the Little Red Reviewer

Regan’s Planet, by Robert Silverberg

Posted on: January 17, 2012

Regan’s Planet, by Robert Silverberg

Published in 1964

Where I got it: bought used

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This little known Silverberg title from 1964 gives the impression it was written on a lark, perhaps after a visit to the 1964 World’s Fair. Funnily enough, the plot of Regan’s Planet isn’t all that different from the true story of the development of the ‘64 World’s Fair in New York, from its focus on American innovation and space exploration, the need for private financing and sales of bonds to finance the whole thing, the disaster of international participation, the hopes of Vatican artwork, and the need to maximize attendance and ticket sales as to break even at the end of the whole show.

So, as you may have guessed the overarching theme, the plot of Regan’s Planet follows Claude Regan, a self described Machiavellian scoundrel as he attempts to create a World’s Fair such as the world has never seen before.   A highly successful financier with an addiction to power, Regan has the sociopathic tendencies of Donald Trump alongside the innovative yearnings of Richard Branson.   Regan has been convinced by the President of United States to take control of developing the 1992 World’s Fair, a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America.

The first problem is finding a suitable plot of land for the fair. But why worry about buying or renting property when he can build his own?  At a cost of billions, Regan decides to build a giant permanent satellite to house the World’s Fair. Lunar tourism has taken off and tourism to Mars has also gained popularity.

Regan has two years to sell the billions of dollars of bonds needed to finance the fair, keep his corporation from voting him off the board of directions, gain more power, and just maybe keep his wife from leaving him.  As he travels the world looking for funding, he’s quick to realize not everyone on Earth is interested in celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America.  The Chinese and Nordic countries are offended no mention has been made of their descendent’s early voyages across the seas. Many countries who have had tenuous relations with America also aren’t interested in paying money to glorify the Americas.  Regan certainly has his work cut out for him.  Luckily he’s a persuasive bastard.

The fair looms closer, and Regan is still shy millions of needed funding.  If he can’t sell enough tickets and come out in the black, his reputation will be destroyed, his company will tank, everything he’s worked for will be gone. But Regan is incapable of believing he could ever loose anything, especially power and influence.

Even better, Regan’s got one last trick up his sleeve. He’ll be the first to tell you it’s totally cheating, but hey, winning is winning, right?

Less science fiction and more political/financial thriller, Regan’s Planet is a fun pulpy throwaway book. Not Silverberg’s worst work, but certainly not his best.  At barely 150 pages it’s a goofy little book easily read in an afternoon.  I’m a sucker for anything Silverberg, so I couldn’t say no to a skinny little book with his name on it, and the atrociously silly cover art is just so wacky, how could I not read it?

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4 Responses to "Regan’s Planet, by Robert Silverberg"

I really need to give Silverberg a try. What would recommend starting with?

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My favorites of his are Dying Inside (contemporary fiction/sort of SciFi) and Lord Valentine’s Castle (sci-fantasy).

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‘The World Inside’ and ‘Up the Line’ are excellent as well. Just remember, with Silverberg it’s more about the journey than the destination…

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There is something inherently charming about older sf that takes place in the “future” but is now in a year that has passed. At least I find it charming and it adds to the enjoyment for me. I know others who wouldn’t consider such a thing worth reading. I can’t help but compare it to my own dream-filled optimism about how the world we live in would be wildly science fictional by the time I was an adult. And while in many unforeseen ways it is, there are still no flying cars, no hover skateboards, and no living off-planet.

Sigh.

Having just experienced Silverberg for the first time myself (writing fiction, that is) I must say that I understand being a sucker for all things Silverberg. Suddenly I just want to devour his work.

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