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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three Novels of Pulpy Fun
A collection of three old Silverberg novels/novellas from the '50s, very pulpy and science-light space operas, which should indicate whether or not you'd like them. From my standpoint, two of them are Silverberg's better "pulpy" novels (Starhaven and Shadow on the Stars are fine books), and the other one is a roller-coaster of action, so this is a damn fine collection. If...
Published on April 8, 2012 by Chris Bekofske

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A whimpering bang, or a bangin' whimper?
After this, Paizo is putting their Planet Stories line on indefinate hiatus, so this will stand as the endpoint of the brand for at least a time. So does it end with a bang or a whimper, or a little bit of both? Probably both.

Once again, this is a collection of classic Robert Silverberg - the third in a row, and the second to have three novellas together...
Published on March 21, 2012 by John Middleton


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three Novels of Pulpy Fun, April 8, 2012
By 
Chris Bekofske (Detroit Rock City) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Chalice of Death: Three Novels of Mystery in Space (Planet Stories) (Paperback)
A collection of three old Silverberg novels/novellas from the '50s, very pulpy and science-light space operas, which should indicate whether or not you'd like them. From my standpoint, two of them are Silverberg's better "pulpy" novels (Starhaven and Shadow on the Stars are fine books), and the other one is a roller-coaster of action, so this is a damn fine collection. If you like the good-old-days of pulp fiction, space opera, of simple yet thrilling science fiction, you are the ideal reader.

Some of them were renamed since their days as Ace Doubles, so I'll use their new (well, originally intended) names here.

The Chalice of Death:
Hallam Navarre, Earthman adviser working for decadent a alien noble is late for work, and claims he's working to discover an ancient tall-tale: the Chalice of Life. The noble thinks this is a swell idea, and sends him off to find it. Navarre (and his two friends, a half-breed and another adviser to another noble) decide they're more likely to find the mythical, long-lost planet Earth than the Chalice, so they set off to find it.

Rapid-fire story that began as a three-novel serial, and that shows. It's all non-stop movement and action, the characters falling in and out of trouble, getting thrown in jail (repeatedly), being double-crossed, and making a miraculous discovery that will change the fate of the universe. I thought it was a little too fast, leaving it with under-developed characters and plot, but if you're okay with leaving those behind you'll get a rollicking adventure.

Starhaven:
Beachcomber Johnny Mantell is blamed for a murder he didn't do, so he flees to Starhaven, an artificial planet-fortress full of pirates, murderers, and thieves. There, Mantell falls in love with Myra, secretary for dictator Ben Thurdan, and is caught up in a plot to overthrow Thurdan to prevent a less-beneficent dictator from replacing him.

Starhaven is a great blend of pulp action, intrigue, and from its slow speed and developments, it has stronger characters. It combines Silverberg's wild ideas and creativity with great pacing and a balanced story arc; it's near the top of his early novels, and I enjoyed it. Also, I dig Starhaven as a perfect pulp paradise mixed with a Bond villain's lair; great setting.

Shadow on the Stars:
Ambassador Baird Ewing heads from the colony world Corwin back to Old Earth, to requisition help against the insectoid alien Klodnoi. But he finds a changed earth, with pacifist inhabitants about to become the protectorate of another colony world. A colony world whose ambassadors believe Ewing is working against them, so he's taken into custody. He's saved by a mysterious stranger, and the next day, discovers that Earthling rebels have time-travel technologies... you see where this is going.

Many of Silverberg's early novels had glimpses of his future brilliance, straining to be something more important than a simplistic pulp job, and Shadow on the Stars is one of the few that succeeds at doing so. It's got a strong, character-driven focus, a puzzle-like approach to time travel paradoxes, and a unique giant space battle near the end. Its finale is predictable, but perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A whimpering bang, or a bangin' whimper?, March 21, 2012
By 
John Middleton (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Chalice of Death: Three Novels of Mystery in Space (Planet Stories) (Paperback)
After this, Paizo is putting their Planet Stories line on indefinate hiatus, so this will stand as the endpoint of the brand for at least a time. So does it end with a bang or a whimper, or a little bit of both? Probably both.

Once again, this is a collection of classic Robert Silverberg - the third in a row, and the second to have three novellas together. Maybe my Silverberg threshhold was being pushed as a result, but I thought this was the weakest of the three collections, with Hunt the Space Witch probably the best. Of the three stories, Starhaven was the most fun, but all stories, I think, have flaws. Sad but true, the best part of the book is probably the excellent introduction by Silverberg about writing sci-fi in the 50's and 60's.

Chalice of Death is about the potential rebirth of a long-lost human empire, based around a mythical Earth. The problem here is, finding Earth is about as hard as a trip to a local library and then chatting to some nobel savage aliens, which kind of makes it all seem a bit implausible. There are some fun moments of battle and politicing, but its probably OK rather than good or great.

Starhaven is actually pretty morally grey: an artificial world run by a strongman, where nothing is illegal - including murder. There is a little depth here as our hero is not sure himself whether he is a brainwashed space cop sent to close the place down, or not. There is also a local resistance movement, that spouts a lot of fancy rhetoric, but basically thinks that they can do a better job of avoiding the struggle for power when the Stalin-like leader eventually dies. So, they plan to bring his death forward involuntarily so they can control the outcome. At first it sounds noble - especially on a world somewhere between rogue state and libertarian paradise - but the more you think about it, no one has much goodness in their heart. Still, there are moments of derring-do and a pretty girl in a love triangle, so it definitely has moments.

The last story, Shadow on the Stars, is a time paradox sci-fi think piece, with a background overwhelming threat or two to overcome. Really though, its aiming at being hard sci-fi dealing with temporal issues, as well as themes of colonialisation and decay. Its ok, but just seemed to lack a little "fun".

All up, this is an interesting reprint of some old more or less early sci-fi tales by a guy who turned out to be a pretty damn good writer. These tales might otherwise have been more or less lost, and that would have been a shame.
Hopefully the Planet Stories line will return in time, bringing back more old classics.
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The Chalice of Death: Three Novels of Mystery in Space (Planet Stories)
The Chalice of Death: Three Novels of Mystery in Space (Planet Stories) by Robert Silverberg (Paperback - February 28, 2012)
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