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on May 27, 2011
The years 1969-1972 were a time when, to quote Robert Silverberg's introduction to this collection, "people wore strange clothes and strange hair, doped themselves with strange drugs, read and wrote strange things." Those were also years when Robert Silverberg was at the height of his powers, writing novels like Downward To The Earth (S.F. Masterworks),Dying Inside, and The Book of Skulls, which stretched the boundaries of science fiction and showed that books could be written in the SF genre with all the power and profundity of "serious" literature.

This generous collection includes 16 shorter works from that same period-- some short stories, but mostly novelettes and novellas. With a very few exceptions, they are up to the very high standard of those novels. The title story presents an alien who is simultaneously sympathetic and deadly. The novelette "In Entropy's Jaws" prefigures the cyberpunk movement with its pessimism and its focus on the protagonist's internal struggles. The novellas "Thomas the Proclaimer" and "The Feast of St. Dionysus" both tackle the difficult theme of religious faith, and do so without being either orthodox or trendily skeptical.

Silverberg says in his introduction to the short story "Push No More" that it was "a warm-up for 'Dying Inside,'" but I wonder if it wasn't also an influence on Stephen King's "Carrie." "What We Learned from this Morning's Newspaper" reads like a "Twilight Zone" episode (a very good one, at that); "Many Mansions" plays with both literary structure (Silverberg says it was influenced by Robert Coover's experimental short story "The Babysitter") and with time-travel paradoxes (Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps" is another acknowledged influence).

There are a few weak spots in this collection-- "Good News from the Vatican" won a Nebula award, but I find it a one-line joke; "The Organ Draft" is a rather heavy-handed anti-Vietnam War story; and there are two ecological doom stories that are much like every other ecological doom story written in the 1970s-- but most of these stories are prime Silverberg, which is as good as SF gets. (Overall, this anthology is probably a notch below To the Dark Star: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Two which collects Silverberg's 1962-1969 short fiction, but both anthologies are superb).
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The much-praised "Good News from the Vatican" is in this volume--the story of the first robot pope. I can't see why this story was such a hit. I thought it was really ordinary and barely surprising. The great gem in this collection for me was "The Feast of St. Dionysus" which is a lot like "The Book of Skulls"--a story of cults and murder/suicide rituals. Other stories (or novellas) were ones included in other collections such as "Thomas the Proclaimer" and "Going." The story of the poltergeist teen was way too juvenile for my tastes.

So, this book is hit or miss. I love Silverberg BEST when he's writing novelettes, and one story in here, "Caliban" is clearly the sketch for the superb novella "Sailing to Byzantium" which is some of the most beautiful writing Silverberg has ever done. "Caliban" is not such a great story but you can see the scaffolding that became a much better novella. A throwback to the ancient times is living in a world of homogeneous, gene-transformed perfect beings who are superficial and live to entertain themselves. How was he transported to this future world, and are there others of his kind? The story takes a more mundane twist, like a similar story in "The Twilight Zone" ("Just Like Me") but the novella that arose from "Caliban" is so mature and so wonderfully wrought, it's fascinating to see the raw material from which it emerged.

For that, and for the excellent "Feast of St. Dionysus" I'd recommend this book, uneven though it is.
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on August 7, 2008
Subterranean Press is doing the SF community a huge favor by publishing Silverberg's self-selected and self-described collected stories. This book covers the period starting in the very late '60s, when Silverberg became personally entwined in the weirdness of the era. The stories in this volume show Silverberg reaching his full potential; they display his exquisite choice of subject matter, his impeccable style, and lancing wit as he investigates, savors, and skewers the cultural metamorphosis in which he was immersed. This and the next couple of volumes include Silverberg's very finest short work, which is among the absolute best that SF has to offer.
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on May 17, 2012
This book contains the finest stories of Robert Silverberg and the finest of Mr.Silverberg is the best in science fiction. Only Gene Wolfe and the early Norman Spinrad could be at the same high quality level of Silverberg.
Obviously all the stories are fine, although I do have a quibble with "Good News from the Vatican." The story won a Nebula Award and, while wryly amusing, it makes no theological sense. Actually, it makes no sense, theological and otherwise. But the SFWA does have a weakness of giving awards to anti-Christian or anti-Catholic stories that, while being well-written, don't stand up to logic or scrutiny. At least Silverberg's story is witty. The other stories, as expected, are exceptional. Also enjoyed his comments before each story.
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VINE VOICEon June 9, 2012
What was loose in those times were cults and demonstrations and bombers and the certainty of doom from civilization's effluvia. They were times of change for America, science fiction, and one of its up and coming masters, Robert Silverberg.

As usual with the volumes of this series, the payoff is not just Silverberg's almost always serviceable, sometimes brilliant, stories, but his notes on his life and work and science fiction. Here he not only speaks of famous science fiction personalities, most especially the many editors he worked with, but his cynicism for the "save-our-disintegrating-society-through-science-fiction" theme anthologies for which some of these stories were composed, his general distaste for some modern science fiction authors (no names are mentioned) who think they must raise awareness about some issue or other. And, though the problems of our time are different than those of the early 1970s, he thinks the "disturbing, fragmented" and forgotten science fiction of that time has something to offer our world that's not provided in the "bland, comforting, predictable" fantasy novels popular today.

There is a number of famous titles here, many dealing with religious themes:
o "Good News from the Vatican" - an amusing, detailed, and ironical look at the first robot Pope.
o "Thomas the Proclaimer" - When the sun stands still in the sky, it should be proof of a divine miracle and unify the world in faith. But the many viewpoint characters here wonder which god and which faith, and there is no unity in interpreting the Sign.
o "When We Went to See the End of the World" - A flip, ironical, nihilistic tale from Silverberg's "dangerous midlife years" in which the many ways the world ends simply provide cocktail party fodder and a tool for social one upsmanship.
o "The Feast of St. Dionysius" - When I was 12, I first read this story. I didn't understand it then. I'm not sure I fully understand it now, but the image of a cult in the California desert in their labyrinthine city has never left me. Into it, a 40 year old astronaut, veteran of a Mars expedition with casualties, wanders.
o "The Mutant Season" - Something of a competent, quickly produced, but nothing special story that unexpectedly, 15 years later, provided the seed for a four novel series written by Silverberg's wife, Karen Haber.
o "Caught in the Organ Draft" - Perhaps the best example in the collection of a story that still speaks to our time. Though its plot of young people drafted to provide organs for oldsters originally had something of a Vietnam War subtext, it now, in an age of demographic crash where fewer young people support more old people via taxes, serves as a metaphor for a contemporary problem.
o "Many Mansions" - Yet another Silverberg exploration, in bewildering complexity, of the time travel theme, here mixed with a sex and marital farce. Its short, sometimes contradictory, fragments were inspired by Robert Coover's "The Babysitter".

The rest of the stories:
o "Something Wild Is Loose" - Straightforward action plot with a small, invisible alien trying to communicate with the humans who have accidentally carried it to Earth.
o "Caliban" - Experimental effort about time travel with a strange story of a burned out telepath who must confront the reality of how time and causality really work.
o "The Reality Trip" - An alien spy on Earth, disguised as a human, must confront his loneliness and failing professional dedication in this sardonic tale.
o "Going" - Novella about a man making the decision to end his life in a world where suicide has become ritualized and the center of a new social movement.
o "Caliban" - Written in 1970, the peak year of production in Silverberg's career, this has an ugly man from the past (either cloned or brought via time travel) into a world of universally pretty people. Silverberg says he was trying to be humorous - but most readers didn't agree.
o "Push No More" - Something of a dress rehearsal for Silverberg's classic novel Dying Inside in that it also features a smart, randy Jewish protagonist with psychic powers in a contemporary setting.
o "The Wind and the Rain" - The opening line, "The planet cleanses itself", expresses Silverberg's disdain for environmental extremists and those who think conservationism is to save nature and not man. Silverberg's notes are the most interesting aspect of a story whose main point of interest is the idea that a fatally polluted Earth might be regarded as sort of an artwork.
o "Some Notes on the Pre-Dynastic Epoch" - Not really so much a story as a poetic expression of Silverberg's knowledge and love of archaeology. This is one of those archaeologist-from-the-future-looks-at-the-ruins-of-our-world stories - but the archaeologist's identity is not that certain.
o "What We Learned from This Morning's Newspaper" - One of those newspapers-from-the-future stories. Once again Silverberg, son of an accountant, shows a knowledge of and interest in the stock market.

This is an essential volume for those interested in Silverberg and a good, if expensive in hardcover, introduction to some of his best work and most productive years
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on June 23, 2014
The title of this review was a really difficult realisation to come to for me, since I have regarded myself as a sci-fi fan for as long as I can remember. But on the other hand, it’s a liberating realisation too: I like adventure stories, things blowing up, things dropping dead, stuff like that. The format in which that is set is sort of irrelevant: fantasy, space opera, sci-fi, James Bond, historical military fiction…its all there. Sure, there is some stuff I like that makes you think and wonder what if - and I find some of Henry Kuttner and CL Moore's stuff in that regard excellent, as well as Jack Vance, of course - but in general, works on themes, "isms" and anything slightly experimental only succeeds in boring me to the point I put the book down and walk away quickly.

I cant doubt that Silverberg is a master, and that this Sub Press series of collected works is a fantastic 8-or 9-or 10- volume set (especially at the kindle price). But when I am enjoying the introductions more than the stories, even now when Silverberg is not just writing at a penny a word for a juvenile pulp - well, that means he's writing real sci-fi of the mind, and I just cant get into it. That’s a fault in me, not in Silverberg: I did enjoy his Lord Valentine's Castle and most of his subsequent Majipoor stuff.

So ultimately, if you do like sci-fi - in all its senses, not just space opera, or robots and rayguns, but the whole mind-expanding genre, asking questions about the human condition - then this may be for you. It’s a work of ideas, and the personal history here is a fantastic resource in showing how it all was, back in the day. I'm still reading it for that alone, although I am stuck in volume 4 at present.
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on January 11, 2014
While SOMETHING WILD IS LOOSE, volume 3, "only" contains one classic story ("Good News From the Vatican", a Nebula Award winner) -- unlike volume 2 -- but it IS filled with the unbridled inventiveness of a writer "reinventing himself" (before the stories in volume 2, Silverberg was -- admittedly -- churning out stories purely for cash. Nothing wrong with that; but it doesn't make for fiction worth revisiting or fiction that will actually change the outlook of reader and/or win awards and recognition from one's peers). So most of the stories herein deal with political and social upheaval, as well as personal demons ("In Entropy's Jaws", "The Feast of St. Dionysus", "Caught in the Organ Draft", etc.). But I'd have to say this one looses one star because of the lack of an extra classic story. It is one that supposedly was left out on purpose -- because it was a novella, which is incredibly dumb of both the editor publisher of Subterranean and the author: The story, a novella, is "Nightwings", and it is not only one of Silverberg's best, it is a classic SF story (and like the best of Silverberg, filled with emotional, not just intellectual, depth). Leaving the 1969 story "Nightwings" out of either a best of collection -- the editor and the author weren't silly enough to do that with Silverberg's best of collection; but as other "best of" collections from Subterranean prove (those of Lucius Shepard and, especially, Kage Baker -- which left out Baker's award winners, "The Women of Nell Gywne's and "The Empress of Mars", likely for financial reasons since both had been produced as smaller, stand-alone books).

Personally, I would recommend potential buyers interested in the Short Fiction of Robert Silverberg pick up a copy of
THE BEST OF ROBERT SILVERBERG -- available in trade paperback from Subterranean, which updated the volume after the hardcovers sold out -- and a copy of MULTIPLES, volume six of The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg.
You won't go wrong with those two, five and half star, books!

TO BE CONTINUED, the first volume of THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG is essential not only for handful of stories that were far above average ("The Road to Nightfall", "Warm Man", etc.) -- above average as goes the stories of a 20-something writer -- but also because of the insightful notes on the art of fiction and on the craft of being a writer, from his give and take with editors to how he sometimes had to hustle. (5 STARS)

TO THE DARK STAR, volume two, is likewise invaluable because of the insightful forewords (insightful to future writers and to historians and biographers), and even MORE essential when it comes to the quality of the stories (classics like "Hawksbill Station", "To See the Invisible Man", "Sundance", "Flies" and the Nebula Award-winning "Passengers"). The stories in volume two are the first in Silverberg's early oeuvre to be filled with serious moral questions, complex characters and bizzare plot twists. And his writing is all the better for it, of course. It's as if -- for the first time --Silverberg decided to invest his emotions as well as his intellect. And the quality shows. The notes about writing -- forewords before each story -- are equally revelatory. Excellent stuff. (5 STARS)

TRIPS, volume 4, would warrant the original price of entry alone for the Nebula-Award-winning novella, "Born With the Dead". But along with that story, the reader gets "The Dybbuk of Mazel Tov IV", "Trips", "In the House of Double Minds" and "Schwartz Between Galaxies". Almost makes me wonder if Silverberg did mind-altering drugs. As with the previous four volumes, Silverberg includes forewords that provide insight into the craft and art of writing fiction -- not to mention this business side of things -- as well as a bit of a window onto the era know as the '60s (mid 1960s to early '70s).
(41/2 Stars)

THE PALACE AT MIDNIGHT, volume 5, covers only two years (1980-82), a time when Silverberg -- fresh off the success of LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE (which would become both a cash cow and source of semi-creativity in future sequels, in the 1990s), began to write stories nearly as quickly as he did in his early days as a pulp fiction writer. The stories during that period ranged from excellent ("Waiting for the Earthquake", "Amanda and the Alien", "Homefaring", "The Pope of the Chimps", "The Far Side of the Bell-Shaped Curve", "Needle in a Timestack", etc.) to solidly average (average for Silverberg, but above average as goes the rest of the crowd). Not award winners here, but plenty of stories that were nominated. And the tenor of the tales runs from crazily inventive (as with "Pope") to solid SF that far outstrips the rest of the field ("Amanda..."). As before, the forewords to each story are a big bonus as well. (4 Stars)

MULTIPLES, volume 6, is -- thus far --the slowest selling of Silverberg's latter volumes, which puzzles the frack out of me, because -- alongside with volume 2 and the almost-five star volume four -- I would rate this as one of the essential volumes of The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg. In fact, if you buy THE BEST OF ROBERT SILVERBERG -- instead of investing in each of these volumes -- I'd say that to have the best, most complete, collection of great Silverberg short fiction, you need this volume -- volume six (which covers 1983-1987). Not only do you get "Tourist Trade", "Sunrise on Pluto", "Against Babylon" and "House of Bones" (some of the best SF/fantsy written in the 1980s), you ALSO get the "The Pardoner's Tale" (a clever retelling of the old Chaucer bit), "Gilgamesh in the Outback", a Hugo-award-winning novella set in the afterlife (the underworld, naturally), "Sailing to Byzantium" the Yeats-inspired novella that was and is both a crowd favorite and multiple nominee for awards, as well as "The Secret Sharer", a novella that takes Conrad's classic story sets in deep space. It was up for Hugo and Nebula awards but (in my opinion) was robbed (it is one of the finest, most moving, stories Silverberg ever published). "The Secret Sharer" is worth the price of entry alone, but for some reason -- even with all of the classic, award-winning stories, and five-star storytelling, buyers and knuckle-brained aficionados have avoided this one. Go figure. Their loss (as always, the forewords are lagniappe).
(51/2 stars)

While WE ARE FOR THE DARK, volume 7, continues to include a lot of solid short fiction (the title story, "Lion Time in Timbuctoo", "A Tip on a Turtle"), as well as an award winner (the Hugo Award-winning, "Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another") as well as the last of Silverberg's truly great (intellectual AND emotional) pieces of fiction ("Another Country", a riff on C.L. Moore's "Vintage Season". One of Silverberg's more brilliant writerly traits is his ability to reworks ideas or themes, or to find an entire story of his own in a "throwaway" line by another writer. He does as much with this story).
As with the other volumes, although they are starting to become more about the business side of things and less about the writing process, the notes/forewords for each of the stories are still quite invaluable. (4/12 stars)

HOT TIMES IN MAGMA CITY, volume 8, seems to betray both a bit of lackluster in "the Silverberg of the '90s" and in the mostly retired writer now putting together this multivolume collection of short fiction. The stories are still head and shoulders above what the majority of writers were publishing in the '90s (many of them --"Thebes of a Hundred Gates", "The Way to Spook City", etc. -- more so), but they are beginning to take on a make-work quality. The 1990s was a time when Silverberg was attempting to co-write books with his friend Isaac Asimov (who was dying) and to jump-start a series of novel sequels, a trilogy that takes off from where LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE (and it's two subsequent sequels, a novel and a collection of stories in the mid 80s), left off. Only the last book in the second trilogy fared well with reivewers and readers. So it's no wonder that Silverberg's attention, and likely energy, was on the wane. As for the usually insightful forewords: those in this volume are largely about payments, wordage and other business-related subjects.
Although there were other volumes planned, volume eight, for this reader, signals a sea change in SIlverberg's writing that will be more evident in later stories. They are _intellectually_ spot-on, but they have lost a great deal of heart. Sounds corny, but without emotional impact, stories don't connect with readers. Silverberg started off as a bright, intellectual -- and energetic -- writer who knew how to craft stories for a large variety of markets, which ensured him a way to make a better than-average living as a writer. Not something most writers ever accomplish. But his early stories (SF, crime, horror, etc.) lacked heart, and therefore depth and gravitas. When he changed up his thinking, in the mid-to late 1960s, he suddenly became the owner of just a lot of writing awards, and the writer of a LOT of classic stories that won the minds and the HEARTS of readers. Somewhere along the way, be it due to needing to write furiously (again) to pay the bills and/or because of the waning energy that hits everyone as we get older, Silverberg's fiction lost its heart.
Sadly, this volume is when it starts to happen. (3 stars)
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on October 3, 2013
Short stories and novellas from the early 70s. Worth the $3 (!) for "In Entropy's Jaws" alone. Good stories, well-written.
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on December 14, 2012
After the first story the author goes into a non science series about religion, the church and the need for everyone on the planet to pray and find faith.
Had I known in advance his stories at this point had diverged into religion,
I would have avoided this book and Opted for hard scifi .
This was very disappointing work from this author AVOID THIS
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