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Lord Prestimion
Robert Silverberg
HarperPrism Books, 415 pages

Lord Prestimion
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: 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 Victoria Strauss

Lord Prestimion is the second installment in what the publisher describes as "The Prestimion Trilogy at the heart of the Majipoor Cycle" (does that mean there will be another set of volumes dealing with Majipoor's earlier history?). Prestimion, hero of the first book in the series, Sorcerers of Majipoor, has just been crowned Coronal. The savage civil war that brought him to the throne is over -- though apart from himself and his two closest friends and advisors, there's no one in the world who knows this. After his victory, Prestimion ordered his sorcerers to cast a spell of oblivion across the world, erasing the war from human memory. Nothing less, he believed, could heal Majipoor after so much strife and violence.

Now Prestimion is where he was always meant to be, at the beginning of what will surely be a glorious reign. But he's haunted by guilt for his part in the war, and by grief for the many friends and companions who died. He also has a problem. He has arrested Dantirya Sambail, one of the most devious and formidable of his wartime enemies, reasoning that a man so evil can't be left free. But how can Dantirya Sambail be brought to justice, since no one now remembers his treachery?

Before Prestimion can decide, Dantirya Sambail escapes. Prestimion and his advisers set off in search of him. As they travel through Majipoor, they discover that a terrible plague of madness is spreading across the world. Prestimion begins to suspect that his spell of oblivion is to blame, aided by some sorcery of Dantirya Sambail's. Dantirya Sambail and the rebel army he's recruiting must be found and destroyed, before the madness overwhelms the world. But Dantirya Sambail seems to have vanished into thin air.

Like Sorcerers of Majipoor, Lord Prestimion is a complex epic, with a large cast of characters, a strong central storyline, and a multitude of subplots. Yet it's not as integrated a work as its predecessor (one of the most impressive books I read last year). The beginning is fascinating, as is the exploration of the ambiguous aftermath of Prestimion's decision to tamper with the world's memory (too often, fantasy books fail to address the human consequences of the great magics they describe). The ending brings the story to a self-contained, if slightly abrupt, conclusion. But the middle, structured around the search for Dantirya Sambail, sacrifices tension for atmosphere. Significant things happen: Prestimion begins to understand the scope of the madness epidemic, falls in love and marries, discovers the man who may become his successor. Yet the numerous descriptions of bizarre and colorful Majipoori places and creatures and events -- many of which bear only peripherally on the plot -- give this portion of the narrative a dreamy, episodic quality, more like a series of mood pieces than an urgent quest.

There's a reason for this. Majipoor, as much as Prestimion himself, is the novel's protagonist, and Prestimion's mystical bond with this amazing world, his care of it and his love for it, is a major theme. And so Majipoor is revealed, over and over, in all its wonder. From a region of golden sand where even the rivers run yellow, to an oppressive jungle where the rain never stops, to the savage terrain where the final battle is fought -- a land in which everything is deadly, from the poisonous crustaceans to the trees whose leaves are edged with razor-sharp crystals -- it's a tour de force of imagination, a marvel of inventive detail. In many ways these descriptive passages are the most gripping portions of the book, with a deeper and more completed feel than the somewhat perfunctory action sequences that draw the main storyline to a close. It's hard not to suspect, at times, that Silverberg is less interested in most of his human characters than in the giant planet they inhabit. I can't help wondering what the novel might have been like if it had been less constrained by the plot conventions of heroic fantasy.

Ultimately, despite its many strong elements, Lord Prestimion doesn't quite combine into a unified whole. Even so, I'd recommend it: for the continuation of a subtle story, for the complex and sympathetic character of Prestimion -- and for Majipoor, brought so lovingly and unforgettably to life.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.

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