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Hawksbill Station

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  900 ratings  ·  70 reviews
In the mid-21st century, time travel is used to send political prisoners to Hawksbill Station, a prison camp in the late Cambrian Era. When the latest arrival suspiciously deflects questions about his crimes and knowledge of 'Up Front', the inmates decide to find out his secret. NOTE: a novella length version of this story is also available.
Paperback, 185 pages
Published May 1st 1978 by Berkley (NYC) (first published 1967)
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3.69  · 
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 ·  900 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Jul 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Hawksbill Station was Robert Silverberg’s most Kilgore Troutian concept.

Kilgore Trout was, of course, the recurring fictitious science fiction writer from Kurt Vonnegut’s canon, based loosely upon fellow writer Theodore Sturgeon. According to Vonnegut, Trout would come up with wild ideas, one after another, in a prolific if not profitable career.

Silverberg, also a prolific but happily profitable writer, describes in Hawksbill Station, first published in 1967, a situation where political prisoner
5.0 stars. I have said this before but Robert Silverberg is one of those writers that has never disappointed me and this story is certainly no exception. One of the things that is so impressive about Silverberg is that, other than the Majipoor series, he almost always does stand alone stories and so his stories are always a unique experience. The breadth of his stories are amazing.

This short novel (really a long novella) is about a group of political prisoners from a future United States that ha
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Although it had been over 45 years since I initially read Robert Silverberg's novella "Hawksbill Station," several scenes were as fresh in my memory as if I had read them just yesterday; such is the power and the vividness of this oft-anthologized classic. Originally appearing in the August '67 issue of "Galaxy" magazine, the novella did not come to my teenaged attention till the following year, when it was reprinted in a collection entitled "World's Best Science Fiction 1968." Silverberg later ...more
Megan Baxter
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Look at the covers above. They may not tell you everything about the book, but if the Sad Puppies narrative is to be believed, they'll be a straightforward adventure yarn, instead of harbouring something more subversive. You hear that, Silverberg? You guys didn't write anything more complex than that, right?

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
This was a great book. I am surprised to learn it is an expansion from a novella because the parts that were added fit in seamlessly. I couldn't begin to guess what was novella and what was only to be found in the novel.

A book that is now almost fifty years old should be dated. In one respect it is. The Soviet branches of Marxism mentioned in the book are something I can't imagine being of even historical interest any more. No one these days debates them or takes them as a serious foundation upo
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
(content note: this review and its subject mention sexual violence.)

I read the novella version of this story, which is available online here.

The premise is that time travel has been discovered, but it only works one way. A totalitarian government creates the camp for political prisoners, Hawksbill Station, that is the setting of this story: the late Cambrian period, when dry land is nothing but bare rock and all life on Earth is marine invertebrates. At this period, there's nothing the prisoners
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
A short, sweet SF gem from master Robert Silverberg. What shines here is the concept itself - the establishment of a prison for political dissidents buried aeons ago in the deep past. Free text and audio available here
Jose Moa
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a relatively original SF novel in three ways,is a prison novel,is temporally located in the cambric period and has a strong rather fuzzy political antifascist charge,also has interesting reflections over a clandestine revolutionary process with recruitment,betrayals and fights for the power.
Also has a accurate description of the anxious,despair,madness and resignation of the mens imprisoned by life hundreds millions of years ago in the strange Earth ,depicted in the ladscapes,of the past
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebooks, sf
This short novel started out strong, but never was able to maintain its initial promise. Silverberg is a wonderful writer, and I love how his worlds seem so vast and well-developed, and this book is no exception.

Time travel is a common SF item, so writers strive to develop their own unique system. Silverberg achieves that here (view spoiler).

I was expecting thi
When I first came across Hawksbill Station I was looking for novels set during Earth’s early geological eras. It was recommended to me because it takes place in the Precambrian period. So I found a copy with cover art that I like. It features and old man squatting on a rock examining a large purple trilobite in front of him, exactly the sort of image I look for on old scifi paperbacks. The cover also features the tagline “Time travel is a one-way trip...and this is the far, far end of the line.” ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: mid-century-sf
This is one of the slighter Silverberg novels I have read, but like all his novels I have read it is entertaining.

In the 21st century, the U.S. has cancelled the constitution and now runs as a syndicalist government. (What exactly is a syndicalist government and why has no GOP candidate accused our sitting president of being a Muslim Syndicalist? It sounds sufficiently damning.) In Silverberg's novel Syndicalism means no more president, no more congress, just commissioners of this and that and a
Roddy Williams
This is an expansion of an earlier novella, but is nevertheless still a fairly short novel.
The basic premise is that a time-portal to the past has been established. As there is no possibility of return, the US Powers That Be have set up two points in the remote past, one in the late Cambrian Era and the other some 250 million years later. As there is no other use for such a thing, the government have decided to send political prisoners back through time along with the materials to build their ow
Dec 21, 2013 rated it liked it
What I’ve read of Robert Silverberg prior to this—not much I admit—I’ve enjoyed; his novel A Time of Changes and his novella Born with the Dead are long-standing favourites. Why I’ve not read more by him I can’t answer. I simply never got round to it. The premise of this one appealed and now I’ve finished it I can say that it was a perfectly decent story but that’s where my problem with it lies; it’s a story and not a novel, not even a short one. I know it started off life as a short story and i ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2008 Jim Barrett was sent back in time by his government. He was sent to Hawksbill Station. The station is essentially a penal colony that was built in the Cambrian period. Or, for those like me and not well-versed in geological periods, prisoners were sent 1 billion years into the past, before much of the U.S. was above sea level, the land was little more than rock, and they had nothing to eat but a bunch of trilobites and other marine life. Time travel only works one way, so the idea was to ...more
Perry Whitford
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do like Silverberg, for all his flaws.

In Hawksbill Station, one of his best, dangerous political criminals are sent to prison in the past, a billion years back to the Late Cambrian period. That's before the birth of the mammals, before the dinosaurs, even before the evolution of insects.

A stupid idea if ever I heard one, surely taking an unnecessary risk of "more paradoxes (being) created than you could shake a trilobite at," as Jim Barrett says, but a great premise for a science fiction novel
Dustin Wallace
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very strange read. Not to say bad, by any means, but it was a very different story. Silverberg has an amazing ability to really set the mood, and his writing sticks with you well after reading. It's about a colony of fugitives set at some point in the Paleozoic Era. Advanced civilization had learned the secret of time travel, but only one way. As such, it's major use was in the disposal of their most heinous criminals in a camp created to be their "Death Row", I suppose. Silverberg re ...more
David B
Mar 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Political prisoners are sentenced to exile in a paleozoic gulag one billion years in the past, before the appearance of the first land-dwelling lifeforms. The story alternates between the exiles in the past, aging and battling mental illness brought on by their isolation, and the activities that resulted in their sentences. The primary character, Jim Barrett, struggles to maintain his deteriorating community while investigating the puzzle of a new prisoner who is unlike any of the others. The en ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Reading classic science fiction from decades ago can be both interesting and jarring. Hawksbill Station was published in 1968, the heart of radicalism in the United States, but it posits a revolution in 1984 and continues with a counter-revolution being disrupted by time-travel in 2005. Those are pretty wild ideas from the perspective of 2018. At the risk of “spoiling” what one discovers in the very first chapter, Hawksbill Station is a time-travel book where one can only travel in one direction ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another expansion of a short story of the same name, this time written by Silverberg himself (I finished the Silverberg-coauthored Asimov expansion NIGHTFALL the other day). In my opinion, this deserves to be a political/dystopian fiction classic, and I consider it loads better than 1984 (and the currently-in-vogue THE HANDMAID'S TALE), helped by mostly excellent writing from Silverberg and a fascinating SF premise. Eerily, its "present" (called "Up Front") is approximately now (early 21st Centu ...more
Steve Langley
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Intriguing idea (future totalitarian government exiles political enemies to the Precambrian past) intelligently executed but strangely flat. This is really two books shoehorned into one and that, I think, is the problem. We have chapters skipping from the present in the past (life in exile) to the past in the future (what got the dissidents there). Still with me? The back story (a redundant term in the context of this book) is quite dull; believable, particularly these days, and detailed but all ...more
Michael W.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A science fiction novel written in 1967. It is about time travel as a punishment for political crimes, meaning opposition to the power structure. Here, 1984 was the date where American democracy collapsed. But this oppressive hegemony didn’t kill their opponents. They sent them a billion years into the past. Humanitarians? Don’t kill them, just get them out of our hair. Temporal exile. It was short. It was character driven. And it was ironic as politics always is. It read well and hadn’t aged cu ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Hawksbill Station is a fix-up novel about a prison for political prisoners built a billion years in the past. The trip back in time is one-way, so no guards, no jailbreaks, no hope of release. Being a fix-up the original short story was filled out with flashback chapters set in the revolutionary days of the main character. These bits are jarringly misogynist and make the book a tough read by 2019 standards. The Hawksbill sections are much better. The arrival of a new prisoner who clearly has som ...more
Kalman Donath
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good story

It’s a combination of SF and politics. SF part or quite good, not too technical, scientifically not really elaborated l, but not too bad. The basic idea is good.
The political part however is really boring. At least for someone expecting to read a SF story and not a political essay.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most enjoyable science fiction books I've ever read. The mood this story sets, of a grizzled prisoner in a desolate prison camp, is perfect. The description of living in the Cambrian era is great, and the events build to an unexpected climax and a satisfying conclusion.
Susannah Ewing
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read the short story. Loved it.
Michael Nalbone
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Interesting, somewhat dated, but considering it was written 1967, an insight to the thoughts of what the Government evolves into, and how it deals with people that rebels against it.
Phil Kozel
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A little gem of a book! Loved the discussion of revolutionary philosophy as well. 4.5 stars
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
First things first, this book is deeply misogynistic, and that in part affected my reading of it. While Silverberg is undoubtedly a gifted writer, I wasn't blown away by this novel. It had great things to say even thought it struggled to say them at points. Some things happened too easily, while others never grew to fruition. I love how politically bent it is, and it's a clear love song to Orwell's 1984.
Marc Goldstein
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
A group of political dissidents are exiled via a time machine into the distant Cambrian past. There they hunt crafty trilobites and slowly lose their grip on reality. The de facto leader of the group was a rebel cell leader in the future. He knew Edmund Hawksbill, the man who invented the time machine. An old friend who had introduced the leader into the rebel movement, and later defected, betrayed the leader to the police. The old friend harbored bitterness because the leader stole a girl away ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
As I mentioned in an earlier review of a book in tribute to Robert Silverberg, I realized that it was time to catch up on some of his earlier works that I had missed. This is the first in that effort. Written in the late 60s, I was pleased to see that, for the most part, it holds up very well. The language isn't archaic, there's only one reference to women that might not be quite as politically correct now, and - the most important part - it's a good story.

In the near future (actually about now)
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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