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Roma Eterna Mass Market Paperback – April 27, 2004


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380814889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380814886
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Hugo and Nebula winner Silverberg's epic alternative history, as grandly sweeping and imaginative as his celebrated Majipoor Cycle (Lord Valentine's Castle, etc.), the imperial Eternal City (aka Roma) takes 2,000 years to decline but not quite fall. Starting with a scholar's recollection of a failed Hebrew exodus from Egypt centuries earlier, this unusually moving novel depicts 10 crucial historical moments, each centering on the personality of a fictional emperor seen through the eyes of an engaging lesser figure, like an imperial bureaucrat, a luscious and wealthy widow, a brave legionary commander, a conscientious architect, a hunky son of a Celtic chieftain, or even barbarian children who unwittingly bring down the last emperor. Silverberg seamlessly interpolates glimpses of Rome's real history in this handsomely crafted fiction, whether looking back to the ideals of the ancient Republic-duty, honor, country-or inventing a captivating cast of might-have-beens. He unifies his narrative with unusual but convincing historical theory: that Roma's vaunted religious tolerance, in turning the sacred into a mere instrument of governance, had sown the seeds of revolution-a spiritual and intellectual upheaval that here leads the children of Israel to a second and glorious trek to the stars. Guided by the sure hand of an old master, these many roads lead to a fascinating city of multitudinous souls.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Silverberg's magisterial alternate history is likely the coda to his ongoing exploration of a Roman empire that survived in some form to a time contemporary with our world's present. The turning point in his version reflects Gibbon's view that Christianity undermined the later empire, though Silverberg disposes of Christianity long before its this-world birth by preventing the Jews' escape from Egypt. (He also eliminates Muhammad and Islam.) His development includes a good many realistic features, such as fairly constant tension, sometimes erupting in warfare, between Greek and Latin cultures within the empire. He also plays dating games for the historically literate with a calendar reckoned from the founding of the city in our 753 B.C.E. Inevitably, the book reads like a squadron of short stories flying in close formation (in fact, many parts of it have been published as individual short pieces). They are very good stories, though, full of Silverberg's seasoned expertise in historiography, characterization, and world building, and they offer something to satisfy most readers' tastes. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Robert Silverberg has been a professional writer since 1955, widely known for his science fiction and fantasy stories. He is a many-time winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, was named to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2004 was designated as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. His books and stories have been translated into forty languages. Among his best known titles are NIGHTWINGS, DYING INSIDE, THE BOOK OF SKULLS, and the three volumes of the Majipoor Cycle: LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE, MAJIPOOR CHRONICLES, VALENTINE PONTIFEX. His collected short stories, covering nearly sixty years of work, have been published in nine volumes by Subterranean Press. His most recent book is TALES OF MAJIPOOR (2013), a new collection of stories set on the giant world made famous in LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE.

He and his wife, writer Karen Haber, and an assorted population of cats live in the San Francisco Bay Area in a sprawling house surrounded by exotic plants.













Customer Reviews

My overall recommendation: you won't miss anything if you don't read this one.
Colin P. Lindsey
Finally, the most annoying thing about the book was that the last story did not seem to belong at all.
John Howard
A world where the Roman Empire not only didn't fall, be expanded and flourished.
R. Boland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Three characteristics recommended this book to me: 1) I am a fan of Roman history 2) I love SF short stories 3) Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors. With this combination, I figured I couldn't go wrong and bought this book on a whim without looking at Amazon's ratings, which I have come to rely on increasingly. I'll detail why all 3 of these characteristics failed this book and forced me to rate it 1 star, the lowest rating I have ever given a book. Normally, I don't finish books that bad but my mistake was to take too few books with me on my 3 week vacation (which was a Danube river cruise followed by a week in Constantinople/Istanbul since my hobby is visiting all the current countries that made up the Roman Empire at it's greatest extent). Therefore, I didn't have enough books to read and, once I finished everything else, I had to read this book or nothing during my cruise.

1) I expected Silverberg to be more knowledgeable about Roman history. Reading this book, my illusion disappeared quickly but as I plowed through this incessant book, I expected that he would delve further into Roman history than tossing off a few place names and the barest outlines of the empire's history. Ostensibly, Silverberg visited a few well-known Roman sites like Tivoli and Capri since he constantly refers to them but the problem with that is he, well, constantly refers to them.

2) The SF extrapolations and even simple plot elements are virtually non-existent. These "stories" are more vignettes with the last few pages wrapping up what plot elements there are.

3) Silverberg's writing is well-crafted but his characterization is thin and his plots, as I mentioned above, don't exist.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By David Rasquinha on June 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Roma Eterna is an ambitious attempt at alternate history and the base assumption is audacious indeed. What, asks Silverberg, if the Roman Empire had never really collapsed but instead endured and prospered? Silverberg proceeds to answer this question by highlighting a series of 10 historical moments in such an alternative history that could mark key turning points in such an Empire. The vignettes themselves are often absorbing and Silverberg mixes in just enough actual history to make the venture worthwhile. Human nature, one sees, remains the same irrespective of ruler or system of government. The Empire parallels with real history like the bloody purges of Robespierre and the colonial voyages that subjugated (often brutally) the Orient and the New World. For all its ponderous bureaucratic inertia and the sheer logistic barriers, the Empire is pervasive and powerful enough to crush any attempt at true democracy - brief flickers of a "Republic" which is more an oligarchy or merchant aristocracy are as far as we go. In the end, a band of Hebrews seeks to escape to another plant as the only alternative to Rome's crushing embrace.
Bold as this attempt at alternative history is, Silverberg strangely falters thereafter. His examination of the circumstances in each of the 10 events is disappointingly shallow and the ending in particular seems highly contrived. A map of the world using the Roman names for various countries and a parallel timeline linking the Roman dates with the AD calendar would have made things easier for the reader as well. Having read several of Silverberg's masterpieces. I expected better from him. I started reading this book as if sitting down to a delicious meal; by the end, it was as if the food had been but an illusion and my hunger remained unappeased.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Addison Phillips on August 24, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have to admit to a soft spot in my heart for anything by Robert Silverberg, since he's written some of the books that most moved me over the years. From Thorns to Shaderach in the Furnace to Up the Line, he has written an amazing number of classic novels and shorter fare. Despite the fact that he's written many pure SF novels, he also has a fondness and penchant for writing about the ancient world.

Here we get a set of short stories (which is not clear from the cover: bad publisher, no biscuit!) which display the unique tone and amazing attention to detail that characterizes much of his work. The quality is a bit uneven, with some of the stories being somewhat unreadable, but the majority of them are quite good and one or two are very good indeed.

For example, the first story after the front matter ("With Caesar in the Underworld") bears the plot of Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, with a lead character of Faustus ("Falstaff"), set in the wonderfully decadent ancient Rome of this alternate history. There are little sparkly details throughout that make the story bump along, teasing you with both the puzzles that form the alternate history bits and the tidbits of fun (parallels with the lifted Shakespeare plot, for example). It... tickles.

Other reviewers have complained that Silverberg doesn't dive as deeply into the history part, that the stories are all little "what if..." one-trick ponies. But I think those reviewers are missing the fact that in virtually all of these character driven stories, there is at least one other "angle" that Silverberg is playing with. Once I recognized what he was doing, it was a lot of fun to both read the stories as straight AH yarns and also be watching for the sly games.
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