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When the Blue Shift Comes
Robert Silverberg & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
Stellar Guild Series, Phoenix Pick, 190 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: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume 7: We Are For the Dark (1987-90)
SF Site Review: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg: Volume 6, Multiples, 1983-1987
SF Site Review: The Last Song of Orpheus
SF Site Review: Dangerous Dimensions
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 Steven H Silver

When the Blue Shift Comes In the 1980s, Tor Books launched a line of Tor Doubles, similar to the Ace Doubles of an earlier decade. For the most part, the two novellas published in these books were completely unrelated to each other, but with the eighteenth volume, Robert Silverberg published "In Another Country," a sequel of sorts of C.L. Moore's "Vintage Season," which formed the other half of the book. In 2012, Arc Manor has decided to publish the Stellar Guild series, in which a short book will include a novella by an established author and a sequel by a less well-known author. Silverberg's entry bends the rules, with Silverberg providing the first half of a story and his collaborator, Alvaros Zinos-Amaro, finishing the story.

Readers were first introduced to Hanosz Prime of Prime in the short story "Hanosz Prime Goes to Old Earth," published in Asimov's in 2006. That story forms a basis for Silverberg's entry in When the Blue Shift Comes, "The Song of Last Things." Silverberg introduces the reader to a universe far in the future of our own where mankind can change their forms as readily as we change our clothes. An omniscient and chattering narrator explains, or often only hints at, the tremendous difference between humans during our own time and during the time of Hanosz Prime. The style, which Silverberg notes in his introduction was experimental, comes across almost as if the narrator's comments are outline notes for a more detailed exposition.

In this first half of the story, Silverberg presents Hanosz Prime, who abdicates his throne to journey to the legendary Earth to see Humanity's birthplace before it is eaten by a black hole and to meet the beautiful Kaivilda, about whom a random traveler told him. By the time Silverberg hands the reins of the story over to Zinos-Amaros, it feels as if the introductions are to be made and a plot can finally get underway.

In the second half of the story, "The Last Mandala Sweeps," Zinos-Amaros takes up Silverberg's narrative voice very ably, reproducing the tone of the narrator as well as the repetitiveness of Silverberg's descriptions. Hanosz is revealed to be the potential savior of Earth and Humanity, even as the Oracles of Earth issue conflicting prophecies. Zinos-Amaros also explores Hanosz Prime's budding relationships with Kaivilda and her father, Sinon Kreidge, as well as some other characters, although the world, both Earth, Prime, and the space intervening, seems amazingly unpopulated.

Zinos-Amaros does an excellent job with the material Silverberg handed off to him, especially since Silverberg originally conceived of his story as the first of a multi-book epic. What appears, however, are characters and story that are not are particularly fresh and When the Blue Shift Comes has a tendency to ramble and stumble its way from Hanosz Prime's abdication to the ultimate conclusion, which presents a changed universe that is less than interesting for the simple reason that even when the universe faced its destruction there was little to engage the reader.

Silverberg and Zinos-Amaros present an interesting experiment in which Silverberg handed off a fragment that has been giving him difficulty for years and asked Zinos-Amaros to provide closure. Zinos-Amaros does provide closure, but the biggest question is whether the story needed to be told and if the closure was necessary, or if the experiment, both as story and stylistically, was one that never really quite gelled.

Copyright © 2012 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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