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Dangerous Dimensions
Robert Silverberg
Wonder Publishing Group, 234 pages

Dangerous Dimensions
Robert Silverberg
Robert Silverberg was born in New York City in 1935. In 1949 he started a science fiction fanzine called Spaceship and made his first professional sale to Science Fiction Adventures, a non-fiction piece called "Fanmag," in the December 1953 issue. His first professional fiction publication was "Gorgon Planet," in the February 1954 issue of the British magazine Nebula Science Fiction. His first novel, Revolt on Alpha C, was published in 1955.

In 1956 he graduated from Columbia University, with a major in Comparative Literature, and married Barbara Brown. After many sales, he earned a Hugo Award for his promise (the youngest person ever to do so). In the summer of 1955, he had moved into an apartment in New York where Randall Garrett, an established science fiction writer, lived next door; Harlan Ellison, another promising young novice, also lived in the building. Garrett introduced Silverberg to many of the prominent editors of the day, and the two collaborated on many projects, often using the name Robert Randall. He divorced his first wife in 1986 and married writer Karen Haber the following year. He now lives in the San Francisco area.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Last Song of Orpheus>
SF Site Review: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Vol. 4: Trips 1972-73
SF Site Review: Son of Man
SF Site Review: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume One: To Be Continued
SF Site Review: Phases of the Moon
SF Site Review: Roma Eterna
SF Site Review: The Longest Way Home
SF Site Review: Nebula Awards Showcase 2001
SF Site Review: The Book Of Skulls
SF Site Review: Lord Prestimion
SF Site Review: Sorcerers of Majipoor
SF Site Review: The Fantasy Hall of Fame
SF Site Review: The Alien Years
SF Site Review: Legends: Stories by the Masters of Modern Fantasy
SF Site Review: The Avram Davidson Treasury
SF Site Review: Sorcerers of Majipoor

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

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Robert Silverberg's science fiction work has won him multiple Hugos and Nebulas. Are these justified? Do they stand the test of time? Dangerous Dimensions is a five-story ebook which puts those questions to the test.

The first, "Nightwings," won a Hugo and became the lead story in the novel of the same name. Two guildsmen -- one a Watcher, the other a Flier -- travel with a non-guildsman to the city of Roum. The non-guildsman probably ought not to travel with them, but he was strong where the other two were weak. The Watcher is watching for signs of an alien attack but is plagued by doubts since the attack has not come for thousands of years. The Flier, meanwhile, is caught in a love triangle between the prince of Roum and the man she loves, the non-guildsman who is violent and forbidden to have relationships with her. Of course, there's more to the non-guildsman than meets the eye. Soon, society will be turned upside down.

The success of "Nightwings" relies on its foreignness, sketching a unique culture of a future Earth. The entwined conflicts also work well together. The Watcher's devastating admission of doubt in his career makes his story a powerful and compelling one. What makes this story a challenge is that Silverberg does not necessarily follow characters or a character story. If a reader gets lost in a Silverberg story, then he's reading the tale with the improper lens. Silverberg could have ended the novella much earlier, but the novella focuses on the shape and change of the society rather than any particular character. I have read this story several times over my life, and it holds up with each reading.

"When We Went to See the End of the World" is a compact short story of SF genius. The rich are heading off to see how the world ends, paying exorbitant fees to travel ahead in time. Only, when their friends go off to see the end of the world, everyone sees a completely different ending. This seems to concern Nick and Jane more than others. Meanwhile, society quietly (for them, anyway) collapses. This classic work of SF is a must-read.

Gebravar in "House of Bones" travels back 20,000 years in time to visit our ancestors. It was meant to be a two-week excursion, but it appears that he's stuck in this era. Luckily, a tribe grafts him in, and he has a home with some safety. However, the tribe sends him out to kill a "ghost," a tribe-less man who is wandering on the outskirts of the tribe. Gebravar isn't sure if he can do it. This story hits you in the gut with a theme about assumptions, plus it has one of the best lines in this collection:

  "This year I invented writing, but I did it for my sake and not for theirs and they aren't much interested in it. I think they'll be more impressed with [the invention of] beer."  

"Amanda and the Alien" tells of how the teen-aged Amanda out-witted the escaped, carnivorous alien disguised as another young girl. Amanda has the apartment to herself over the weekend, and her boyfriend chose not to come over as he'd promised, so Amanda decides to get revenge and have a little fun meanwhile. Only things don't go according to plan -- they never do -- and Amanda has to figure this out. Silverberg captures one of his more curious and brazen characters .

The final story, "Beauty in the Night," caps off the collection in rare form by examining a character in depth: from unfortunate birth to his final act of the first successful rebellion against the aliens who have taken over the Earth. Khalid's mother has had few sexual encounters, but one of them led to her having a baby at the beginning of the alien takeover. The father abandoned her to go fight the aliens. She dies in childbirth, upstairs of the restaurant she works in. The Khalid's father returns, but not as a hero. Worse, he's knuckled under to the aliens, figuring it was better to serve than get killed in a futile act of rebellion. Khalid suffers the humiliation of his father's kowtowing among his contemporaries and his father's blow and cruelty to his aunt in their home. Khalid sees a connection between himself and his father ("Khalid understood about not wanting to fight against gods. He understood also how it was possible to hate someone and yet go on unprotestingly living with him"). Nonetheless, he strikes upon the one way he can get back at his father without directly hurting him. Although Khalid's character is nearly too flawless, the story does not fail to move and cheer.

Five stories, all successful, all very different: from culture SF, to classic SF, to contemporary SF, to hip and quirky SF, to a more literary SF. There's something here for every type of SF reader. This is a good teaser to see if you can appreciate his work. The only real flaw is the title of the collection, which really has little to do with these stories, but ah well. Good fiction shall overcome. So far, for this reader, these stories have weathered the test of time rather well.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.


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