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Sailing To Byzantium Mass Market Paperback – May 25, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this collection of five previously published novellas, Nebula and Hugo Award-winner Silverberg interprets literary allusions literally, building complex SF scenarios from fragments taken from English literature. Silverberg's eponymous novella transposes Yeats's poem title "Sailing to Byzantium" to 50th-century Earth, where tourist-citizens spend their time visiting replicas of long-dead historical cities such as Byzantine Constantinople. The narrator of "Homefaring" travels far into the future and finds himself inside the sentient consciousness of a giant lobster, leading him to reflect on time as described in one of Eliot's Quartets. A passage from the Book of Joshua provides the premise for "Thomas the Proclaimer," in which a shaggy prophet's call for a sign from God leads to the sun standing still in the sky. The line "We are for the dark" from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra becomes the justification for interstellar colonization in the resulting novella here. And Silverberg draws from Conrad's The Secret Sharer for both the title and structure of his novella in which the captain of a starship befriends a disembodied stowaway who exists as an electric matrix inside his mind. The detailed plots and situations represented in this collection cover much futuristic ground, ranging from the physics of time and space travel to the role of God in societies to come. However, the novellas' literary antecedents seem spectacularly beside the point, since, in almost every case, Silverberg has translated their figurative language into "what if" precepts to generate concept-driven stories. Throughout, unusual settings are much more satisfying than the sketchy characterizations and quick plot resolutions for which they set the stage. Unfortunately, the novellas' literary origins throw a very harsh light on what might otherwise have been a sparkling SF display.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"He remains one of the most imaginative and versatile writers ever to have been involved with sf. His productivity has seemed almost superhuman, and his abrupt metamorphosis...into a prose artist was an accomplishment unparalleled within the field..".-- The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: I Books (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743487117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743487115
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,910,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carl Malmstrom on December 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read "Sailing to Byzantium" about six months ago. I saw a reference to it the other day and I was surprised how vividly some of the stories still stuck out in my mind. Sadly, I have read little of Silverberg's work, but this book definitely made me want to dig out more of his novellas and short stories.
The two that stuck out the most admittedly were those with ties closest to my interests: ancient history and invertebrate zoology. The novella for which the book was named, "Sailing to Byzantium", sets the stage for what becomes a selection of wildly different and surprising stories. In "Sailing to Byzantium", Silverberg does a surprisingly good job of meshing ancient history and culture clash with classic science fiction concepts and plot twists. "Homefaring", on the other hand, lays out most of the plot surprises right off and spends a great deal of time exploring the implications of the setting: a civilization of intelligent lobsters. Aside from minor evolutionary-morphological quibbles, the story was a wondrously bizarre surprise. The other three stories were equally as deft in mixing plot and setting, but possibly through my own prejudices, they don't stick nearly as well in my brain.
Silverberg discusses in his introduction that he enjoys working in the novella format and it really shows. In all five stories, Silverberg really gets the chance to sit down and enjoy the worlds that he's working in. Each have their own impressively creative spark that really make you wonder how one can come up with such ideas.
If you're looking for good, classic science fiction, then Silverberg's work is one that you should definitely pick up. If you want a good example of what the genre has evolved from in the last twenty or thirty years, it is still well worht reading. Either way, I think anyone looking to broaden their field of science fiction reading should try this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jari Aalto on April 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Charles Phillips, the 1980's New Yorker, finds himself on the 50th century Earth. But not 50th in our sense. The continents have changed their locations, so have the star constellations. Only five cities in the world are allowed to exist at the same time. Great cities of history are constantly demolished and re-created by robots. The technology has reached the level of magic. Everything is an illusion; history is reconstructed for the amusement of the small 4 million androgynous population of Earth. They are the tourists. They do whatever they want to please themselves. Death is not a factor in these people's lives. But how did Charles come to be? And who is this perfect Girl, Gioia, he is travelling with from City to City, from party to party?

"Sailing to Byzantium" is a poem by Yeats. It depicts a journey to Constantinople. Through this journey, the travellers thoughts and musings on how immortality, art, and the human spirit may converge, are explored. The plot's elderly humans are thin and frail. But there is this short-timer -- due to some genetic deviation -- a Girl named Gioia, slender-bodied, with dark and glossy eyes, wide mouth, and olive-colored skin, who ages, who is on constant move. She is a firecracker because she knows that there will be no time for him to consume. Silverberg has taken the Yeats poem to study aging and love. Only here it is the Charles who is not aging. Her belowed one, Gioia, need to learn how to sing and separate his soul from his body. But the fate of the singer is never confirmed. Her soul may never reach into eternity. At the end, they sail to Byzantium to find out.

Five (5) stars. Written in 1984, the novella won Nebula Award for Best Novella in the following year.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "jackaroe" on January 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Sailing to Byzantium" gathers together five of Robert Silverberg's most accomplished novellas, accompanied by introductions describing their conception. There is not a weak story in the collection; in fact, each is so compelling that the reader will find himself chafing against the boundaries of the novella format, repeatedly asking, Why didn't Silverberg devlep this topic more? Why couldn't I see more of this character? The inclusion of the introductions allows the reader to attempt the disturbing task of reconciling Silverberg's beautiful, poetic writing with his prosaic and sometimes downright mercenary explanations of how a story came into being.
Fans of Silverberg's work should purchase this attractive (the cover features a very nice painting) anthology; fans of SF and fantasy unacquainted with his work should remedy this oversight, and this collection is a good place to start.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A great set of novellas, and I think a superb introduction to Silverberg's longer works. Though "Sailing to Byzantium" got most of the official accolades, "Homefaring" edges out over it slighly in my mind, but both are great, moving stories. The former outlines a sybaritic future, and the latter a world so distant from our own that it might as well be another planet. "Thomas the Proclaimer" is good as well, as it documents the unraveling of humanity after a shocking global event. "The Secret Sharer" is a sad but profound tale, while "We Are for the Dark" carries you breathlessly to far reaches of the Galaxy.(I also agree with Silverberg in his contention that the story was sorely underrated on publication.) The whole set is accented by his brief commentary on how he came up with the ideas for each work, giving a short but fascinating insight on the mind of a sci-fi master.

Highly recommended!
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