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Legends: Stories by the Masters of Modern Fantasy
edited by Robert Silverberg
Tor Books, 608 pages

Legends: Stories by the Masters of Modern Fantasy
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
Robert Silverberg Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David A. Truesdale

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This monumental collection is a must buy for lovers of high fantasy. You'll want this one in hardcover, autographed by as many of the contributors as possible. After devouring it, you will no doubt then choose to showcase it in an honoured position on your fantasy bookshelf.

For the first time anywhere, eleven of fantasy's bestselling (and/or award-winning) practitioners are gathered between the same set of covers, contributing an original novella in each of their most famous fantasy series.

Legendary horror master Stephen King, for example, pens "The Little Sisters of Eluria," set before the events in the first Dark Tower book (The Gunslinger 1982), when Roland has just begun his long search for Walter. Here, he comes across an eerily deserted town full of zombie-like mutants poisoned by radiation (reminiscent of George Romero's Living Dead), and a band of witches/vampires who have ensnared him and hapless others in their (literally) deceptive and deadly web. Full of traditional dark fantasy/horror tropes, King nevertheless makes it work and even throws in a romance to boot. Graphically violent and gruesome in parts, it also includes a short bit of hardcore witchlore of an adult nature.

Raymond E. Feist's "The Wood Boy" takes place in the early days of the Riftwar, "when the Tsurani were first establishing their foothold in the kingdom." It is the story of Dirk, a lowly servant lad who loves the master of his keep's high-strung daughter, and who displays courage and honour amidst the deception and death surrounding him on all fronts.

On the lighter side, Terry Pratchett offers a new tale of Granny Weatherwax (Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, and Maskerade), his cantankerous, high-spirited witch. In this one, Granny's other witch friends decide it's high time she stepped down from the annual festival of the "Trials," where Granny always wins. How Granny reacts to this proposal, and how it all turns out, forms a delightful tale full of Pratchett's wit and saucy banter (and a nice commentary on why coming in second isn't the same as losing).

Each of the contributors knows how to entertain the erstwhile fantasy reader, each after their own fashion. There are thoughtful, coming-of-age pieces, (The Le Guin, whose "Dragonfly" I count as a major coup, this being the first Earthsea story since her 1990 Nebula winning novel Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea), more action-oriented pieces (several, including the engaging "Debt of Bones" by Terry Goodkind), and large-scale, colourful tales of intrigue, sorcery, and villainy of various interesting sorts (editor Silverberg's own Majipoor tale "The Seventh Shrine", and George R.R. Martin's "The Hedge Knight" from his new series A Song of Ice and Fire, to name but two). Tad Williams' sad tale of an old woman who recounts the flowering of her youth ("The Burning Man") and how she has come to find herself a lonely old woman, adds a poignant touch to the collection.

A thoughtful addition is the introductory material prefacing each story. All books in each of the eleven series are listed in order, and a fairly lengthy synopsis of each series is given, though in most cases no knowledge of any series is required.

There is something here for every fantasy lover: monsters and magics, sorceries and seductions, intrigue and insight into the human condition, wit and whimsy, all set in a myriad of vividly imagined worlds. But, above all, there are well-drawn characters with whom the reader can identify. Some of them are down to earth, others larger than life, but it is they -- as much as any plot, story line, or dark evil -- which make these stories worth reading.

Legends is a lot of fun. It is an excellent sampler for those new to the high fantasy genre so popular today (though not all of these would technically fall into this "quest" category), and shows the wide range of what this sort of fantasy now encompasses. This would make a grand holiday gift for the fantasy book lover; not only for the newcomer, but for the seasoned aficionado wishing to see what some of the other series are about that might have been passed over in the bookstore.

Not being a major fan of never-ending (open-ended) fantasy series, I find it highly ironic that the vehicle employed to promote them in this book is the self-contained unit of the novella (commonly assigned the word length of 17,500-40,000 words for Hugo and Nebula voting consideration). Editor Silverberg, and many others who have given thought over the years to the ideal length for the SF or fantasy story, have often remarked that it is perhaps the novella which best fulfills this role. A recent example which supports this view is George R.R. Martin's 1997 Hugo-winning novella "Blood of the Dragon", which was an excerpt from the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. Which is another reason, I suspect, why I enjoyed Legends as much as I did. There are eleven novellas here, eleven complete stories, written by some of fantasy's most able, creative, and popular wordsmiths. How can you go wrong?

Table of Contents
Stephen King The Dark Tower: "The Little Sisters of Eluria"
Terry Pratchett Discworld: "The Sea and Little Fishes"
Terry Goodkind The Sword of Truth: "Debt of Bones"
Orson Scott Card Tales of Alvin Maker: "Grinning Man"
Robert Silverberg Majipoor: "The Seventh Shrine"
Ursula K. Le Guin Earthsea: "Dragonfly"
Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn: "The Burning Man"
George R.R. MartinA Song of Ice and Fire: "The Hedge Knight"
Anne McCaffrey Pern: "Runner of Pern"
Raymond E. Feist The Riftwar Saga: "The Wood Boy"
Robert Jordan The Wheel of Time: "New Spring"

Copyright © 1998 David A. Truesdale

Dave Truesdale has been reading science fiction and fantasy for forty years. For the past four years he has edited TANGENT: The Only Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Fiction Review Magazine. It was runner-up for the 1997 Hugo Award.


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