Robert Silverberg confuses me. I'd read some of his works, of course, and respected his status as a solid Golden Age writer (a highly prolific and skilled one, to boot). But most of his work never really grabbed me.
Then he wrote Lord Valentine's Castle
and blew me away. I still
didn't find his other works enjoyable, but LVC captured my imagination and amazed me. It was, to my mind, the closest thing to Rudyard Kipling's Kim
in the science fiction genre that I had ever seen. A dense, lively, incredibly deep
world filled with fascinating and truly different cultures and species, all co-existing - for the most part.
The two sequels were nearly as good. After another book or two, Silverberg disappointed me badly with a dull and flat Majipoor book; the series never really recovered after that, as far as I was concerned. There were a few more bright spots, but somehow the magic was gone.
Which is a very long lead-up to this: The Longest Way Home
a Majipoor novel. But it has a definite Majipoor flavor
. The world in question seems simpler and smaller, but has a similar multiplicity of races and cultures - although not as complex or impressive as Majipoor.
Instead of the elegant unfolding of riddles within and without the protagonist's mind, we are treated to a coming-of-age story. It's not bad, but...somehow, the plot was much simpler
than I expected. It wasn't bad
, just...somehow, it left me a bit flat. "Is that it
?" I found myself thinking. Lord Valentine's Castle
taught lessons, of sorts, and was profoundly thought-provoking. The Longest Way Home
has a tinge of that same mysticism, but here it merely seems a little stale and shallow.
But I will say this: there's enough here to retain my interest. If Silverberg writes a sequel (he hasn't yet), I will
read it. The Longest Way Home
might have made a good, though slow, beginning to a very long novel or a series. There are certainly...well, I wouldn't say that there are unanswered questions at the end, as much as openings for more answers. The world that Silverberg has presented definitely has issues that cry out for resolution, as does the hero, and a sequel would be welcome.