- Paperback: 225 pages
- Publisher: Pyr (June 3, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591026466
- ISBN-13: 978-1591026464
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,052,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Son of Man Paperback – June 1, 2008
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About the Author
Robert Silverberg has been writing science fiction for fifty years. Among his many books are such novels as Dying Inside, Lord Valentine's Castle, The Book Of Skulls, and Nightwings, and he has had more than five hundred short stories published as well. He is a five-time winner of both the Nebula award and the Hugo award. In 2004 he was awarded the Grand Master Nebula of the Science Fiction Writers of America, science fiction's highest honor.
Top customer reviews
The novel seems like an archaic (that's us) human's stream-of-consciousness rant at waking up in the far future, where he encounters different versions of humanity from the various epochs that have passed. Silverberg's depiction of future humans are interesting, but it was the stream-of-consciousness drivel that drove me up the wall!
By the way, I haven't finished reading the book. I've been able to plod through two-thirds of the book in the weeks that I've had it, so maybe I can finish it in time for Christmas.
In this virtually plotless novel, the reader encounters an everyman named (most symbolically) Clay, who may or may not be from Clayton, Missouri. Clay is somehow caught in a "time-flux" and whisked untold billions of years into Earth's future (as opposed to Silverberg's 1968 novel "Hawksbill Station," which is set a billion years in the past), to a time when all the flora and fauna are completely changed, and even the constellations and continents have altered. Over the course of his travels, Clay meets the six different forms that mankind has evolved into: the sexually mutable Skimmers, who he befriends; the vegetablelike, soil-dwelling Awaiters; the squidlike Breathers; the shaggy Destroyers; the T. rex-like Eaters; and the saurian Interceders. With the Skimmers, he participates in/observes their five rites: the Opening of the Earth, during which their spirits (?) explore the bowels of the planet; the Lifting of the Sea; the Tuning of the Darkness, during which the "music of the spheres" is adjusted by the Skimmer crew; the Filling of the Valleys, in which all of Earth's mountains are seemingly leveled and its valleys filled in; and the mysterious Shaping of the Sky. Clay also traverses the numerous zones of discomfort--Ice, Fire, Dark, Old (in which he ages drastically), Empty and Slow--and, along the way, changes into a female, roams the stars, gets dissolved in a river, is transformed into an Awaiter, explores an underground city now populated only by robots, traverses a desert that breeds hallucinations, and on and on....
"Son of Man," as you can tell, is a book of virtually boundless imagination, and in that regard, it must be deemed a complete success. It is as if someone dared Silverberg to write the most way-out book imaginable in a sci-fi context, and the author accepted and rose to the challenge. The book is surely as bizarre as David Lindsay's 1920 classic "A Voyage to Arcturus" (which also featured a hero who undergoes physical metamorphoses) and as pleasingly "trippy" as Philip K. Dick's "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" (1964), but what I kept being reminded of here, of all things, is H. P. Lovecraft's posthumous, oneiric novella of 1943, "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath." As in that surrealist wonder, in "Son of Man," any marvelous thing can pop up at any moment, and there is simply no way in the world for the reader to predict what will happen in the very next sentence! At one point in the story, Clay attempts "a rational analysis of his experiences," at which the reader can only chuckle and wish him luck! In another section, the forces of Chaos erupt from a mountainside, and in a display of psychedelic verbiage that rivals anything in Henry Kuttner's "The Fairy Chessmen" (1946) or Dick's "The Ganymede Takeover" (1967), Clay sees "a thick snaky worm with luminous antennae, and a walking black barrel, and a dancing fish, and a tunnel with legs. He sees a trio of giant eyes without bodies. He sees two green arms that clutch each other in a desperate and murderous grip. He sees a squadron of marching red eggs. He sees wheels with hands. He sees undulating carpets of singing slime. He sees fertile nails. He sees one-legged spiders. He sees black snowflakes. He sees men without heads. He sees heads without men...." Anyway, most of the book is like that (you should get a load of what Clay sees in that hallucinatory desert!), and whether the author has any grander design than engendering sheer wonder and that elusive sense of cosmic awe, I'm not certain. The book is most assuredly heavily symbolic, but symbolic of what, I don't know. Perhaps it would be wise to take a hint from what Clay thinks as he traverses that underground city: "Futile to seek logic here."
"Son of Man" is, needless to say, both intelligent and finely written, in Silverberg's best manner during this, the great second phase of his literary career. The book can be justly accused of being overwritten, and of consisting of "one damn thing after another," but overall, it is a fairly overwhelming affair and, to quote author Brian Stableford, "a beautiful and brilliant book." But hardly perfect. When Clay suddenly transforms into a woman, he mentally rattles off practically every darn bit of the female anatomy ("mesovaria, the infundibulo-pelvic ligaments...") to the point where the reader assumes he must have been a 20th century gynecologist! And it was the Skimmer named Ninameen who tells Clay that "Dreams end," not Ti, as he contemplates 140+ pages later. And when Clay soars through the sky "at an altitude of several miles" and is said to cast shadows in the ionosphere...well, the ionosphere doesn't even begin till one reaches around 30 miles up. Still, it is hard to quibble with a book in which seeming reality is so very plastic. Silverberg's novel also contains some clever humor--I love it when Clay becomes a woman after he lifts the oceans with the Skimmers, and the author writes that he is "unmanned by this sea-change"--and some quite moving sections regarding life and death and Man's place in the grand scheme of things. It is a boldly ambitious book, an exercise in imaginative gusto run rampant, and, I guarantee you, quite unlike anything you have previously taken in. This reader has not partaken of recreational drugs in a very long time, but Silverberg's "Son of Man" surely was an effective substitute, lemme tell you!