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The Book of Skulls

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,002 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
Seeking the immortality promised in an ancient manuscript, The Book of Skulls, four friends, college roommates, go on a spring break trip to Arizona: Eli, the scholar, who found and translated the book; Timothy, scion of an American dynasty, born and bred to lead; Ned, poet and cynic; and Oliver, the brilliant farm boy obsessed with death.

Somewhere in the desert lies the
...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published February 2006 by Del Rey (first published December 1971)
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Dune by Frank HerbertDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. DickThe Forever War by Joe HaldemanHyperion by Dan SimmonsRendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
SF Masterworks
70th out of 127 books — 512 voters
The Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldSkulduggery Pleasant by Derek LandyThe Book of Skulls by Robert SilverbergA Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis PetersThe Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James
rag and bones - and skellies and skulls
3rd out of 95 books — 28 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lyn
Jan 12, 2016 Lyn rated it it was amazing
Together with Dying Inside, standing atop his prolific career as a classic.

His 1971 novel The Book of Skulls, nominated for the Hugo Award, is a psychological thriller, really more of a horror book than sci-fi, and really – if I think about it – this is one of those works that does not fit easily into any recognizable genre.

We’ll call it speculative fiction.

Four travelers go on an unusual quest across the country looking for a mythical opportunity to live forever. Silverberg’s traveling companio
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mark monday
i have a soft spot for The Book of Skulls. it is a thoughtful tale of college students on a road trip slash quest slash metaphysical odyssey, their destination a secret to immortality. the only problem with obtaining this secret is that major bummer, The Grim Reaper. one of the group has to be sacrificed (i.e. murdered) and another must die by his own hand. the cast of 4 are stereotypes: the studly poor guy, the studly rich guy, the queer, the jew. although on friendly terms, they are decidedly ...more
Apatt
Jun 30, 2015 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Robert Silverberg is possibly the most underrated sf writers of all time, considering that he has been writing sf since the 50s, won numerous Hugo, Nebula and other major sf awards, and is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master. In spite of all this he never seems to be "in vogue" these days, most of the younger generation of sf readers today have never read anything by him. I believe this is indicative of how criminally underrated he is and the ongoing decline of civiliza ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Jan 30, 2016 Mike (the Paladin) rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller
One of my friends here whom I usually agree with liked this book a great deal. He notes it is a psychological thriller (and indeed it is) and found it more a horror read. I can see that. But it never opened up to me that far...or maybe I just never got so involved.

I go 3 stars here but I'm bound to say it was a close thing I considered 2. However I can see that this is a well done book. it was just a case of the book never drawing me in.

We have here a shifting point of view as each of the partic
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Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Wow.

I've always known Silverberg is one of the Great Old Ones. A cornerstone of the genre, author of books like Nightwings, Thorns and Dying Inside that are classics in the genre, and would be classics outside the genre as well if the consensus cogs would get their heads out from up the bums of D. DeLillo, I. McEwan and so forth for long enough to notice. But it's one thing to admit a writer into your personal canon and and quite another to be reminded, knee to the groin, uppercut to the jaw, no
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Nikki
Sep 14, 2014 Nikki rated it it was ok
I liked the idea behind this, and I even liked the way Silverberg set up the four characters, stereotypes that over the course of the novel are pried open and exposed for the often hypocritical things they are. The writing, too, is pretty good, lyrical and intense. The psychological building up and tearing down of the characters works really well, and it's not easy to predict who will commit the murder, who will be the sacrifice, etc. The only real problem for me was that I kept having to check ...more
Andrew
Dec 12, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterworks
This is a book I have been meaning to read for some time but you know things kept on getting in the way (like other books) so now I have finally been encouraged to read it and here we are.

The book itself is part of the SF masterworks series - an excellent series I am so glad to see they have decided to start issues new editions of. However I will admit that I struggle see how this warrants such a place in the series although I am not as naive as to think that all science fiction contains stories
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Stephen
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Robert Silverberg can flat out write a great story. I have probably read about ten of his books (meaning I have many more to go) and I have never been disappointed. This story follows four college friends from vastly different backgrounds traveling to Arizona in search of a ancient monastery that they believe holds the secret to eternal life. The problem is for two of them to live forever, the other two must die.

In addition, to learning about how the group learned of the Book
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Sandy
Nov 13, 2015 Sandy rated it it was amazing
Because he has garnered no fewer than eight Hugo and Nebula Awards over the years, has been inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Hall of Fame, and has been, since 2005, anyway, an SFWA Grand Master, it might be difficult to credit the notion that Robert Silverberg might also be a writer of horror. And yet, there it is, the 55th book under discussion in Jones & Newman's excellent overview volume "Horror: Another 100 Best Books"; namely, "The Book of Skulls," which ...more
Joe
Mar 22, 2009 Joe rated it it was ok
I don't know what to say about this book. To summarize, it is the story of a ragtag group of four college students who spend their spring break trying to find immortality through a mysterious cult in Arizona. I know, I know, run-of-the-mill plot. The catch is, according to the terms of immortality, only two of the group can live forever - the other two have to die: one must commit suicide and the other must be murdered. Now it gets interesting! The first half of the book describes their old-fash ...more
Nate D
Aug 05, 2014 Nate D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: mark monday
Robert Silverberg is one of the most 70s of sci-fi writers, I think. Here, via four college students on a road trip into immortality. Despite oscillating contradictorily between feeling that the characters were too archetypal and being impressed with their nuances, this was ultimately somehow really compelling to me. And those characters really carry it in the end, since the whole story is told via their four alternating viewpoints. I think the tension between well-developed and oversimplified t ...more
Marvin
Mar 11, 2012 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite Silverberg novel...and that is saying a lot. Silverberg is one of the finest writers to come out of science fiction and fantasy. The Book of Skulls is both one of his straighter fiction tales and, at the same time, the most esoteric. The plot concerns four college students on a journey to find a hidden monastery in Arizona. (There's more of those in Arizona than you would think!) They are motivated by a promise of immortality. However for two to gain this, one must die by his own han ...more
Perry Whitford
Jan 12, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Eternities must be balanced by extinctions'.
Book of Skulls.

Four college roommates head to the Arizona desert to locate a cult who claim to have found the secret to eternal life. According, that is, to an esoteric document called The Book of Skulls, which one of them had translated.

The catch? Only two can become immortal, whereas the other two must die.

All four characters get to tell the story their own way through a loosely alternating set of narratives in the stream of consciousness style, pu
...more
Ben Loory
i've always been really fascinated by silverberg, even though i never seem to be too crazy about any of his books. for one thing, his output was astonishing. by his own count he habitually wrote over a million words a year; often publishing five stories a month... he published 23 novels between 1967 and 1972 alone, including many of his most famous ones (and multiple hugo/nebula/locus award nominees)... yet when you read his work, it doesn't feel like it's just been tossed off; it feels like tig ...more
Kate Sherrod
Jan 29, 2013 Kate Sherrod rated it really liked it
Elevator pitch time: Robert Silverberg's "Sci Fi Masterwork" The Book of Skulls is In the Company of Men meets The Holy Mountain* but in, you know, prose. Only I'm pretty sure I'm expected to forgive all of the scorchingly misogynist** elements of the former because it's a product of its time. Only I'm kind of failing at the forgiving thing. But it has enough remarkable qualities to make me really want to find a way to forgive it, but forgiving it feels like a bit more gender treachery than I'm ...more
T4ncr3d1
Jan 28, 2012 T4ncr3d1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: statunitensi
"Non ho mai creduto che aprire la propria anima porti alla scomparsa del dolore. Serve solo a diffonderlo un po' in giro".

Romanzo atipico di uno scrittore atipico: Robert Silverberg è uno scrittore di fantascienza, acclamato per la sua capacità di muoversi autonomamente tra i generi, i cui romanzi sono noti per l'approfondimento psicologico, che ha la priorità su tutti gli altri aspetti.
Anche in questo romanzo è così: se gli elementi più fantastici (il Libro dei Teschi, il Ricettacolo, la promes
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Themistocles
Sep 06, 2009 Themistocles rated it it was ok
Shelves: scifi
Silverberg is a good SF author, and though not one of my faves, I've enjoyed his work very much. But not this book.I don't know, maybe wasn't in the mood, but I found that the internal Odyssey of the four characters just didn't touch me. Silverberg spent page after page desvribing past experiences and thoughts that have no real interest and are mundane to say the least, and in effect out of the 300+ pages of the book only about 70-80 advance the plot. A pity, because the underlying premise is ve ...more
Chuck
May 17, 2015 Chuck rated it liked it
3-stars

This was my introduction to Robert Silverberg. Apparently he was--or maybe still is--well respected in science fiction circles. However, I’m not real big on sci-fi, but thankfully this wasn’t a sci-fi book. I picked it up thinking it was a horror book, but it wasn't really that either.

The story itself involves four college friends, each sort of a stand-in for a certain personality type, one of whom, believing he may have found the secret to eternal life in an obscure religious text, promp
...more
spikeINflorida
Mar 23, 2015 spikeINflorida rated it it was amazing
Another 5-star masterwork of Robert Silverberg. Not really science fiction...more of a dark fantasy. An excellent character study with a startling conclusion. This story redefines "Spring Break". Strongly recommended.
Josen
Dec 11, 2015 Josen rated it really liked it
Right off the bat, I thought this book was well written. A one sentence summary .......it's about four college roommates (in the 70's) who travel across the country (to Arizona) seeking immortality. Although in order to gain immortality, of the four, one must self sacrifice and one must be killed. (okay that was two sentences, lol!) I liked that this story was told with the four POVs. Each character had a different background and a different personality. I tend to gravitate towards books that ar ...more
Alice Lee
Aug 17, 2008 Alice Lee rated it really liked it
Wow. I mean Wow.

The words, the voices, they were delirious. Psychotic. Ecstatic.

Silverberg's prose, while not as poetic as Peter S. Beagle's, was as close to flowing perfection as I can remember seeing in most authors I've read. Perhaps I'm biased, since many topics touched upon were - how shall I put it - something I have a weakness for. Especially the narratives spoken from Ned and Eli's points of view. Especially Ned's. He, if he had ended up being an English professor, or writer, would be on
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Sonatajessica
Jul 15, 2011 Sonatajessica rated it did not like it
I am not sure why people describe it as horror...maybe because it is so horribly bad? There is no suspense, spookiness, gore or thrill in this story.
The storytelling itself was lacking A LOT. No suspenseful up-building, the shifting narration doesn't make any sense in the end (plus I never cared much for the gimmick of telling stories from different views but here it adds zero cleverness to the presentation of the characters), even though this is a short one it felt dragged.
The characters are s
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Bert
Aug 04, 2015 Bert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orgasmic
Seriously, how often do you read a book and think this is unlike any other book I've ever read...it NEVER happens. The Books of Skulls is fucking sensational and utterly unique, mysterious, brilliantly constructed and insanely well written. Yeah it absolutely has some issues, some dated jargon, especially it has an uncomfortable focus on homosexuality as something 'other', but although this is very much a book outta the 70's and reflects that, it also has the feel of something timeless, inspired ...more
Lauren Munoz
Dec 08, 2010 Lauren Munoz rated it liked it
A book about four college guys who head to Arizona to find a secret society that grants immortality to two people in every grouping of four that petition them. The second half was great, the first half was ok. Well-written, interesting first person perspectives. The only thing that bothered me is that the author thought it necessary to make his characters hate women so much. I don't know if he was going for some sort of realism or if he's just a misogynist himself so he thinks all college men mu ...more
Martina
Feb 06, 2016 Martina rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
Yet another SF & Fantasy Masterworks entry, yet another mixed review...

Just like with my previous Silverberg experience, I was intrigued by the premise. Four college guys, a mysterious manuscript, a road trip and the quest for immortality (with a catch) - it sounded tempting. And the whole thing started well - we get acquainted with the four protagonists in a series of first person chapters, the characters can be differentiated one from the other (especially Ned stands out) and on the first
...more
Victoria M
Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls (1972) is a story about the journey taken by four young men after one of them finds an old manuscript that promises its reader eternal life. Not only does their search for immortality take us across the United States of America, but also through their minds, their past, and the past of the world itself...

Click here for full review.
Luka Novak
Nov 19, 2013 Luka Novak rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi
Honestly, i don't know what to think about this book. I've decided to give it a read because I've heard it's some sort of a classic, but underappreciated.

Well, it's not a bad book, I just don't see where the classic(cult status is coming from. And while book usually classified as sci-fi it really isn't. I guess it's stuck by this label because it doesn't really fit any usual labels.

OK, so these four guys travel to some remote monastery where monks are supposed to discover secret of eternal life
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Jeff
I take great pleasure in recommending this re-release of a modern sci-fi classic novel. More than thirty years before Ian Caldwell’s The Rule of Four, Robert Silverberg came up with the same basic plot device — four college students discover an ancient manuscript in the library of their college (not named here, but pretty obviously Yale) which claims to hold the key to arcane mysteries, complications ensue — and took it in a very different direction. The story is told in an alternating first-pe ...more
Ülle
First of all, I have some issues on shelving this book as sci-fi/fantasy because nothing "unexplainable" really happens. The story takes place somewhere in the 1970s and focuses on 4 college boys who set out on a quest to the Arizona desert to find eternal life. At first it seems like the boys are just looking for an experience, almost like an adventure, to find out if there is some truth to the Book of Skulls - an old manuscript that speaks about an ancient cult that offers immortality to those ...more
Clark Hallman
The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg was first published in 1972. Four college roommates (Eli, Ned, Timothy, and Oliver) drive west across county to a monastery in an Arizona desert where they hope to achieve immortality. Eli, whose scholarship emphasizes ancient languages, discovers a manuscript in the university archives entitled The Book of Skulls. With much study and effort, he is able to translate the book. It describes a monastery, referred to as the House of Skulls, where the monks are ...more
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Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth and Lord Valentine’s Castle, as well as At Winter’s End, also available in a Bison Books edition. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Sc ...more
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