The Best of Robert Silverberg
Silverberg is a phenomenon. In many ways he mirrors the SF world as it moved through its permutations of the last 50 years. In the 50s, his stories were mostly pulp-oriented action tales. In the 60s, he reinvented his career with virtuosic and experimental stories of drugs and inner exploration; by the seventies he had moved to a cooler ironic phase; in the 80s he again reinvented his career with the science fantasies set in the world of Majipoor; his later work became more dispersed and fragmentary in style and content, just as the field did itself. Throughout that entire career, Silverberg has maintained and extraordinary quality, though his period of ’65-’74 is his zenith, an extraordinary burst of writing both in novel and short-story form. This collection is a wonderful grab-bag from his vast oeuvre, spanning stories from the six decades. For the writer, there is a great deal to learn from here. Silverberg’s technique is sharp as a scalpel, though there is always something a bit distancing about his style, just as there’s something a little too perfect (mechanical some have said) about it. He’s justly proud of his voluminous output (he is one of the most prolific authors ever), though at times I’m a bit put off by his focus on it. There is little here in the introductions about his project as writer: what formal innovations he hoped to achieve, what he thought he was saying. Still, I’ll forgive him this because the sheer quality of the work is – to me – breathtaking. I’ll no doubt reread these again. Rating books out of five simply doesn’t provide one with enough gradations, for I’d give this one four and a half if I could (five is reserved for the greatest works of history).