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Gilgamesh the King

(Gilgamesh #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  617 ratings  ·  56 reviews
The epic tale of Gilgamesh, the legendary god-king of Sumeria who discovered the secret of eternal life, has enflamed the imaginations of countless generations. In Gilgamesh, science fiction Grand Master Robert Silverberg gives us a vivid portrait of a courageous, lusty, sometimes reckless ruler of men. It is the majestic tale of a man haunted by gods, tormented by his pas ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 9th 2005 by ibooks (first published 1984)
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3.72  · 
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 ·  617 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Jun 26, 2015 rated it liked it
The Gilgamesh that Robert Silverberg describes is a combination of Leonidas (as portrayed by Gerard Butler in 300), Conan (as portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Ted Nugent: he is an alpha male with an attitude, a manly man of testosteronian power and ursine manliness, with a steaming hot side order of god-like virile manly manness.

I read five pages and dropped and GAVE MYSELF TEN PUSHUPS!!!

The almost pre-historic, shrouded in myth and legend setting made me think of Creation by Gore Vidal a
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've learned so much from this novel - about the culture, history and beliefs of the early people of Mesopotamia. Silverberg researched the subject well, and managed to bring to life the old myths of Gilgamesh, who went looking for eternal life. This modern version really helped me understand these old peoples' way of thinking, how natural phenomena connected with their religious beliefs, and how they explained them. Beyond that, there are many universal things in this story in terms of the huma ...more
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Silverberg is more famously known for his sci-fi works, but here he turns his hand at semi-historical – a sub-category of historical fiction utilising ancient myths and legends and attempting to retell them in a historically accurate and plausible way. Since I’d just finished reading The Epic of Gilgamesh, I thought I’d check out Silverberg’s reworking.

In some ways, this book was just what I had been craving. Whilst I greatly appreciated the themes and importance of The Epic, it leaves something
Jan 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: homophobes and fans of toxic masculinity
This is a novelization/memoir style telling of the Epic of Gilgamesh that's totally NOT GAY.

I have not read/studied the Epic of Gilgamesh, so I don't know how well the story would roll with academics who know such things intimately, and I'm generally going to miss any subtext of what was going on or what constituted pop-culture in ancient Mesopotamia, but overall, it is hitting most of the major plot points I remember. In this story, first person told by Gilgamesh, he's the most amazing, awesome
James Baquet
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have long been familiar with the classic Epic of Gilgamesh (I first taught it to prep-school ninth-graders around 1990 or so). Likely the earliest long work in literature, it is the first story of a tyrant gone soft (viz Scrooge), the first story of a mortal grappling with death (his own and those of his loved ones), and the first "buddy movie" (road trip included).

The original Epic is full of gaps, as not all the tablets it was inscribed on have been found. But that's no problem for Silverber
Jeff Miller
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much enjoyed the story and the audiobook version. An ancient heroes epic adapted with a nice flow to it story wise. Not quite what I expected, but that was a good thing.
Patrick Stirling
Everything I expected - epic, mythic, historic! Silverberg is good writer and does a very readable adaptation, although I admit I'm not familiar with the source material. This book is in the vein of May Renault's books (eg The Bull From The Sea) and T.E. Lawrance's version of Homer's Odyssey, although with more modern prose than the latter. That's actually it's one slight failing, IMO. I prefer these legends to be retold using more formal, "mythic" language, as Lawrence does. This gives the text ...more
Christian Schwoerke
Oct 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Gilgamesh lived approximately 5000 years ago, in the Tigris-Euphrates valley of what is now Iraq, in 2800 BC. His saga was “composed” orally at roughly the same time, first appearing in Sumerian cuneiform in roughly 2000 BC, then were later copied and translated into Akkadian and Hittite versions over the next 1000 years. Tablets whose dates ranged from 1700 BC to 700 BC have been found throughout Mesopotamia and even beyond, indication of the durability and the extent of this saga. (To give fur ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Very different in style from his SF novels but also very enjoyable. Factional type novel set in prehistory times (approx 5000 years ago) and dealing with Gilgamesh, who became King of the Sumerians. While it deals a lot with the capriciousness of the gods and has plenty of fantasy elements these are all dealt with as would be by ancient society and all have a rational interpretation. Deals to a large extent with the lust for power and the struggle between the high priestess of the Kingdom and th ...more
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This tale of Gilgamesh who was one third mortal and two thirds god. Always being the larger of men in stature and in ego, believed he could do no wrong. His journey takes him on a quest to find immortality, because he has always feared death. Interesting, but terribly slow moving. Don't think I am up to more of the series.
Erik Graff
Jun 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tom Miley
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
I brought this book along for the plane trip from Chicago to San Francisco as a gift for my host (and former roommate) Tom Miley and his wife. It is a modern retelling of the Gilgamesh story and not, in my opinion, especially insightful as regards the milieux of the original. The focus is more on the character of the protagonist.
Apr 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mythology
A great take on the epic - loved it. Brilliant as a primer to introduce into the full version.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This very nearly is the type of book I was looking for for years. A story taking place in Ancient Mesopotamia, unblemished with the Holier than thou attitude of men named Daniel being condescending to Assyrians for not having the right religion. It is sad that this is such a rarity, at least it was until recently.

The background for the story is rich and is very well executed, perhaps only the fact that the amount of Gods Silverberg names at times is rather small, though of course that may have s
Rena Sherwood
This is one of those books where I got hooked by the end of the first paragraph. I was already familiar with the epic of Gilgamesh and wondered what Robert Silverberg would do with it. I didn't realize that this was the beginning of a series. This book is complete in and of itself.

My library classified this as science fiction, but it's not. It's more like historical fiction or, at a stretch, historical fantasy. But really, who cares what genre it is when it is such a good story? There is a good
Steven Leiva
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having read several translations of the Epic of Gilgamesh (the Andrew George one is very good), I have wanted to read Silverberg's novel for years. Somehow, though, I always thought I would be disappointed. I finally, due to the glories that is Kindle, got around to it. I am far from disappointed. Much like Mary Renault, Silverberg took what history of the true Gilgamesh there is and the Epic itself, and imaginatively fashioned a first-person narrative that gives the more mythic and magical aspe ...more
Craig C
Has a certain appeal

This is the Gilgamesh myth broken down into it's most banal true-to-life version. It certainly has some appeal but Silverberg takes the most interesting conflict of the book, the kings struggle with his cities' high priestess and really doesn't let it go anywhere. Which is surprising considering how good an author he is and how good his other stories are with conflict. As a reader I never understood the motivations of Inanna or even why the struggle came to such a whimper of
In his intro, Silverberg says that he set out in this novel to provide a version of the Gilgamesh myth similar to what Mary Renault did with Theseus, to retell an ancient myth as it might actually have happened, without the supernatural elements. He does a good job with that, maybe too much of a good job, explaining away every single supernatural element. I've read the original myth in several versions and in the end, I find the original more rewarding than Silverberg's all too human hero. Even ...more
Charlotte Lintz
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I have heard partial stories, had this tale referenced in other novels, but never knew the entire tale. I am so glad I read this. The story is interesting, fun, human, tragic, probably the oldest on earth, except the tale of the flood. Worth reading!
K. Counihan
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Old story retold in a new way

Gilgamesh tale retold by moving some of the clay translations around and filling in the holes in missing fragments. This is the most coherent flowing version I have
Kathleen Alnory
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, easy to read...
Jonathan S. Harbour
Will write a proper review later. In a word: amazing. Source material for much of the Jewish scriptures (Moses).
Donald Mosier
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting narrative of the tale of Gilgamesh. THis is not a translation, but a retelling in first person narrative. Recommended if you are into such things.
James Frederick
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Probably deserves a 3. something. It mostly kept my interest, but was a very strange book.

Julie Davis
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on my podcast's featuring the Epic of Gilgamesh recently, Jesse from SFFaudio offered me this audiobook review copy. I have only listened to the first hour or so but it is interesting thus far. It may help that I have the bare bones of the Gilgamesh epic in mind. Again, I am put in mind of the Mary Stewart Merlin trilogy or the Mary Renault stories in the old style of story telling. The reading is very good so far and that is, naturally, a big plus.

I am really enjoying this tale, wh
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very well written, and while I have a few minor quibbles, little of them have to do with the writing or the story itself. This is an adaptation of the story of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest narrative in existence. It also attempts to de-mythologize the events of the epic, and place it firmly in a realistic milieu. I find this both to be a strength and a weakness. All events can be explained rationally, but the book does a very good job of depicting some of the cultural beliefs of the S ...more
Stephen Poltz
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
The “Epic of Gilgamesh” is an ancient epic Sumerian poem about the exploits of Gilgamesh, the greatest king of Uruk in Mesopotamia. It tells the tale of how he overworked his people to build a great kingdom, his friendship with the wild man Enkidu who was sent by the gods to distract him, his battles with the goddess Inanna, the earliest account of the great flood, and his journey seeking immortality. Silverberg’s book is a novelization of the epic with some liberties taken, particularly the int ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a reason first person narrative is rarely used in fiction. It makes for tedious reading. This retelling of the epic of Gilgamesh is told in first person, past tense, so it is very much like listening to an older person telling the story of their lives. That's not a bad thing, in general, but when the stories are primarily focused on the teller, it becomes a portrait in narcissism, interesting really only to the teller. Nonetheless, I have a deep interest in the subject matter, and a lon ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Silverberg's take on the Gilgamesh story is certainly interesting -- I can't think of any other novel set in ancient Sumeria. But Silverberg's relentless demythologizing of a figure most people are not all that familiar with soon becomes a dreary game where the reader just tries to guess which fantastic element is being explained away in a given passage. The character of course has a lot of potential for introspection and Silverberg's biggest failure is in not making him all that interesting -- ...more
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Silverberg is always good, often great, here he is at his greatest. An epic story retold in modern format. The great King who conquers all, but what he fears most—death. A dream-like quality, mythic, primitive, primal, intimate, compelling and surprisingly real. The sequel, where Gilgamesh continues his life and adventures in the afterlife, is equally good.
I did read the novel way before this 2005 edition, but no longer have those details.
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
I usually enjoy ancient literature and earned an M.A. studying mythology, but I couldn't connect with Gilgamesh. Maybe it's because the culture is so foreign or maybe it's because Gilgamesh is so flawed, but I had a hard time finishing it. After reading it, I decided to require only small sections for my son and focus our time on more enjoyable pieces on literature.
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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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“That is the truth. I know now that we need not fear death, if we have done our tasks. And when we cease to fear death, there is no death. That is the truest truth I know: There is no death.” 0 likes
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