Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Book of Skulls” as Want to Read:
The Book of Skulls
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Book of Skulls

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,336 Ratings  ·  206 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
ebook, 142 pages
Published January 31st 2006 by Del Rey (first published December 1971)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Book of Skulls, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Book of Skulls

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2016-shelf
This heavily character-driven novel begins and continues like an interesting jaunt through america in a classic road-trip novel, but it eventually becomes something much more on two fronts that might possibly be just one.

Is it really about joining a secret society cult based on a the Book of Skulls that promises immortality at a price? Or is it really about exploring one's sexuality, with the majority of emphasis being on homosexuality?

I'm not saying that being a homosexual is the route to immor
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
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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
Mike (the Paladin)
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
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2011 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
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
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2012 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
Nate D
Jul 31, 2014 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
Sep 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate Sherrod
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 23, 2012 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
Perry Whitford
Jun 02, 2015 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
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
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
Aug 02, 2015 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 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
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alice Lee
Aug 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right off the bat, I thought this book was well written. A one sentence summary'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

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
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Бях чела "Трите стигми на Палмър Елдрич" за първи път на примерно 14. Преди няколко месеца, когато я четохме за клуба, имаше хора, които бяха възмутени от отношението към женските персонажи, а за мен то си беше съвсем в реда на нещата дори и при препрочитането, защото имах спомени от първото си четене, когато подобни неща не ми правеха впечатление и просто ги подминавах като нещо нормално. Така де, какво можеш да очакваш от Филип Дик по този параграф?

Но "Книгата на черепите" я четох за първи път
Lauren Munoz
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
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.
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever since I was a teen, I have occasionally picked up a Robert Silverberg book and wondered what the big deal was. Now I know.

Every once in a while you hear about some amazing find re-unearthed from a college library’s basement; in this case, young Eli finds a Catalan manuscript promising that its writers can provide eternal life… for a price. The price is that four must apply, but two will die. One will commit suicide, one will be murdered by the others.

Eli brings this to the attention of his
Owain Lewis
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A flawed but exhilarating read. There's not much out there like this. Silverberg, despite his popularity and critical acclaim, is among those I'd consider outliers in the world of scifi/fantasy, part of Sturgeon's 10% that isn't trash; subversive and daring in a genre that tends towards the banal and escapist. Fantasy thriller, psycho drama, road trip, campus novel, The Book of Skulls can accommodate all these tags and still remain afloat - it made me think of an interview I read with M John Har ...more
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Complete Roderick
  • Dark Benediction
  • Jem
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Life During Wartime
  • Emphyrio
  • The Centauri Device
  • Behold the Man
  • Arslan
  • Of Men and Monsters
  • The Child Garden
  • Pavane
  • Half Past Human (The Hive, #1)
  • Helliconia Trilogy
  • Bring the Jubilee
  • Drowning Towers
  • The Computer Connection
  • Mockingbird
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
More about Robert Silverberg...

Share This Book

“The only place where he revealed the other Oliver, the machine-Oliver, was when it came to drugs. Second week on campus I scored some groovy Moroccan hash and he absolutely wouldn’t. Told me that he’d spend 17½ years calibrating his head properly and he wasn’t about to let it get messed up now.” 0 likes
More quotes…