the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Robert Silverberg’ Category

The Emperor and the Maula, by Robert Silverberg

available Sept 30th 2017

Where I got it: received advanced review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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Robert Silverberg’s The Emperor and The Maula is exactly what it says on the tin: this is a space opera version of the story of Scheherazade – in which a woman is sentenced to die at dawn and purchases another day of living by spinning a compelling tale for the emperor with dawn as her cue for a cliffhanger.

 

I love the idea of a space opera Scheherezade. Just think of how far an author could scale things up!  A number of years ago, there was a scifi anime made of The Count of Monte Cristo, with aliens, and travel to other planets, alien technologies and a very cool artistic style.  The writers took an earthly story and scaled it way the hell up, and it was brilliant.

 

What gives this wonderful little novella the “more” factor are its publishing history and the galactic scale a space opera environ allows. If you’re one of those readers who always skips introductions offered up by authors or their friends, make an exception for this one.  The history of this novella as seen through the logistics of the publishing industry is an adventure itself – rife with cliffhangers, cancelled publishing projects, word count requirements, adventures in selling the same story twice, concluding with the original novella being shoved in a file and forgotten about.   And now after twenty five years,  Silverberg fans can finally read The Emperor and the Maula in its nearly original form.  Funny, compelling, suspenseful, and given the space opera scale-up, this is exactly the kind of story an Earth woman might tell to an alien overlord on a planet far, far, away.

 

The Ansaaran Empire, benevolent ruling power of the known galaxy, brings culture and civilization to all planets.  Races living on backward planets are known as maulas, a word that translates to “barbarian”. If these people can ever find it in themselves to become cultured, perhaps one day, hundreds of years from now, they may be welcomed into the empire as citizens.

 

As an Earthling, Laylah is a maula and as such is forbidden from stepping foot on the sacred homeworld of the Ansaarans.   Knowing that the punishment is death, she travels far and wide, every year getting closer to her goal, and finally stepping off a starship and on to the sacred planet. Where she is summarily arrested. And then passed from one bureaucrat to another in a bureaucratic comedy of errors, as all of them know the punishment for her crime is death, but none of them want to be associated with the poor loser who will actually be responsible for someone’s execution.

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The recently announced Locus Awards are awarded every year by a readers poll done by Locus Magazine. These have been going since 1971, and are often an influencial precursor to the Hugo awards, which will be awarded later this summer.

It’s only these last couple years that I’ve been blogging that I’ve paid much attention to awards. Honestly, for the most part, a list of award nominees more often than not elicits a mostly “eh” response from me. Maybe I’ve heard of the authors, maybe I haven’t, and there’s a decent chance I haven’t even read any of the books or short stories that are up for an award.

Good thing I have a scifi/fantasy blog, and have pretty much been reading nothing but scifi and fantasy for the last little while! For the first time, ever, I’ve actually read a small chunk of these. Ok, maybe not a respectable amount, but way more than in previous years. For the first time, ever, my mind is responding with a “sweet! I’ve read that!” or at least a “I’ve heard of that, and I really want to read it!” instead of “meh”.

Here are this years Locus Award winners (bolded) and nominees. If I reviewed the piece, I’ve linked to it. A few questions for you to contemplate as you peruse the list: how many of these author, works, editors, authors and publishers have you heard of? How many of them have you read, or are interested in reading?

The 2012 Locus Awards, as announced in Seattle Washington, June 15-17th 2012:

Science Fiction Novel

Embassytown, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
11/22/63, Stephen King (Scribner; Hodder & Stoughton as 11.22.63)
Rule 34, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge (Tor)

Fantasy Novel

A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)
Snuff, Terry Pratchett (Harper; Doubleday UK)
The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW; Gollancz)
Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente (Tor)
Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)

First Novel

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Crown; Century)
God’s War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade)
Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh (Night Shade)
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime)

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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.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve really been enjoying these little author bios I’ve posted as part of Vintage Month.  When it comes to books themselves, I can usually walk the talk, but I’m woefully undereducated about the authors of said books. Well, here’s to less author ignorance! Also, we’re halfway through Vintage month.  Are you having as much fun as I am?  I’m realizing my chosen novels for Vintage month are more “golden age”, but that’s OK.  Props to those of you who are reading the true classics like Wells and Verne!

Today’s “vintage” author is Robert Silverberg.   He got his start in the 1950’s, and I feel bad calling him “vintage”, since he is still writing today. Hopefully he won’t be too mad at me.  😉

I’m a sucker for Robert Silverberg.  I got lucky, having read some of his award winning fiction first, and these days if a book has his name on it, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it, even if it’s not a gem.

His writing career started early – he sold his first short story at age 19, and his first novel, Revolt on Alpha C when he was only 20 years old.  The novel would win him a 1956 Hugo for Best New Writer, and marked his entry into the world of science fiction publishing.  For the next four years he wrote steadily for a handful of science fiction and fantasy magazines under the auspices of Frederick Pohl. Silverberg showed an uncanny ability to write what publishers and editors wanted, and this was both a blessing and a curse.

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Because I just can’t help myself, you know?  Nature abhors a vacuum like my credit at my favorite local bookstore abhors not being spent. Who cares that I just got a half dozen books from the library?  Bookstores are my kryptonite! Even more so after one of the employees let slip they’d just gotten in a ton of vintage SF.

teh new goodies:

 

from bottom to top, we’ve got:

A Feast for Crows, by George R R Martin. I got this out of the library a few years ago, I wish I’d thought to buy it before they changes the cover art to the “new” style. now my Martin covers don’t match!  😦  I can’t decide if I’m going to buy into the hype and purchase Dance with Dragons in hardback, or just get it from the library and wait to purchase until it’s in paperback.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  I’ve never read any Willis, but I keep hearing really good things about her.

Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg.  Another one I’d gotten from the library a few years ago, it was my first Silverberg.  After I finished it, I remember my husband asking me what I thought of it as this is one of his favorites too, and I expressly remember saying that not only did I want to learn how to juggle, but if we ever had a son, I wanted to name him Valentine.

Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch.  I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Midnight Riot, and I’ve been hearing this 2nd one is just as fun too.

Stalking the Unicorn, by Mike Resnick – it just looked fun. and the acknowledgement pages makes some reference to a friend of Resnick’s who is the “God emperor” of something, which made me chuckle. and that brings us to . . .

The Heaven Makers, by Frank Herbert.  You wouldn’t know it by skimming the review index, but I am a HUGE Frank Herbert fan.  I think I’ve read maybe a dozen books by him, and I know most of his discography by sight. But this is one I have never even heard of! Anyone know anything about this title?

 

 

The Seventh Shrine, Vol 1. Written by Robert Silverberg, artwork by Anders Finer

Published in 2005

where I got it: purchased new

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If it’s got Robert Silverberg’s name on it, I’ll probably read it. A master of sci-fantasy, Silverberg has written dozens of novels and short stories. I adore his original Valentine stories, and even though The Mountains of Majirpoor didn’t do much for me,  I’ve always got my eye out for anything Silverberg.  Which is why my eyes lit up like supernovas when I saw his name on the front of a Valentine graphic novel. Quick like a fox, that book was going to be mine!

With painterly full color art complimenting Silverberg’s short story,  The Seventh Shrine is more an illustrated story. I have no idea if this is a “rare” book, but it sure feels like one.  Valentine Pontifex has escaped the dreariness of the Labyrinth to investigate a strange murder at an archaeological dig. The Pontifex is not supposed to leave the Labyrinth, but Valentine has always been one to bend royal rules to fit the life he wants to lead.

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The Mountains of Majipoor, by Robert Silverberg

written in: 1995

where I got it: library

why I read it: Silverberg rocks my world.

On my last library jaunt, I was hoping to find Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle, or Majipoor Chronicles. Alas, the library only had the third book in the series, Valentine Pontifex. And who wants to read just the third book? I’ve read them all, but I wanted to start at the beginning. Then I happened upon The Mountains of Majipoor, a stand alone that does take place on the massive planet of Majipoor, many generations after Valentine. How could I say no?

Thanks to an innocent accident in his youth, young Prince Harpirias finds himself banished from the Castle Mount, given a useless bureaucratic post out on the edge of civilization.  Slowly losing contact with his friends, and realizing his hometown has forgotten him, he becomes bitter and angry.

The quest part of the story comes along fairly quickly when Harpirias learns that an archaeological team of scientists has been taken hostage by an even further northern tribe. At first angry that responsibility to save the team falls on him, Harpirias soon realizes if he negotiates the release of the scientists, he can look forward to a Hero’s welcome back home at the Castle Mount.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.