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The Longest Way Home
Robert Silverberg
HarperCollins Eos, 304 pages

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: 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
Robert Silverberg Tribute Site
Interview with Robert Silverberg

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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The Longest Way Home Joseph has spent all his life training to be a Master, learning his responsibilities and preparing for the day when he will take his father's place as a leader. When he flew in to visit some kin, little did he realize the true journey he would soon face. During an uprising of the people Joseph's family have been raised to rule, only the kindly actions of one of the elderly Folk help him stay alive. Having escaped the slaughter, it is now up to him to travel back the ten thousand miles to his home, where he is uncertain of what waits.

On the outside, the physical journey is what seems to be the centre of The Longest Way Home. Through it, Joseph makes contact with all the different cultures of his land, from the Folk who settled here before the Earth-born Masters came, to the Indigenes, the only non-humanoid race to make constant contact with their space faring interlopers. His meetings with these different people are interesting, and his struggles along the journey are exciting. This is important, because it helps keep the true theme of the book palatable and interesting. The true journey of this book is the one Joseph is forced to make inside of himself. When he starts off, Joseph is a Master-to-be, young, groomed for his position and very serious about it. He is a key figure in a feudalistic society where he believes that without his direction, the Folk under his care will suffer and die. It never occurs to him, until this journey, that the Folk might want to have a say in this. The fact that the Folk are people with real hopes and dreams and a desire for self-governance is a real eye opener for him. As he travels, he spends time with the different cultures, and manages to take something away with him. You can almost see his thoughts develop and change, especially after his philosophical talks with the Chief of the Indigenes, who befriends him. He's an interesting character... often, a character of this sort will start off as a bit of a spoiled brat, the more for the change in his persona to really show. Not so with Joseph. He starts off as a kind, if naive young man who believes that being a Master is a sacred duty to be taken on with great care. He wants to be a good leader. As the book goes on, he quickly and readily embraces changes, simple things such as asking someone for help rather than demanding it, or understanding that other people have a point of view. The fact that he realizes that other cultural points of view are worthy and just as relevant as his own transforms him even more than the arduous journey. I found it interesting that the technology of that world had to be taken away... Joseph is taken back to a "purer" time, as the Folk have blocked his access to the technological advances of the time. (This is why he has to walk/cart back home, rather than fly as he did to get to the place in the beginning of the book.) I wonder if Robert Silverberg is saying that true changes in the soul have to be done away from distractions. Most of the time, Joseph has nothing to do but think. Away from the faster paced life, he is able to go inside himself, really search. It is an old theme, in a way, and one I think we will revisit the more fast paced our own modern lives become.

The Longest Way Home recalls, in a lot of ways, the old-time frontier adventures, not the ones with the cowboys and the Indians, but the ones where people have to learn to survive in the wilderness or along the prairie. His adventures in survival are exciting, and the travels along this world are a pleasant escape.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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