- Publisher: Gollancz (April 9, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1473211921
- ISBN-13: 978-1473211926
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.8 x 6.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,813,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Downward to the Earth (S.F. Masterworks) Paperback – April 9, 2015
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''Blends mysticism, world-building, and literary references in an inventive mix . . . This is perhaps SF's finest tribute to Joseph Conrad, both in its keen moral sense and its portrayal of a vividly realized alien forest.'' --Time Out --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
ROBERT SILVERBERG's first published story appeared in 1954 when he was a sophomore at Columbia University. Since then, he has won the prestigious Nebula Award an astonishing five times and the Hugo on four occasions; he has been nominated for both awards more times than any other writer. In 2004, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America gave him their Grand Master Award for career achievement, making him the only SF writer to win a major award in each of six consecutive decades. He remains one of the most imaginative and versatile writers in science fiction. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The book takes place in the year 2248, when Gundersen, the former administrator of Holman's World, returns to the planet eight years after Earth has relinquished all colonial claims. The planet is now called Belzagor by its two dominant life forms: the nildoror--which resemble elephants except for their green color, additional set of tusks, cranial ridges...and purple dung--and the sulidoror, 10-foot-tall, shaggy, bipedal entities with tapirlike snouts. Drawn back to Belzagor to both visit the few remaining Earthmen still on the planet and to investigate the mysterious nildoror ceremony of "rebirth," which no Earthman has ever witnessed, Gundersen, as it turns out, has a third reason for his return: a sense of guilt arising from the manner in which he had formerly treated the nildoror, patronizing them and even interfering with a group in the midst of a rebirth pilgrimage. Thus, we follow Gundersen as he travels from the steaming jungles of Belzagor's central region and up to the so-called Mist Country of its more northerly zone, encountering old friends and running across an amazing array of alien flora and fauna, and are ultimately vouchsafed a look at the truly mind-blowing, psychedelic ceremony of rebirth itself....
Like all truly superior sci-fi, "Downward to the Earth" is the sort of novel that just bursts with some imaginative idea or unexpected touch on every single page. It is a terrific feat of the imagination, wonderfully well written by Silverberg (who, at this point, had already seen around 40 novels published since his first, "Revolt on Alpha C," in 1954), and with fascinating characters, both alien and human. It is also, typical of its author, a highly literate affair, with numerous allusions to the Bible, to Dante's "Divine Comedy," to English poet Matthew Arnold's 1867 poem "Dover Beach," and to Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (one of Gundersen's old friends on the planet, who undergoes a disastrous rebirth himself, is named Kurtz). Belzagor itself is wonderfully described by Silverberg; not only the jungles and the Mist Country, but also the mysterious Central Plateau region and the mirror-bright, crystalline wasteland known as the Sea of Dust. Perhaps best of all, however, are the descriptions of all the grotesque animals and plants to be found on Belzagor: the tiger moss, the razor shark, the monkeylike munziror, the jelly-crabs, the mobile fungoids and on and on...plus, of course, that bright-red, wall-hanging basket thing! Topography is also memorable in the novel, with the 1,600-meter-high, triple-tiered Shangri-La Falls--where Gundersen visits his old flame Seena and her body-hugging pet amoeba--and the mountain of rebirth in the Mist Country being both figurative and literal standouts. Silverberg, apparently, wrote this novel after a recent trip to East Africa, and his primary intention with his book is a laudable one: to show that the native races of a region (or, by extension, a planet) may have a LOT more on the ball, as far as intelligence and culture are concerned, than their imperialist occupiers are willing to admit. Here, the truth about the nildoror and sulidoror, as regards their cultures and how the two races are connected, comes as a real eye-opener to both Gundersen and the reader. "Gundy" is a likable protagonist, only seeking to atone for past instances of malfeasance, and he makes for a good companion as we explore this rather intimidating planet; a planet that Silverberg, through his great skill, makes us see, feel, smell, taste and hear. Pringle writes that it is sci-fi "done with feeling," and that the book is "very well described, [with] several pieces of memorable grotesquerie." I happen to love this novel, all the way to its wonderful, transcendent conclusion, in which our protagonist gets precisely what he deserves. A pity that Silverberg never chose to return to Belzagor, as he did to the world of Majipoor on so many occasions. It is a mysterious, exotic, dangerous and yet beautiful world, one that I'm sure all lovers of intelligent sci-fi will love to immerse themselves in. As you can tell, this is one of my favorite science fiction novels, and comes more than highly recommended. Just wondering, though, Mr. Silverberg...where can I purchase one of those monomolecular jungle blankets?
Now, Edmund is returning to the planet with a group of tourists, a planet renamed Belzagor by its freed native inhabitants. The Company’s dilapidated facilities cater to small groups of tourists, as the human imprint on the planet is slowly reclaimed by the jungle. Edmund wants to make amends for some of his misdeeds while working for the Company and get a different view of the native cultures. He hopes to trek into the jungle to witness the nildoror ritual of rebirth, stopping on the way to see the few friends and former coworkers who decided to stay behind.
And so begins an epic journey: one man’s trek, both physical and psychological, through inhospitable jungle wilderness. Edmund travels with a group of nildoror, and through conversation, begins to realize more of his past mistakes than he thought possible; it’s as much an eye-opener for Edmund as it is for the reader. There’s a sharp contrast, here: the peaceful and wise nildoror, the mysterious sulidoror, the few ex-Company workers who stayed behind, and the limousine-liberal tourists, who preach for relinquishment to the natives… until they see the nildoror for themselves: dirty, simple, uncivilized elephants. (As we already know, looks are deceptive.) The novel is a fascinating character piece, and Edmund’s journey of enlightenment makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking read. If you haven’t guessed it already, the novel is something of an homage to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, with its jungle-centric journey of discovery for a former colonial overseer.
Out of all the Silverberg I’ve read so far, this is the closest to his best, and jumps to the front of the line of favorites. It’s a moving and thought-provoking story with an exotic setting, featuring a pair of detailed and realistic alien species. Progress is in gradual steps, a slow, brooding, philosophical journey through Belzagor’s native cultures, watching Edmund and the nildoror develop. The novel has a quiet confidence as it works its way towards a stunning finale; the conclusion is foreshadowed, but was still unexpected, a perfect ending which expounds on everything the novel had built on. Silverberg’s hand at pacing and developing all this is nothing short of masterful.
Most recent customer reviews
The first two-thirds of Robert Silverberg's masterpiece Downward to the Earth (1970) is easily in the...Read more