateway Omnibus)'

Robert Silverberg (Gateway Omnibus) by Robert Silverberg

rs_omnibus.jpg A few years ago I attended the World Science Fiction Convention held in London (2014, Loncon 3) where Gollancz, a big Science Fiction publisher were selling their large soft cover “Gateway Omnibus” books that showcase various famous Science Fiction authors. At the end of the convention they gave away a number of free copies of these books at which point I picked up this one of “Robert Silverberg” - An classic author of the genre I have heard a great deal of but have never actually read. This book collects three of his classics: The novellas “Nightwings” and “A Time of Changes” as well as the novel “Lord Valentine's Castle” (the first in his “Majipoor” series) with a short introduction extracted from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Nightwings

“Nightwings” is set in a post-apocalyptic earth told from the viewpoint of a Watcher, one who watches for the coming of invading aliens, who is comfortable in his profession as he arrives in Roum. One evening during his stay the purpose of his guild comes to fruition as he observes the invasion fleet entering Earth's atmosphere. Without a guild the former Watcher travels with the fallen prince of Roum to Perris where he joins the guild of Rememberers. Finally he sets out as a Pilgrim to Jorslem to see if he can, once and for all, find meaning for his life.

Part of the fun of this story is figuring out what exactly is going on - What is the nature of this far-flung future and how did it get that way? Likeable characters and an interesting story with surprising bits of action to keep the reader entertained.

A Time of Changes

“A Time of Changes” takes place on the planet Borthan where it is forbidden to speak of one in the first person and restraint is the order of the day. “Bondsisters” and “bondbrothers” are “bonded” siblings whom one can share feelings with, up to the point of common decency, of course. Kinnal Darival is a member of the aristocracy from the province of Salla who seeks to make his own way in the world so goes travelling. A strange Earthman by the name of Schweiz cannot understand the repressed society he finds himself in. Schweiz offers Kinnal an (illegal) drug that frees his mind from the restraints of his society and express himself as an individual. Will he able to bring this mind expanding experience to the rest of the planet?

A bit of an odd one this with the literary conceit of being unable to use the first person a key element communicating the repression of society whose very foundations is threatened by mind altering drugs. Perhaps a bit “1960s” as far as I am concerned but certainly another provocative read. It is only until later in the novel do the depths of the society become apparent and make it far more believable.

Lord Valentine's Castle

This is obviously the first book in a series as Silverberg introduces us to the “massive” (as we are continually reminded) world of Majipoor. The story follows Valentine a man who has lost his memories as he takes up with a juggling troupe just before they perform for Lord Valentine, the Coronal (ruler) of Majipoor who lives at the top of Castle Mount on the far side of the planet but is touring his domain. A visit to a dream-speaker reveals that he is, in fact, the Coronal with an impostor on the throne having swapped his mind. It is now up to Valentine and his juggling friends to travel to Castle Mount to reclaim what has been taken from him but the journey will not be easy with the government, terrain and people all against him. Can he convince them that he is the true Coronal and can he regain his throne.

The richness of the people and planet are very much evident here as Silverberg seeks to introduce us to the places and people that would later feature in his Majipoor series. This is to such an extent that often it becomes tiresome as he continually reminds us of how big and rich the world is: Do we need to be reminded so often? This later story is more accomplished than the other too and much easier to read. Valentine is a very likeable character and, perhaps, a bit TOO clean and “good” with the pretender on the throne so obviously “evil” with the same brush painting the “evil” of the shape-shifters. Having not read the later books in the series I can only hope these opposite shades are made a bit greyer to make things a tad more realistic.


All in all I found these stories very easy to read. Very well written and populated with very realistic stories and people. All of the stories are very much of a fantasy vein with the occasional bit of Science Fiction thrown in, though I will not hold that against him! I will now certainly be looking to read more by Robert Silverberg…

Rating:

Review Date: 2016-06-17


Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Gollancz (Gateway Omnibus)

Publication Date: 2013

ISBN: 9780575129030